Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defence system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian jiu-jitsu draws its initial roots from Kodokan Judo ground fighting fundamentals. Brazilian jiu-jitsu eventually came to be its own art through the experimentations, practice, and adaptation from the teachings of Japanese master Mitsuyo Maeda to Carlos and Hélio Gracie, who then passed these skills and knowledge to successive generations.
BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense.
Sparring (commonly referred to as “rolling”) and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.
Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of Judo was separated from older systems of Japanese ju-jitsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way of life.
Upholding the premise that most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, both of which are mitigated when grappling on the ground, Brazilian jiu-jitsu emphasizes getting an opponent to the ground in order to use ground fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint-locks and chokeholds. A more precise way of describing this would be to say that on the ground, physical strength can be offset or enhanced by an experienced grappler who knows how to maximize force using mechanical advantage and technique instead of pure physical strength.
BJJ permits a wide variety of techniques to take the fight to the. While other combat sports, such as Judo and Wrestling almost always use a takedown to bring an opponent to the ground, in BJJ one option is to “pull guard.” This entails obtaining some grip on the opponent and then bringing the fight or match onto the mat by sitting straight down or by jumping and wrapping the legs around the opponent.
Once the opponent is on the ground, a number of maneuvers (and counter-maneuvers) are available to manipulate the opponent into a suitable position for the application of a submission technique. Achieving a dominant position on the ground is one of the hallmarks of the BJJ style, and includes effective use of the guard (a signature position of BJJ) position to defend oneself from bottom (using both submissions and sweeps, with sweeps leading to the possibility of dominant position or an opportunity to pass the guard), and passing the guard to dominate from top position with side control, mount, and back mount positions. This system of maneuvering and manipulation can be likened to a form of kinetic chess when used by two experienced practitioners. A submission hold is the equivalent of checkmate in the sport, reflecting a disadvantage which would be extremely difficult to overcome in a fight (such as a dislocated joint or unconsciousness).
BJJ is most strongly differentiated from other martial arts by its greater emphasis on ground fighting. Commonly, striking-based styles spend almost no time on groundwork. Even other grappling martial arts tend to spend much more time on the standing phase. It is helpful to contrast its rules with kodokan judo’s greater emphasis on throws, due to both its radically different point-scoring system, and the absence of most of the judo rules that cause the competitors to have to recommence in a standing position. This has led to greater time dedicated to training on the ground, resulting in enhancement and new research of groundwork techniques by BJJ practitioners.
Along with BJJ’s great strengths on the ground comes its relative underemphasis of standing techniques, such as striking. To remedy this comparative lack, there is an increasing amount of emphasizing takedowns and cross-training between the sports of BJJ and wrestling, Judo, or Sambo, as well as striking based arts such as boxing, Karate, TaeKwonDo, Muay Thai, and kickboxing.
Sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s focus on submissions without the use of strikes while training allows practitioners to practice at full speed and with full power, resembling the effort used in a real competition. Training methods include technique drills in which techniques are practiced against a non-resisting partner; isolation sparring, commonly referred to as positional drilling, where only a certain technique or sets of techniques are used, and full sparring in which each opponent tries to submit their opponent using any legal technique. Physical conditioning is also an important part of training at many clubs.
During the ground phase of combat the BJJ practitioner strives to take a dominant or controlling position from which to apply submissions, these positions provide different options.
In side control, the practitioner pins their opponent to the ground from the side of their body. The dominant grappler lies across the opponent with weight applied to the opponent’s chest. The opponent may be further controlled by pressure on either side of their shoulders and hips from the practitioner’s elbows, shoulders, and knees. A wide variety of submissions are initiated from side control. It is also referred to as the side mount.
Full mount is considered one of the most dominant grappling positions. In the mount position the practitioner sits astride the opponent’s chest, controlling the opponent with their bodyweight and hips. In the strongest form of this position the practitioner works their knees up under into the arm pits to reduce arm movements, limiting their ability to move or counter the submission attempts. Full Mount can be used to apply armlocks or chokes.
When using the back mount (often known in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as attacking the back), the practitioner attaches to the back of the opponent by wrapping their legs around and hooking the opponent’s thighs with their heels. Simultaneously, the upper body is controlled by wrapping the arms around the chest or neck of the opponent. This position is often used to apply chokeholds, and counters much of the benefit an opponent may have from greater size or strength.
