Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, BJJ. Same thing… Well, kind of. Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the name made famous by the legendary Gracie family from Brazil. Several generations of the Gracie family have spent the better part of their lives practicing and refining the art we now know as Gracie or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu
Gracie Jiu Jitsu was the term that Rorion Gracie began to use to describe the Gracie family’s style of martial art, complete with their own adaptations and modifications from the original Japanese art that Carlos Gracie first learned from Mitsuyo Maeda. Mitsuyo Maeda was a visiting Japanese diplomat who immigrated to Brazil and taught Jiu Jitsu to Carlos Gracie in appreciation of Carlos’s father Gastao helping him to get established. The Gracie family promoted and looked to distinguish their style from other styles of Jujutsu originating in Japan. Gracie Jiu Jitsu became known to the world after Royce Gracie fought in and won the first few Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) with a grappling and ground fighting based submission art that he used to take down and submit all his opponents with and win the tournaments.
The Gracie family and more specifically Helio Gracie’s side of the family taught their art that relied on safely entering into a clinch with the opponent, taking them down to the ground, neutralizing their strength, power and aggressiveness and finishing the fight with a submission. It also heavily incorporated a series of techniques designed to protect an individual from assault and common street attacks such as head locks, bear hugs, knife/gun attacks and various grabs etc. It was designed as a complete system of self defence equally effective for men, women and children regardless of size, strength or stature due to the superior leverage utilised in its techniques.
As Gracie Jiu Jitsu began to spread in the US there was some controversy over the use of the name by others outside Helio Gracie’s side of the family and even within the Gracie family itself. And thus the name began to morph into a series of hybrid names and variations that we now commonly hear.
Many family members taught using their name to identify their style such as “Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu”. A style synonymous with mixed martial arts warriors and went on to produce many of the top mixed martial arts and sports fighters of the day! Carlson Gracie was another pioneer and one of the first members of the family to really open up and teach the complete fighting system for mixed martial arts or “Vale Tudo” as it was called back then. Vale Tudo is a Portuguese term meaning anything goes and was used to describe the style of fighting later branded as mixed martial arts. Carlson also really helped push the sports competition scene to a whole other level and produced numerous champions in that area as well.
Others notables such as “Machado Jiu Jitsu” became popular too, the Machado family were cousins of the Gracie family and spent their youth growing up with and training alongside the family.
Soon people started referring to the art as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu still differentiating themselves from traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu. BJJ for short represented the art learned from the Gracie family but taught by students without the famous sir name. Today BJJ schools vary in teaching style and focus but I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of them focus on teaching the sportive competition style for everyone even though they may sill incorporate some self-defense and mixed martial arts techniques into their curriculum.
The word Jiu Jitsu is now used pretty much interchangeably with BJJ although only with that form of spelling! Traditionally and more grammatically correct the Jiu Jitsu should be spelt “Jujutsu” or even “Jujitsu”. These are just variations in translation of the word Jiu Jitsu. Generally if you see the spelling Jujutsu or Jujitsu you would most likely find a school teaching the Japanese version of the art focusing more on weapons, weapon defense and standing throws and submissions. From time to time you may even see the term American Jiu Jitsu which generally indicated a fast paced, aggressive and often no gi style derived from a blend of BJJ and Wrestling.
The other phrase you see is Judo which is what most people associate with Kodokan Judo. Kodokan Judo is the sport you see in the Olympic games where the aim is to cleanly throw your opponent onto his back for the win. Judo is the modern name for a blend of traditional Jujutsu styles with most a lot of the dangerous techniques having been removed for safety and so that everyone could practice Judo regardless of sex or athletic ability. Judo has morphed into a completely separate art in and of itself with a long rich history. However there still are some older styles of Judo in existence which striking similarity to BJJ such as Kosen Judo which has obviously heavily influenced BJJ’s development.
So there you have it a basic run down of some of the popular names, their origins, similarities and differences. I hope you found it useful in getting a feel for what each means and why the different terms are used. As is common in the translation of various words from other languages there will always be differing opinions on how to spell or even pronounce various words/names and this is no different.