La Mesa Jiu Jitsu is a relatively young martial art, which explains why so many people approach it with a certain level of confusion. While most martial arts have remained largely unchanged- since their inception thousands of years ago, modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has only been around since the first half of the 20th century. While martial arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do first found their way into the American popular imagination decades ago, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was totally unheard of up until the 1990’s and only began to reach mass popularity over the last 5-10 years. While generations of American children have grown up training in other traditional martial arts, we’re only now seeing a significant number of young Americans training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
When it comes to popular misconceptions, the relatively young nature of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is compounded by the fact most Americans equate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with the bloody matches in “The Octagon” televised by the UFC, despite the fact that the UFC is a Mixed Martial Arts competition, not a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition.
The above barriers to understanding Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are significant and pervasive, so, let’s cut through them and get right to the heart of what this incredible martial art is all about.
First things first- the lineage of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just as old as any of the other “traditional” martial art. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be best understood as an offshoot of Judo, which itself is a combination of two very old Japanese martial arts, Shin’yo Ryu and Kito Ryu. Judo focused on practical self-defense, allowing it to dominate the more formal and rigid systems of martial arts popular in Japan during the 19th century. Yet, soon after it rose to prominence, Judo itself was defeated handily by a classic form of Japanese Jiu Jitsu that placed an emphasis on grappling and groundwork, both of which were all but ignored by most martial artists of the time. Judo quickly incorporated Jiu Jitsu’s lessons on groundwork and grappling, and greatly increased its effectiveness.
Getting the Best of all Martial Arts
This new, highly versatile form of Judo was practiced by a martial artist named Maeda. After achieving high standing in Japan’s martial arts communities, Maeda began to travel the world and challenge fighters from every country he visited, emerging victorious in each and every one of his matches. By coming into direct contact with every martial art known to man, Maeda was able to create a fighting system that transcended the limitations of isolated regional development.
After years of traveling and fighting, Maeda eventually settled in Brazil and founded his own martial arts school, ultimately resulting in what we now know as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Maeda’s fighting style, further refined by the Gracie family, gained international attention when it utterly dominated the first few years of the UFC. This lead to a close association between the UFC and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to this day, even though, the modern UFC now has its own unique fighting style.
To understand Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, one needs to understand that it is a martial art developed through direct and varied competition- in an effort to create the world’s first truly practical, truly universal form of self-defense.