Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling, especially ground fighting.
In the mid-1800's in Japan, there were a large number of styles of jiu-jitsu. Techniques varied between style, but generally included all manner of unarmed combat (strikes, throws, locks, chokes, wrestling, etc.) and occasionally some weapons training.
In 1914, a Japanese Judo and jiu-jitsu master named Mitsuo Maeda came to Brazil. In return for help from the Brazilian politician Gastao Gracie, Koma taught jiu-jitsu to Gastao's son Carlos. Carlos in turn taught his brothers, most notably Helio. The Gracies went on to further refine the art via constant no-rules competition, developing what is now commenly referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. When they opened their first jiu-jitsu academy in 1925, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was born in Brazil.
At this point, the base of techniques in BJJ was similar to those in Judo academies in Japan. However, the Gracies were willing fight outside of weight categories, permitting a skilled small fighter to attempt to defeat a much larger opponent. They further began to concentrate more and more on submission ground fighting, especially utilizing the guard position.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is primarily a ground-fighting art. Most techniques involve both fighters on the mat. There is a heavy emphasis on positional strategy, which is about which fighter is on top, and where each person's legs are. Positions are stable situations, from which a large variety of techniques are available to both fighters.
The primary positions include the guard, side control, back mount. Specific techniques taught are designed either to improve one's position or for creating finishing submissions. Most submissions are either chokes or arm locks.
BJJ promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant using leverage and proper technique; most notably, by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat them. BJJ can be trained for self defense, sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. Sparring (commonly referred to as 'rolling') and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition.
Royce Gracie, son of Helio Gracie, became a larger than life character and the growth of BJJ explode after winning the UFC's first mixed martial arts competition. After defeating several opponents of different styles, Gracie's style helped infuse BJJ as a key component of mixed martial arts worldwide. The success of fighters including Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria to name a few, have made BJJ a necessity in mixed martial arts training regimens.
Although Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is sometimes taught under slightly different names, in Brazil it is generally known simply as "jiu-jitsu". Members of the Gracie family often call it "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu".