A Brief History of Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that was developed from judo and involves grappling and ground fighting. Although Carlos Gracie, a contemporary figure, is regarded as the founder of modern Jiu-Jitsu, the martial art’s original presence can be traced back more than 2,000 years. According to the concepts of Jiu-Jitsu, a smaller or weaker person can defend himself against a larger or stronger enemy with leverage and proper applications of joint locks and chokeholds. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not only a highly effective martial art, but a discipline meant to build character and physical fitness.

Traces from the past

The martial art is estimated to have emerged in India long before the time of Jesus Christ. Ancient Indian monks formulated these exercises to defend themselves from regular barbarian attacks. As some of these monks migrated to China, they carried these techniques with them. The martial art evolved within China before spreading to Japan. In 1914, Japanese martial arts champion Esai Maeda played a key role in spreading Japanese Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil.

Maeda taught the martial art to his friend Gastao Gracie’s eldest son Carlos Gracie, who in turn taught the techniques to his four brothers. In 1925, the brothers opened the first ever academy teaching Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil.

From Gracie brothers

For the Gracie brothers, Jiu-Jitsu was more of a passion than an occupation. Among the brothers, Helio Gracie was instrumental in bringing revolutionary changes in the martial art. Unlike his brothers, Helio was short was light. By emphasizing on leverage, he made Jiu-jitsu adaptable to short people and formulated techniques that would give the shorter ones an advantage. He went on to become one of the world’s best fighters, including the accomplishment of being a part the longest fight – 3 hours and 45 minutes non-stop – against Japan’s greatest fighter, Masahiko Kimura, in a historic battle.

Helio Gracia also set up the first Jiu-Jitsu federation in 1967, with the system of colored belts prevalent today. It was around this time that a split happened in the Gracie family between Helio and Carlos. The brothers chose their own methods of practicing the martial art even though there was no much change in the core rules. In 1993, Carlos Jr. founded the Confederacao Brasiliera, which is today among the most active martial arts organizations. This federation was instrumental in establishing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world championships.

The martial art was carried far and wide across the family tree, passing from one generation to another. With Brazilian instructors spreading the martial art across the world, Jiu-Jitsu is now used for many purposes including military, sports, competition, and self defense. It came into prominence internationally during the early 1990s, when Royce Gracie won the fourth Ultimate Fighting Championship. In the match he fought against champions who were experts in other martial arts disciplines including Karate, boxing, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai. Since then, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has played an increasingly important role in Mixed Martial Arts training and competitions, which now frequently require skill and prowess in ground fighting to win.

A History of Aikido

Aikido is a Japanese style of martial art formulated by Morihei Ueshiba, also known as O’Sensei or ‘The Great Teacher,’ in the early twentieth century. The art form is predominantly based
on his philosophical and religious beliefs of ‘unifying life energy’ or creating ‘the way of harmonious spirit.’ The term aikido is derived from three Japanese words, ‘ai’ meaning joining or unifying; ‘ki’ meaning spirit or energy; and ‘do’ meaning way or path.

Defending to attack

Unlike other major martial arts such as Karate, Ueshiba’s Aikido is not focused on skills for reciprocating attack on an assailant. Rather, Ueshiba’s techniques make use of the attacker’s momentum to hurt or stop him, rather than opposing force with force. For that reason, this martial art is ideal for people who are not physically well built. With practice, people of all ages and conditions are able to defend themselves using Aikido as it requires less strenuous and sustained, intense physical effort to perform.

This might sound strange for the character of a person who developed a martial art, but it is said that Ueshiba was a crusader of peace. The primary goal of his martial art is to defend against
an attacker in the least harmful way. There is an interesting story in support of this argument. Ueshiba was once challenged by an army officer who was also a fencing instructor. Throughout the duel, he deflected and evaded the officer’s strikes with his wooden sword. This continued until Ueshiba was finally able to disarm the exhausted officer and defeat him, all without ever harming him. He claims that as he observed, he could foresee the officer’s moves, helping him evade the attacks quickly.

An ideology turns into a martial art

O’Sensei was born in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan on December 14, 1883. It is said that many life incidents and the political and religious situations in Japan influenced in the creation of Aikido. As a child, he happened to witness his father being beaten up by some political rivals. This hurt him a lot and he decided to take up intense training in various martial art forms including jiujitsu (unarmed fighting), sojitsu (spear fighting), and jenjitsu (sword fighting). He later incorporated elements of these martial arts into his Aikido. His devotion to a religion known as Omotokyo taught him the importance of training people’s minds and spirits, along with their bodies.

Japanese martial artist Minoru Mochizuki was the first to cross the national boundaries for spreading Aikido. On his trip to France in 1951, he introduced the techniques to judo students. The mission of spreading the martial arts internationally was then taken up by some others including Tadashi Abe, Kenji Tomiki, Koichi Tohei, Hiroshi Tada, and Katsuaki Asai.

Aikido’s presence can today be seen in every part of the world with a broad range of emphases, interpretations, and variations in practice. Most Aikido being practiced today has deviated significantly from the original concepts devised by Ueshiba, but they all converge on the point that the attacker must not be harmed.

