Complete History of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan and Brazil

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. But where did it originate, Japan or Brazil? Who created it? And specifically, what is the history of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan?

Jiu-Jitsu, also known as “Ju Jitsu”, originated in Japan, even though others claim it may be traced back to Buddhist monks in India. Traditional Jiu-Jitsu has origins that go back as far as 780 to 1200 AD. Later, it was introduced to South America by a Japanese envoy named Mitsuyo Maeda in the early 1900s.

When the Samurai lost their primary weapons in the early 1300s, they could still defend themselves on the battlefield from opponents with heavy armor.

Mitsuyo Maeda’s introduction in South America led to the development of modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With Maeda’s help, it began to take shape in the early 1900s. He learned Judo, also known as Kano Jiu-Jitsu, from which the Brazilians derived the phrase Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Self-defense, exercise, self-confidence, stress release, and pleasure are among the reasons people of all ages and nationalities are interested in practicing this martial art.

While it has only recently gained prominence due to the success of mixed martial arts contests such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship and popular world champions like Wladek Zbyszko, it has roots that go back many centuries.

The complete history of Jiu-Jitsu is a very interesting one.

And as a BJJ practitioner or enthusiast, I know you are also curious about Jiu-Jitsu, how it originated, and how it is tied to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Keep on reading to the end to find out more.

Is Jiu-Jitsu Japanese or Brazilian?

Is Jiu-Jitsu Japanese or Brazilian is a popular and controversial question in the martial arts community. And to fully answer the question, we have to go down memory lane and discuss the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Hand-to-hand combat techniques like jujutsu gained prominence in Japan’s Edo period in the seventeenth century.

Tokunaga shogunate was the military government in Japan. Around this period was the earliest recorded use of the word “jujutsu”. This was also when “jujutsu” began to be used to refer to all of these grappling techniques.

Jiu-Jitsu had split into various styles, or “Ryu,” by the middle of the 1800s around the Meiji restoration. Although the tactics varied from style to style, they all often included blows, grappling, and the usage of weapons in the majority of hand-to-hand combat situations.

A talented young Jiu-Jitsu practitioner named Jigoro Kano created his own “Ryu” in the 1880s that was built on “randori,” or full-power practice against skillful and resistant opponents. The pair practice that was common at the time was completely broken by this. Later, Kano’s method developed into Judo, one of the most popular sports in the world.

Mitsuyo Maeda (Conde Koma), a student of Kano popularly known as Count Koma: The Count of Combat, immigrated to Brazil from Japan in 1914. A local politician called George Gracie, whose father had also immigrated and come from Scotland, aided him.

Carlos Gracie, the son of George Gracie, was taught Jiu-Jitsu by Maeda as a sign of appreciation. Later, Carlos taught several of his brothers (Gastão Gracie learned from his older brothers) what he had learned, and in 1925, the two of them founded the first school of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil.

The Gracie family (particularly Carlos and Hélio Gracie) and their pupils developed their technique over time via tough no-rules battles, both in public challenge bouts and on the streets. They focused on submission ground warfare, which allowed a smaller man to eventually repel a larger opponent. Waldemar Santana learned BJJ from Helio Gracie.

Rolls Gracie expanded on the method in the 1970s, including techniques from wrestling, among other things in the curriculum. In addition, he developed the first point and rule systems for Jiu-Jitsu events.

This brief history of BJJ shows that Jiu-Jitsu started in Japan before it moved to Brazil.

In recent times, there is the traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu with Jiu-Jitsu schools scattered around the United States as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Did the Samurai do Jiu-Jitsu?

In the late 1800s, down to the early 1900s, later during the feudal period and before the abolition of the feudal system, Japanese Samurai practiced Jiu-Jitsu. The Samurai warriors had reasons to learn and practice traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

The story started when Daimyos, that time’s land-owning lords, began recruiting mercenary armies during the feudal times to defend their safety during a period of civil upheaval. In return for their services, these hired soldiers received favorable treatment from their local Daimyo, which eventually resulted in the emergence of this warrior class as a noble one.

By the year 1100 AD, Japan’s governing elite was made up of these Samurai, or warrior nobility.

Jiu-jitsu evolved as an unarmed martial art in a society where almost everyone made use of weapons. Therefore, dealing with an attacker’s weapon was the primary objective. Students would practice fighting off swords, spears, and knives.

Jiu-jitsu did not emphasize striking since Samurai armor would neutralize its efficacy, despite blows being used to target the eyes, nose, crotch, and other crucial locations.

Jiu-jitsu was a desperate art of survival employed at its disposal, despite its translation as the “art of softness.”