In the Guard, the practitioner is on their back controlling an opponent with their legs. The practitioner pushes and pulls with the legs or feet to upset the balance and limit the movements of their opponent. This position comes into play often when an opponent manages to place the practitioner upon his or her back and the practitioner seeks the best position possible to launch counter-attacks. This is a very versatile position from which the BJJ practitioner can attempt to sweep (reverse) the opponent, get back to the feet, or apply a variety of joint-locks as well as various chokes.
The three main types of guard are Open, Closed, and Half. In closed guard, the bottom grappler has their legs around the opponent’s trunk and has their ankles closed together to provide control and a barrier to escaping the position. In the open guard, the legs are not hooked together and the bottom grappler uses their legs or feet to push or pull in a more dynamic fashion. Open guard also has a less common variant called butterfly guard in the bottom grappler brings their legs up and feet together, the name derives from the resulting butterfly wing shape. Butterfly guard increase both space to manoeuvre and/or counter their opponent with their shins or arches of their feet against the competitors inner thighs. In the half guard, one of the top grappler’s legs is being controlled by the bottom grappler’s legs.
The majority of submission holds can be grouped into two broad categories: joint locks and chokes. Joint locks typically involve isolating an opponent’s limb and creating a lever with the body position which will force the joint to move past its normal range of motion. Pressure is increased in a controlled manner and released if the opponent cannot escape the hold and signals defeat by submitting. Opponents can indicate submission verbally or they can “tap out” by tapping the opponent or the mat. A choke hold, by disrupting the blood supply to the brain, can cause unconsciousness if the opponent does not submit soon enough.
A less common type of submission hold is a compression lock, where the muscle of an opponent is compressed against a hard, large bone (commonly the shin or wrist), causing significant pain to the opponent. These types of locks are not usually allowed in competition due to the high risk of tearing muscle tissue. This type of lock often also hyper-extends the joint in the opposite direction, pulling it apart.
While many joint locks are permitted, most competitions ban or restrict some or all joint locks involving the knees, ankles, and spine. The reason for this is that the angles of manipulation required to cause pain are nearly the same as those that would cause serious injury. Joint locks that require a twisting motion of the knee (called twisting knee locks or twisting knee bars, or techniques such as heel hooks, and toe holds) are usually banned in competitions because successfully completing the move nearly always results in permanent damage that requires surgery. Similarly, joint manipulations of the spine are typically barred due to the inherent danger of crushing or mis-aligning cervical vertebrae. Leglocks are allowed in varying degrees depending on skill level, with straight ankle locks being the only leglocks allowed in the beginner division, or white belt level, straight kneebars being allowed in the intermediate division, or blue belt level and toeholds with the pressure applied inwards are allowed in the advanced division (purple, brown, black). Some competitions also ban submissions involving the crushing or compression of muscle tissue. Most competitions do not allow heel hooks, which are considered to be exceptionally dangerous to competitors.
However, most joint locks involving the wrist, elbow, shoulder or ankle are permitted as there is a great deal more flexibility in those joints and those locks are safe to use under tournament conditions.
Chokes and strangles (commonly referred to as “air chokes” and “blood chokes”) are common forms of submission. In BJJ, the chokes that are used put pressure on the carotid arteries, and may also apply pressure to the nerve baroreceptors in the neck. This kind of choke is very fast acting (if done properly) with victims typically losing consciousness in around 3–5 seconds. In contrast to an air choke (involving constriction of the windpipe).
Jiu Jitsu today is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with schools, communities and organisations rapidly emerging all over the world. It has seen rapid growth in the last 20 years, becoming one of the most popular and effective martial arts, as well as an extremely engaging competitive sport and way of life.
Its sees use not only as a standalone martial art, and competitive sport; but also is used to a very high level of success in Mixed Martial Arts tournaments of an amateur and professional level both by itself and in conjunction with other martial arts.
There are numerous local and regional tournaments administered regularly by private individuals and academies all over the globe, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation annually hosts a number of major tournaments in geographically disparate regions. These include the Pan American Championship, European Championship, and the Mundials, as well as World Championships.
With its immense following of students and practitioners , and its rapidly growing national and intenational governing bodies, Jiu Jitsu is on the rise and very likely to expand beyond the imaginations and dreams of the initial founders and small group of students.