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The History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-jitsu is the fastest growing martial art today. It is now being taught all over the world to people from all walks of lif – e from average everyday working citizens to police officers, Army special forces, and Navy Seals.

A Japanese man named Count Koma went to Brazil to establish a Japanese colony in Brazil. He spoke very little Portuguese and had trouble communicating with the Brazilians. It was then that he met Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian who spoke Portuguese and Japanese. Gastao Gracie befriended Count Koma and helped him establish his Japanese Colony.

Count Koma also happened to be one of the top Black Belt masters of Japanese  Ju-jitsu at that time. As a way of showing his gratitude he offered to teach the eldest son of Gastao traditional Japanese Ju-jitsu. At the time, to teach Japanese Ju-Jitsu to a non-Japanese person was forbidden.

For four years, Count Koma taught Carlos Gracie (the eldest son of Gastao) his traditional Japanese Ju-jitsu. After Count Koma left Brazil, Carlos began teaching his other brothers with the exception of his youngest brother, Helio.

When Helio would try and train he would often times pass out from exhaustion. His doctor said that he should not practice Ju-jitsu because he was too frail and sick. Instead of training, Helio would attend his brother’s class and sit on the side and just watch. He did this for two years until one day, one of Carlos’ students came to the school for a private lesson, and Carlos was not there to teach.

Helio offered to teach the man in place of his brother. The man asked, “What do you know?” To which Helio responded, “Here I’ll show you.” Towards the end of the private lesson, Carlos returned to the school and began to offer his apologies. The man said, “Don’t worry about it. In fact, I like what this kid taught me today. From now on, I’d like to take my privates with him if that is OK.” Carlos agreed, and from that day forward he became Helio’s first student.

As time passed, Helio found it difficult to apply the techniques that his brother had taught him. He found that many of the traditional Japanese techniques required strength, something that Helio had little of. Helio began to find ways to make the techniques work for him, as a smaller man. He began to explore new methods of leverage to replace the strength needed in the traditional method. Before long, he began to develop new techniques altogether based on leverage.

It was not long before Helio was tapping out  all of his brothers in class with his new techniques. Helio Gracie had just invented a new martial art form. This was birth of Brazilian/Gracie Jiu-jitsu.

Helio went on to teach his seven sons his new art form, as well as many students. The popularity of this new art form flourished in Brazil at that time, until it became equal in popularity to the soccer, Brazil’s national sport.

Today, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Gracie Jiu-jitsu are identical in practice. A student of Gracie Jiu-jitsu can trace a direct lineage back to the Gracie family, whereas Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has come to represent the vast number of other Jiu-jitsu schools from Brazil. The lineage of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students can be traced back to the Gracie family as well, but along a more indirect path.

Then the eldest son of Helio, Rorion Gracie, came to the United States to share his father’s art to the rest of the world. He formed the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to showcase the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-jitsu on national television. He chose his youngest brother, Royce Gracie to compete and to showcase their art form. Rorion chose Royce to fight for several reasons. First, he was the youngest fighting member of the Gracie family at that time. Second, though he was a tall man, he was very skinny. Rorion believed that Royce’s age and size would show viewers that Gracie Jiu Jitsu was an effective martial art for all fighters, regardless of size..

In the UFC, the world watched as Royce took on much bigger and stronger opponents from various martial arts disciplines from around the world. His competitors were not just random practictioners from other styles, but rather they were Black Belt Masters in their respective disciplines. One by one, they would step up to the challenge. And one by one, they were defeated. These were 8-man elimination tournaments in which there were no protective gloves and no rules.

During those early days of the UFC, Royce proved the effectiveness of his family’s art form. Almost immediately, the world began to seek out the Gracie family to learn this new style of martial art.

Royce may have proven the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-jitsu, but he was by no means the best fighter in the Gracie family. That right belonged to his older brother, Rickson. With over 500 fights under his belt to date, Rickson Gracie is the undisputed, no-holds-barred, heavy weight champion of the world. And today, he still remains undefeated.

Shortly after the world saw the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-jitsu in the UFC, Rickson created the Rickson Gracie American Jiu-jitsu Association. This quickly grew into the Rickson Gracie International Jiu-jitsu Association.

Mr. Scott Naugle became a member of Rickson’s Association in June 1997. Mr. Naugle is committed to spreading the word of Rickson’s teachings here on the east coast. Mr. Naugle makes regular trips out to LA to train at the Rickson Gracie Jiu-jitsu center to further his training and knowledge.


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Phone: (301) 498-4555