To obtain an advantage, several strategies made use of swords, chains, biting, eye-gouging, or simply plain raw force. However, the most common strategy relied more on momentum and leverage than physical power to overcome adversaries.

Throws, joint locks, chokes, blows, pins, and weapon techniques combined to form a lethal and extremely complex art divided into hundreds of different forms throughout the Japanese islands.

Do you think Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the deadliest martial arts in the world? 

Find out in a recent article I published. When you click the link to read the article, you will find out the top 21 deadliest martial arts in the world.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How old is Japanese Jiu-Jitsu?

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, the gentle art, has a long history, with the name “Jiu-Jitsu” first appearing in print in 1532. Hisamori Tenenuchi, who established the first Jiu-Jitsu dojo in Japan, is credited for its invention. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is about 2000 years old.

Fighting without weapons was seen as a kind of conflict for peasants in the very early days of the Samurai. Still, as warfare became a more important aspect of Japanese politics, the reality of combat started to modify this perception.

By the 1100s, Jiu-jitsu had become an essential aspect of Samurai training.

The Samurai was a fully developed warrior society, and their children were sent to fighting academies at a very young age to start a life of training and combat.

What is the difference between Brazilian and Japanese Jiu-jitsu?

The significant difference between Brazilian and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is that BJJ concentrates on ground combat and submission grappling, whereas Japanese Jujutsu focuses on throwing adversaries and joint manipulation.

In addition, both martial arts have different rules. BJJ doesn’t involve strikes, while Japanese Jujutsu requires strikes.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu serves two main functions as a martial art.

Many possibilities for competition encourage some people to study BJJ. Interestingly, participating in tournaments has several advantages. It spurs individuals to perform at higher levels. In addition, there are always lessons to be learned through engaging in combat with skilled rivals during a tournament.

Japanese Jujutsu offers few or no options for sporting events, in contrast to BJJ, which provides participants with many such opportunities. This is due to the fact that the Japanese martial arts were initially developed for self-defense.

The advancement of belts in BJJ and Japanese Jujutsu is another significant distinction between the two styles of martial arts.

There are eight different belt systems in BJJ. In contrast to BJJ, Japanese Jujutsu has a distinct belt system. Traditional Jujutsu also begins with a white belt, similar to BJJ, which does so with a white belt.

Some schools, however, begin with a red belt for new students before going on to a white belt.

If you are interested in knowing the full Jiu-Jitsu belt progression system, there is a recent article on this website where I explained everything in detail. The article also includes the belt progression system for kids.

Click on the link to read the full article on my site.

Does Japanese Jiu-Jitsu still exist?

Yes, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu still exists. Jujutsu is being practiced in both conventional self-defense and contemporary sports formats.

Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu were descended from older (pre-World War II) variants of Kodokan Judo that placed more emphasis on ground combat.

Judo, part of the Olympic games and martial arts, was established by Kan Jigor in the late 19th century from wide ancient varieties of Jujutsu which also caused the creation of Kosen Judo. Masahiko Kimura is regarded as one of the greatest Judoka of all time.

If your child starts the practice of Jiu-Jitsu today, how long do you think it will take you to get a yellow belt? And can kids below the age of 15 years get a black belt in BJJ? Find out a recent article I wrote.

Click on the link to read the full article on this website.

Is Japanese Jiu-Jitsu better than BJJ?

Comparing Jiu-Jitsu to BJJ can be quite tricky. You can’t say that the Japanese martial art, Jiu-Jitsu is ultimately better than BJJ. This is because BJJ has more live sparring sessions, tournaments, and practitioners. On the other hand, Jiu-Jitsu (Vale Tudo) offers a plethora of practical skills and disciplinary lessons.

Furthermore, Japanese Jujutsu may give an intriguing glimpse into Japanese society.

Real sparring is the best way to prepare for self-defense martial arts training. BJJ may show the distinctions between a novice and a more experienced practitioner.

BJJ will also help you get acclimated to the sense of being under live pressure. Japanese Jujutsu, on the other hand, does practice with strikes, however, they are typically only drills and katas.

Although Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, two of the most well-known grappling arts, are regarded as excellent for self-defense, is Jiu-Jitsu aggressive or defensive? 

Find out what I learned in a recent article I published. Click on the link to take you straight to the full article.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu History in 5 Minutes


BJJ is unique in that it was not founded by a single individual (i.e., Gracie brothers) or event in history.

It is also developing and evolving, adding to one of the greatest sports histories in history. We’ve touched on the history of Jiu-Jitsu, how it moved from Japan to Brazil in modern times, and Brazilian history.

Image by Nick115 from Pixabay and Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay


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