Jiu-jitsu has been really popular for a long time, and today we’re going to introduce you to this martial art. We’re sure you’ll see why it’s such a favorite. If you missed our last guide, don’t forget to check it out: The McBryde Guide to Wrestling.
History of Jiu-jitsu
During Japan’s Sengoku period, which ran from 1467 – 1603 CE, Jiu-jitsu was developed for use in close combat for situations where it just wasn’t worthwhile to use a weapon. Since it was expected that practitioners would be facing armored foes, this form of combat concentrated on immobilizing an opponent – and parrying enemy long weapons with a smaller weapon. Jiu-jitsu further developed through the 17th century to go along with new philosophies that caused weapons and armor to languish as decoration, thus making hand-to-hand combat the go-to.
Jiu-jitsu as a term didn’t come around until the 17th century, and was coined to identify several different grappling-centric techniques.
What is Jiu-jitsu?
If you’re looking into a martial art to take up – whether you’re looking to develop a routine, some discipline, or a form of exercise – Jiu-jitsu should be on your list of considerations. Jiu-jitsu is a defensive system that uses an attacker’s momentum against them, and is traditionally based. It’s perfect for beginners and veterans alike, with something to teach everyone.
It’s not overly dangerous, either. The floor in your classroom is covered with martial arts mats to help lessen the impact against the floor when you get to throws and other high-impact moves, and you’re always being supervised.
This martial art has influenced and inspired multiple other forms of martial art, and even some styles of karate and aiki.
Who Can Do Jiu-jitsu?
Anybody. You don’t have to be strong, fit, or big – the point of Jiu-jitsu is to use the least amount of effort to turn your opponent’s attacking momentum against them, and as you work, you’ll get better. You’ll get stronger. You’ll become more fit! You’ll be taught everything that you need to know to improve as you go along. The point of starting in any martial art is that you aren’t amazing when you get there, but you progress and become effective as you go. Jiu-jitsu is good for anyone.
Members of Jiu-jitsu clubs have been as young as five and as old as 85. Most clubs prefer not to take on anyone that’s younger than 14, and there hasn’t been any limitation on maximum age that we’ve heard of. Jiu-jitsu provides a fitness edge that is capable of fully transforming someone no matter how out of shape they are.
Is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Different From Jiu-jitsu/Jujutsu?
Yes, it is. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was developed based upon Jiu-jitsu/jujutsu in 1925. Helio Gracie, son of Gastao Gracie, a friend of Japanese Jiu-jitsu champion Esai Maeda, adjusted Jiu-jitsu techniques to suit his smaller frame and created Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is a self-defense technique for smaller folk that teaches them how to defend against a larger opponent.
It’s perfect for kids because of this, especially kids that are facing bullying. The Gracie Jiu-jitsu Academy has this down to a very specific art – they provide training to kids from the ages of 5-13 for self defense and confidence. If that’s not awesome, then we really don’t know what is.
Is Jiu-jitsu Practiced Competitively?
Yes, it is. There’s Sport Jiu-jitsu, where the point is to win by submission or by gaining points over your opponent, and then there’s Self Defense Jiu-jitsu, which is mainly about protecting yourself. Royce Gracie, part of the BJJ family, used Jiu-jitsu techniques to finish fights in the early days of UFC. As more and more people saw how he was finishing his fights, those people started to see the benefits of Jiu-jitsu on the competitive Jiu-jitsu mats.
Why should someone practice Jiu-jitsu?
Jiu-jitsu is fun. It’s friendly to people of all ages, anyone can do it, and it’s a great way to develop mind-body awareness that you might not have picked up elsewhere. There’s a slight competitive bit to it, even on the practice mat, that provides that little bit extra that some folks need – and like all sports, you get out of it what you put into it. For somebody that’s in need of an activity to get them moving, Jiu-jitsu does just that. It’s an intense workout without being too much – you’re going to use muscles that you’ve never used before. You’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone.
That’s something that more people need to do. Walking isn’t enough, DDR isn’t enough, and you can’t spend all of your time studying and getting swallowed up by your coursework – Jiu-jitsu will make you a stronger, better, healthier person.
You’ll learn to gently put bullies on their backs, too, when you need to. That’s always good to know.
