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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & UFC

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or “BJJ” was relatively unknown before the days of UFC. But after BJJ black belt Royce Gracie took the tournament championship for three out of the first four UFC events with his unusual and unique style of leverage reliant submissions over much larger, stronger opponents, it quickly made a name for itself. Boxers, wrestlers, kick boxers and martial artists alike all fell to the wraith of the joint bending bone breaker, Royce Gracie. Before UFC (the ultimate fighting championship) was known as the largest MMA organisation in the world, it was but a mere tournament to settle the long argued dispute of which martial arts was dominant. BJJ was somewhat unheard of, and when its fate was put onto the shoulders of 6 foot 1, 170 pound Royce Gracie, in comparison to his over 200 pound opponents, some standing in at over 6’4, it didn’t look good for this quiet achiever that was BJJ. After spectators saw Royce’s pure dominance on the ground over these giant athletes 4 years in a row, and ability to get out of what looked like fatal positions, interest accelerated in this unique style of fighting.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Origins

When speaking of origins of BJJ, it can be traced all the way back to the founders of judo. It all started by, at the time, one of the top groundwork judo practitioners, Mitsuyo Maeda. Maeda left Japan in 1904 to give Judo demonstrations around the world, and eventually, in 1914, arrived in Brazil. The principle of Jiu-Jitsu was what kept it separate from its parent martial art, Judo, and the same principle was passed on to BJJ. This principle was: “it is not soley a martial art, it is also a sport, a method of promoting physical fitness and building character in young people, and ultimately; a way of life.” In Brazil, Maeda met and befriended influential businessman, Gastao Gracie, who helped Maeda get established. To show his appreciation, Maeda taught his new friend the martial art, which was passed on to his oldest son, Carlos Gracie. After Carlos taught the art to his brothers, his youngest brother, Helio Gracie, one day took a class that Carlos was absent for. He then took the art and adapted a version of his own, and called it Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which later was renamed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

BJJ Training Methods

Training methods differ between training BJJ for MMA and for the actual sport itself. When training for MMA, it must be kept at a minimum intensity, and the focus is to lock up the arms so that strikes can not be thrown, However, when training for BJJ, training is performed at full intensity as to emulate a real match. There are also technique drills, in which techniques are performed against a non resistant opponent. Strength and conditioning is also a very important part of the training sessions. BJJ has empasis on ground fighting, the overall goal is to be able to achieve dominant positions in which applying a submission becomes possible. Some of the basic positions are as follows:

  • Side Control - the practitioner pins their opponent down by lying across the side of their body. Further control can be obtained by pinning their shoulders down. The dominant grappler will have the disadvantageous grappler pinned down by their chest.
  • Full Mount - the dominant grappler has their opponent pinned down by sitting on their chest and controlling with their hips, locking their knees into the sides of their opponent. This is seen as possibly the most dominant position to be in.
  • Back Mount - the dominant grappler having their legs wrapped around their opponent from the back, having heels hooked into their thighs, in MMA terms “getting the hooks in.” Another extremely dominant positon, where such submissions as the “rear naked choke” can be easily performed.
  • Guard - this is a position where the practitioner is lying on their back with their opponent between their legs, this position is used more so for defence. There are some variations of this position, such as “closed guard”, “half guard”, 'open guard', 'rubber guard', 'butterfly guard' among others. Closed guard is the safe defensive variation, used to try to hold the opponent in one place. Open guard is not as safe, but higher chance of a sweep (reversal) to get into a dominant position. Butterfly guard is where the heels are placed onto the opponents hips, using the leverage to keep them off balance, hence not letting the opponent get into a comfortable position. These same terms are also used in MMA.
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