What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)? A Look into the Art's History, Techniques, and the Benefits of Beginning

Last Updated May, 2023

Two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners engaging
Image by Jane Anderson - Flickr

Jiu Jitsu is probably the number one activity that I could recommend to someone to improve their lives overall.

Have you been hearing a lot about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) lately? You're not alone!

This martial art and combat sport has been riding a wave of popularity across the globe, and it's easy to see why.

With a captivating history, immersive techniques, and impressive benefits to offer, BJJ is attracting enthusiasts from all walks of life and making a profound impact on their well-being and worldview.

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The roots of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ as we often call it, reach back to the time-honored Japanese martial art. A master of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Mitsuyo Maeda brought it to Brazil in the early 20th century, sharing his knowledge of Japanese Jiu Jitsu with eager learners.

Carlos Gracie, one of Maeda's students, further developed the martial art into what we now know as BJJ, emphasizing leverage and technique over brute strength, allowing the smaller practitioner to prevail against larger opponents.

The surge in popularity of BJJ is closely linked to the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

When UFC burst onto the sports scene in the early 1990s, it brought with it a variety of martial arts, but one stood out in particular: BJJ.

Royce Gracie, from the famous Gracie family won the first 3 out of 4 UFC events.

These events were designed as a no-holds-barred free-for-all, pitting different styles against each other with minimal rules, no weight classes or time limits.

Fighters of all sizes and disciplines could be matched against each other.

This format was part of what made Royce Gracie's victories so impressive, he often went up against opponents significantly larger than himself and bouts could potentially last indefinitely.

It was a testament to the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under real-world, unrestricted conditions.


BJJ is a grappling art and focused on ground fighting, the objective being to gain control over your opponent.

What's intriguing about this martial art is how it lets a smaller or physically weaker individuals successfully defend against stronger assailants – it's all about using good technique and leverage smartly.

The BJJ playbook consists of pins, sweeps, joint locks, chokes, submissions.

It's like a physical game of chess; you need to strategize and think quickly to outmaneuver your opponent.

Forcing an opponent to "tap out" or yield due to the pressure or pain, known as a submission, is the ultimate goal.

Positional control is crucial in BJJ. You're aiming to gain and maintain a dominant position over an opponent, like the mount or back control.

The belt system is how a practitioner's progress is tracked through their BJJ journey.

As you gain more skills and more experience, you will advance from a white belt to blue, purple, brown, and eventually, black.

Each color represents a stage in your BJJ journey, a testament to your hard work and dedication.


The benefits of training BJJ are abundant.

Physically, it's a full-on workout that can boost your cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, and coordination.

You're not just training your body, though; you're also enhancing your self-defense skills, it cultivates qualities like discipline, humility, and strategic thinking.

Not only is BJJ good for your body and mind, but it's also an awesome way to bust stress and form bonds with fellow practitioners.

It's more than just a sport – it's a way of life, a lifestyle that cultivates personal growth and community spirit.

Should I start?

To conclude, BJJ is more than just a martial art - it's a journey of personal growth, a community, and a way to get in some serious physical fitness.

But it's also a testament to the power of strategy and technique, proving that you don't have to be the biggest or the strongest to hold your own.

BJJ is truly a martial art for everyone. You'll find that it not only transforms your body, but also your mind, as it challenges you to think strategically, stay calm under pressure, and continuously learn and adapt.

Whether you're looking for a new hobby, a path to personal development, a form of self-defense, or a fun way to get fit, BJJ is just the ticket.

So why not give it a shot? Step onto the mat and start your BJJ journey. Who knows? You might just surprise yourself with what you're capable of.

See you on the mats!