Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an art based in ground fighting. Along with this, it teaches takedowns, takedown defence, ground control and especially submissions. Submissions refer to holds that either cut off an opponent’s air supply, blood supply (chokes) or joint locks.
Over four centuries ago in northern India, Buddhist monks were busy going about the dangerous work of trying to spread the word of Buddha in a world that wasn’t always kind to roaming peoples. In order to defend themselves from attacks that happened along the way, they developed a form of grappling that allowed them to subdue opponents without killing them. Eventually, this style of fighting made its way to Japan where it was improved upon and called jujutsu or jujitsu. Judo is a derivative.
The Japanese unsuccessfully sought to hide jujutsu and its derivatives from the Western world. In 1914, Kodokan Judo master Mitsuyo Maeda (1878-1941) came to stay at the household of Brazil’s Gastao Gracie. Gracie helped Maeda with business matters and out of gratitude, Maeda taught Gastao’s eldest son, Carlos, the art of judo. In turn, Carlos taught the other children in the family what he knew, including the smallest and youngest of his brothers, Helio.
Helio often felt at a disadvantage when practicing with his brothers because many of the moves in judo favoured the stronger and larger fighter. Thus, he developed an offshoot of Maeda’s teachings that favoured leverage over brute strength and refined the formula for fighting from one’s back on the ground. Today the art that Helio refined is called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Today, nearly all MMA fighters train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu due to the success that past practitioners have had in the sport.