A History of the Martial Arts

Martial arts originated more than 2000 years ago and since have developed and split into more than 200 styles existing today. Since the beginning of time, the need to fight was a necessity for man’s survival, which gave birth to these organized styles. The world has seen many celebrated fighters such as Alexander the Great, Hercules, Richard the Lionheart, and Gautham Buddha, who practiced systematic and refined ways of fighting. Besides these, there were the Shaolins of China, Samurais of Japan and Hwarangs of Korea, whose contributions to martial arts cannot be overstated.

So where did martial arts originally emerge? Did it some from China, Japan, or India? How do we explain the Egyptian murals dating back to 3000 BC that depicts hand-to-hand combat? No one has a clear picture regarding the date or place of origin of martial arts. However, there are many details available about the development of martial arts in various countries around the medieval through modern periods.

History in Asia

Indian vedic (knowledge) texts that are as old as 1700 BC contain references and details regarding martial arts. It is said that ancient Indian martial arts developed by Buddhist monks were the inspiration for other Asian martial arts.

China’s presence in martial arts training dates back to 1122 BC with the Zhou dynasty that promoted boxing techniques. The influence of Buddhism to China in the 5th and 6th centuries inspired development of martial arts in the Shaolin monastery of China. However, there are also records that a few of the earliest monks of the monastery were already familiar with martial arts even before the arrival of Indian monk Bodhidharma in China. With the efforts of many modern practitioners such as Yang Luchan, Wong Fei Hung and Huo Yuanjia, the techniques gained popularity.

In Japan, the Samurai clan was responsible for the development of martial arts. Though these techniques were initially used for self glorification, they gradually transformed into a philosophy of gaining spiritual goals. Later on, some martial arts including Judo were developed from the prevalent techniques of Jujitsu that were spread by Samurais.

Europe and the Middle East

Boxing was accepted as a sport in Greece in as early as 688 BC. Gladiatorial combats of Rome are documented from 260 BC. By the late middle ages, fencing had started gaining popularity in Germany and Italy. Efforts of some fencing masters including George Silver and Joseph Swetnam lead to the martial art’s popularity. Wrestling was considered suitable only for the proletarians in Germany till its emergence as a modern sport in the 19th century.

The traditional Persian grappling, known as Koshti, is a contribution of Middle East to the martial arts world. Through expression of intercultural interest and the efforts of many over
time, martial arts broke national boundaries to reach a wider audience. Several have now been accepted as Olympic sports. Who would have thought at the time of development that a means of
personal self defense would ultimately become competitions for gold medals and national pride thousands of years later!

A Brief History of Krav Maga

Unlike most martial arts with ancient roots in Asia, Krav Maga does not have a long story to narrate as it was developed during the comparatively recent 1930s. It is based on self defense mechanisms in real world situations and can cause injury or even death to the attacker. Krav Maga, which means ‘contact combat’ in Hebrew, was formulated in Israel and used for training their military forces. An easier version is taught to civilians as self defense mechanism in various Karv Maga schools. Its philosophies emphasize aggression, offensive and defensive maneuvers, and threat neutralization.

Imi Lichtenfeld and the birth of Krav Maga

Imre Lichtenfeld, also known as Imi, was born in 1910 in Budapest, a city of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Bratislava (then known as Pozsony) with his father, who worked in the police force and also was an athlete. Imi trained under his father in self defense and went on to become a successful boxer before becoming a member of Slovakian National Wrestling Team.

The Jews in Bratislava were under constant threat from anti-Semitic riots during the 1930s. This forced Imi to lead a group of Jewish wrestlers and boxers to the streets to save himself and his community from the rising number of anti-Semitic thugs. He soon realized that sport fighting was not the same as real world self defense, as they were not suitable for the aggressive nature of a street fight.

He re-evaluated the techniques and built a repertoire of techniques ideal for responding in a more aggressive nature. This marked the birth of a new martial art known as Krav Maga. His new techniques became successful, much to the displeasure of authorities in the Nazi-fearing society. By 1940, he was forced to abscond from his homeland to Israel (then Palestine).

Spread of Krav Maga in Israel

On his arrival in Israel, he started teaching his self defense techniques to Israel’s Haganah paramilitary organization to help them create an independent state of Israel and to protect the Jewish refugees. Haganah later on merged into Israeli Defense Force and Imi was appointed as the Chief Instructor of Physical Training. In this position, the taught the military personnel the new martial art known as Krav Maga. During his 20 year service in the Israeli Defense Force, he refined and developed the technique to suit military and civil needs.

Upon retirement from official duty, Imi set up Dojo Martial Arts School to teach the civilian version to whoever wanted to master the self defense techniques of Krav Maga. By the 1980s, American security agencies started showing interest in the Israeli martial art and 22 officials came to Israel to attend a basic Krav Maga course. They returned to the U.S. with the new fighting techniques, and from there, it started spreading throughout the globe.

Krav Maga teaches students to counter-attack on the first chance of opportunity, to target the vulnerable points of the attacker, to maintain awareness of surroundings during an attack, and to neutralize the attacker as soon as possible. It is therefore an ideal defense technique in many real
world scenarios.