Jiu-jitsu, the Gracie Family, and Anti-Bullying
The Gracie family, the founders of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, run a very successful anti-bullying program for kids. Three million kids miss classes because of the stress related to being bullied every month in the USA, and the Gracies knew that this just wasn’t cool. They started the Gracie Bullyproof program to give bullied kids tons of confidence and the ability to non-violently defend themselves in the event of a bully attack.
Bullyproof helps kids identify when they’re being harassed and how to act. They’re also provided with the tools to improve their confidence level, which helps make them less likely to be a target. The Gracies also teach these Bullyproof kids their five rules of engagement, which are:
Avoid a fight at all costs.
If attacked, defend yourself.
If verbally assaulted, follow the Three Ts (talk, tell, tackle)
Never punch or kick – establish control and negotiate, instead
When applying submissions, use minimal force and negotiate.
Jiu-jitsu is old. It goes back to the time of the Samurai, and was meant to be used both with and without weapons. It was especially effective for Samurai who lost their weapons in battle and needed to otherwise defend themselves against an armed (and armored) attacker.
Or, in the case of Okinawa, for farmers defending themselves from invaders. You’ll see what we mean in a moment.
It’s expected that a student will be able to complete each weapon’s kata, and that training with these weapons has benefits for unarmed self defense techniques by way of improving bodily control, strength, and muscle memory. It helps that they’re also really, really interesting.
The weapons that are used with Jiu-jitsu are the nunchuku, tonfa, sai, katana, bokken, jo, naginata, and kama.
Bo and Jo
A staff measuring about six feet long, the bo is exceptional for blocking and parrying an opponent’s attacks, as well as putting distance between them and you. It can be used to lock an opponent’s joints, effectively immobilizing them and taking them down without killing them. The jo is more or less the same style of weapon, it’s just shorter and doesn’t put as much distance between opponent and student.
These hardwood weapons were originally mill handles – long sticks formed the ‘handle’ portion, and a stick coming out the side would have been embedded into the millstone. Swords were banned on the island of Okinawa a hundred or so years before Japan invaded in or around 1609, and the weapons ban tightened further during Japan’s occupation to prevent the peasants from rioting.
Considering every farm and work implement the peasants used could double as a weapon, this wasn’t a sound plan.
The tonfa could be used to parry other weapons, or spun by its shorter handle to be a striking weapon. When held down the wielder’s forearm, they provide impressive reinforcement.
See the tonfa at work below.
Would you believe that the infamous nunchuku were originally used as a farming implement? They were highly effective for crushing rice and pounding grain into flour, guiding horses (as a bit), and pulling roots from the ground. Two foot-long sticks are attached by a length of rope or chain, and can be used for intercepting a weapon and disarming an opponent.
Another weapon that’s specific to Okinawa, the sai were also probably farming implements, though evidence of this is not very clear. If you’re one of the kids that was raised with the Ninja Turtles, you’ll recognize this weapon as being the one carried by moody Raphael: a long, unsharpened point with two shorter points on either side, all attached to a single handle. The way the tsuba are lined up with the main blade and handle make this weapon perfect for blocking other blades, or a bo staff.
They could also be thrown up to 30 feet, could pierce armor when used that way, and could pin an enemy’s foot into the ground once other options ran out.
A feudal Japanese weapon that can be described as a sword on a stick, it was unwieldy to those that weren’t well-versed in its use. The shaft alone could be up to 9 feet long, and add a 2 foot long blade to the end, you’re dealing with a very dangerous implement of destruction.
This is another weapon that was probably used in agriculture, though nobody’s completely sure. What is known is that it was absolutely deadly against mounted warriors (cavalry was more common during the 10th century than in previous times). It would be able to cut a horse down and then be used to slaughter the rider when the beast fell.
It’s also said that women used the naginata to protect their homes and children when their husbands were away. We think that’s pretty bad-ass, considering the sort of skill required to use this thing effectively.
It looks like a sickle and was most likely used as one, for the same purpose. With its wooden, forearm-length handle and wicked curved blade, it allowed the user to deflect the blows of other weapons and was an effective slashing weapon. You can see a demonstration of this weapon in the video below.
If you want to get involved in Jiu-jitsu, check out local gyms and clubs for classes. You’ll thank yourself later. This martial art is a great way to get fit and have fun doing it.
Next, check out the McBryde Guide to Karate, or take a look at our videos while you wait.