What Does Jiu Jitsu Look Like? What Makes It Unique?
The overall strategy for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner in a combat situation is to:
- Make a connection to their opponent, using strikes to distract and maintain a safe distance until the right moment to clinch
- Take down or throw their opponent
- Secure a dominant position such as mounted on their opponent
- Use the dominant position to restrain the opponent, or to finish the fight by applying either a choke to put the opponent harmlessly to sleep, or a joint manipulation to wound the opponent, and disable further aggression.
(Many times, step 1 is the moment an aggressor grabs YOU in a self-defense situation.)
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an adaption of Judo by brothers, Carlos and younger brother, Helio Gracie, that occurred in Brazil in the early to mid 1900's.
Helio found that he was unable to force his will on resisting opponents, since he was smaller. As a result, he spent his life fine-tuning those techniques to further maximize leverage, and neutralize any size disadvantage, in combat. This led to their renaming of the evolving art to Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Both Carlos and Helio had very large families, with many sons who continued to pursue the art, creating the largest family dynasty in any sport in modern history. Today many use the term Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, since instructors are not only Gracies anymore. (At PMA, we proudly teach and use the term Gracie Jiu Jitsu).
The art is best known for its focus on ground techniques, which developed out of Kodokan Judo's newaza, or ground fighting.
Living Legends, And The Explosion Of BJJ's Popularity
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu saw its greatest surge in popularity in the 90's when Pay-Per-View, and art-vs-art Ultimate Fighting Championship was won repeatedly by a not-especially-large-or-athletic "regular guy" Royce Gracie (son of Grandmaster Helio). Some of these fights were David vs Goliath matches, and many spectators were stunned to see size and strength neutralized so effectively by Royce's technique. Royce left the cage from most matches without taking damage, and in many of these no-hold-barred fights, Royce walked out without a single strike having landed on him.
The same was happening with brother, and renowned champion of the family (and more athletic appearing) Rickson Gracie in Japan in the Pride matches of the same era. Rickson is known to be undefeated, and is generally regarded as the best living jiu jitsu practitioner ever, and a legend.
Pedro Sauer was a best friend of Rickson Gracie, and began training at 15 years old with Helio Gracie. The same size as Helio, he became a favorite training partner of Helio's, and received his advancements, including his black belt from Helio and Rickson. Pedro Sauer was Royce Gracie's trainer for UFC 1 in 1993, and had numerous art-vs-art challenge matches of his own in "the early days." He was recently voted by an online poll as the “Best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor” in the world.
How To Choose a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu School
Since the 90's, the resulting influx of practitioners has created a number of international networks of schools. The best advice for students seeking to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is "the water is purest, closest to the source." In other words, seek instruction from someone with as direct a lineage to the forefathers as possible. At PMA, the lineage of owner, Greg Wood is:
Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Rickson Gracie > Pedro Sauer > Greg Wood
Prior to his time as a student of Pedro Sauer, Greg studied directly under Royce Gracie from 1997 until 2013.