Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, whose abbreviation is BJJ and is called jiu-jitsu brasileiro in Portuguese, is a clever variation and further development of the Japanese martial arts Jūdō and Jiu-Jitsu. The focus of this martial art is on ground fighting. However, throwing techniques from a standing position, as they are present in Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, are also taught sporadically.

The most important in 30 seconds:

  • In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there are five distances. Ground fighting represents the fifth and at the same time the most difficult distance.
  • The gi, or kimono, as worn in judo and jiu jitsu, is part of the trainees’ traditional attire.
  • Due to the leverage techniques contained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the martial art is ideal for self-defense.

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that evolved from traditional Jiu-Jitsu as well as Judo. It was popularized by the Gracie family in Brazil in the 20th century.

The techniques and philosophy of BJJ emphasize ground fighting and the principle that a smaller, weaker fighter can successfully fend off a larger, stronger attacker by using leverage and special techniques such as throws, arm levers, leg levers, and choking techniques.

BJJ is both a sport and a method of self-defense. It has also proven to be an effective discipline in mixed martial arts, such as MMA. There are both Gi (with traditional martial arts attire) and No-Gi (in shorts and T-shirt) variations of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu originated

The founders: BJJ represents the South American variation of the Kōdōkan Jūdō. Carlos and Hélio Gracie are brothers and developed this popular martial art.

  • The former trained judo under the judo master named Mitsuo Maeda, who was an avid student of Kanō Jigorō. In addition, he passed on his knowledge to his younger brother Hélio. Since the latter was a bit lanky, he could not perform numerous traditional judo techniques due to his physical condition.
  • Therefore, he modified the leverage and mechanics in a large number of the techniques. In this way, he made them not only more effective, but also executable by those who were physically weaker.

In the literature, the year 1914 is recorded as the year of origin of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As the name suggests, Brazil served as the country of origin of this fascinating martial art. The meaning of the name comes from Japanese Judo, which translated means gentle way. Jiu-Jitsu, on the other hand, symbolizes a yielding art.

The two brothers passed on their acquired skills to their own children. Thus, they created the next generation of martial artists and teachers who were able to pass on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Rorion Gracie was one of the sons of Hélio Gracie, who emigrated to the USA in the seventies to develop his career on this continent. In his garage he passed on his knowledge to interested fighters. Thus, little by little, the interest of the inhabitants in the USA for this martial art increased. Therefore, the seventies represent a formative period in the spread and development of BJJ.

Features of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there is no weapon fighting. The emphasis is on ground fighting and the techniques associated with it. The Gracie brothers have done an excellent job of uniting different elements. They have effectively combined throws, levers, grappling, ground fighting and choking techniques. In martial arts exist five distances.


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The ground fight

Ground fighting represents the fifth and at the same time the most difficult distance. People who practice a martial art or a combat sport and have gained experience in ground fighting know very well how difficult it is to get back to their feet from this position. On the ground, most fighters find it much more difficult to defeat their opponent. One wrong move is enough to lose the fight.

Freeing from the supine position

In addition, BJJ teaches its students to successfully free themselves from a supine position. Fighters always aim to put their opponent in the supine position, as freeing themselves from this position proves to be extremely difficult. If the opponent is then also physically superior, it seems almost impossible to get from the supine position to the prone position.

In such cases, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques such as the Triangle have proven helpful. Weaker and weaker people can use them to outsmart a stronger opponent and get out of the supine position.

Leverage and chokeholds

Fighters can succeed in ground fighting thanks to effective ground techniques from judo and practical leverage and chokeholds from jiu-jitsu. The sport is composed of techniques that utilize the opponent’s strength to effectively defend or win a fight.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is superior to other martial arts in this regard because they do not focus on challenging ground fighting.

brazilian jiu jitsu

Belts & Competitions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Since its spread, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become a popular competitive sport. Fighters compete in different weight and beginner-advanced classes, which are also divided according to the belt color of the competitors. The graduation system of BJJ has significant differences compared to the traditional Japanese belt systems.

  • The progression from beginner to master begins with the color white. It continues with blue, purple, brown and ends with black. In addition, there is a red belt, which is above the black belt. However, the number of red belt holders worldwide is extremely small and this graduation currently plays a minor role in BJJ.
  • As a rule, a teacher awards the next highest graduation to his students. In BJJ, the duration of the trainees plays a minor role. A belt award, which is also called belt promotion, serves as the basis of the recorded success of the students. The fighters achieve this in training and in competitions. A large number of schools also award up to four stripes per belt. These represent a further fine-tuning of their skills.

The different competitions are divided into World Jiu Jitsu Championship (World Championships), World Master Championship, Pan American Championship and European Championships.

Distribution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is becoming increasingly popular among martial arts practitioners. It found its way from Brazil to the USA. There, both the level of awareness and the popularity increased rapidly. Compared to Germany, there are many more BJJ schools there.

However, the level of awareness and popularity is also increasing continuously in Germany and Europe. This is due, among other things, to the intensive ground training, which is not so strongly represented in any other martial art. The competitive and self-defense character of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu make this martial art a versatile sport. In Germany there is also an association for Brazilian Jiu Jitus.

Internationally, the popularity of BJJ is increasing. Organized competitions are one of the reasons for the increase in popularity. This strengthens the cohesion of the trainers. It also gives them the opportunity to travel with their fellow athletes.

Traditional clothing in BJJ

The gi, or kimono, as worn in judo and jiu jitsu, is part of the trainees’ clothing. In addition, they wear a T-shirt under their gi. Of course, the belt must not be missing. Men should definitely wear a groin protector. For practicing fights it is also worthwhile to wear a mouth guard. Those who train “rolling” or “fighting” for a long period of time do themselves a great favor with knee pads.

BJJ practitioners who practice this martial art for a longer period of time use bandages for their hands, just like judo fighters. In this way, they save their hands and fingers. They proceed this way to avoid permanent damage from the strain. Working at a computer makes the hands of the majority of those who train more susceptible to injury. Bandages can effectively counteract the risk of injury.

During competitions, trainees wear a helmet or head protection. Otherwise, martial arts enthusiasts definitely train barefoot.

Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu suitable for self-defense?

This question can be answered with a clear “yes”. Since the sport includes both attack and defense techniques. In addition, however, practitioners should know that in the event of an attack, they will have to improvise and can not apply the learned techniques one-to-one.


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  • However, they will not be classic victims of an attack, but because of the training they will definitely be able to react and not cry for help like a helpless victim. Such a reaction paralyzes the opponent. Attackers can be good fighters, however, surprise has seized them at this moment. In contrast, they do not expect a defensive reaction at all. For a short second, they then get into a shock situation. This is the best second for the attacked person to react.
  • Since Brazilian Jiu Jitsu contains lever techniques, those attacked in practice can use them to incapacitate the opponent. When pulling the lever, they can break their attacker’s arm. With a choking technique they have the possibility to frighten the attacker or even choke him unconscious.
  • People who use BJJ for self-defense develop a defense reflex. But for this they should go to training three or two times a week for at least three months. Before that, the reflex to respond to an attack does not set in.
  • In addition, people who practice a martial art develop a more confident posture, strength and condition that can protect them from an attack. Perpetrators are often “hobbyists” who selectively choose their victims. As a rule, they stay away from people who have an upright gait with a forward gaze.

In terms of self-defense, BJJ is just as suitable for ground fighting as other martial arts. The leverage techniques can also be used excellently in a standing position. However, if a martial art for pure self-defense is sought, a self-defense course or possibly Krav Maga is even better suited.


Update: 2023-06-09 / Affiliate Links / Bilder von der Amazon Product Advertising API