"The Origins of
Jiu-Jitsu: The Father of All Fights"
By Dr. Helcio Leal Binda
(Ex-Vice President of Federação de Jiu-Jitsu of Rio de Janeiro)
Revised by Reyson Gracie
(Grand Master, Red Belt, 8-dan, )
Translated by Roberto
Jiu-jitsu is the oldest and most
complete scientific martial art of self-defense. In real combat it is
unbeatable against any other form of fight. It is superior because it is
Jiu-jitsu is divided into:
1. Throws and Take-downs (judo)
2. Strikes (karate-jitsu)
3. Twists (Aiki-jitsu)
7. Positions (posture, momentum
of attack and avoidance, standing up, on the ground, and in various
kinds of clothes).
Despite contradictory versions,
the origin of jiu-jitsu is unquestionably India, the birth place of
unparalleled religions and culture.
Buddhist monks were the creators
of the most complete form of personal defense of all times, which was
jiu-jitsu, the father of all fights. Therefore, it is necessary to
understand the origins of Buddhism in order to understand the formation
of what in later centuries was called by the Japanese as "The Art
Suave", or the technique of self-defense, such that with a minimum
of force, without the need for brute force, a weaker defender can
defeat a physically much stronger adversary.
years ago, in the North of India, some miles above Benares, Siddhartha
Gautama was born. He was a member of the Sakya tribe, that spoke either
Pali or Sanskrit. He was a scholar of great intelligence who
launched the religion that carried his name and soon developed all
over India. He became known as The Buddha, which meant "The
Enlightened One". One of his principle concerns was how to leave
his followers with the great culture and general knowledge with which to
better spread his system.
Among his followers, monks in
far away monasteries who were obliged to travel through he interior of
India, and had to defend against the attacks of bandits who infested the
region, there were some who were the real creators of this kind of fight
that allowed self-defense without using weapons that would violate
the morals of the religion. In this way was born the jiu-jitsu with the
spirit of defense that is its fundamental element.
The application of physical
laws, such as leverage, momentum, equilibrium, center of gravity, and a
detailed study of the vital points of the human body, allowed them to
create the art of scientific fighting.
The spread of jiu-jitsu
would come about in later centuries, that is, about 250 A. C., when the
King of India was Devanamapriya Priyadarsim, also known as King Asoka,
two centuries after Buddha. Embracing Buddhism, Asoka developed it and
created thousands of monasteries inside and outside of India. In this
way, Buddhism and with it, jiu-jitsu reached Ceylon, Burma, and Tibet,
and later, Thailand and all of Southeast Asia and eventually, China, and
finally Japan where it grew and got a great push. And it spread
subsequently to the Western world. Jiu-jitsu entered Japan before the
birth of Christ.
The death of Asoka brought a
disaster to Buddhism and consequently to jiu-jitsu. The Brahmins who
adored the religion of the Brahma, that flourished before Buddhism, were
prejudiced against the spirit of Buddhism and mounted a campaign to
expel the Buddhist monks from India, and this is the reason for the
small influence of jiu-jitsu in India.
The philosophy of Zen, which
arose in Buddhism, without a doubt, is a trace left by the old Buddhist
sects that knew jiu-jitsu.
of all Fights
In its migration form India to
all of the Asia continent, jiu-jitsu became diversified and gave origin
to various styles of fight. After a thousand years, these were:
Sumo, without kimono, uses the take downs and unbalancing
techniques of jiu-jitsu. It is essentially a traditional sport.
is is the art of applying damaging strikes using jiu-jitsu atemi
techniques, with the arms. Kenpo was first called "Chinese
boxing". It was born in the south of China and spread out to
various areas, including the island of Okinawa, where, about 300 years
later, it came to be called Karate-jitsu. (the art of fight with empty
hands). Much of kenpo which became karate, came from the "atemi"
of jiu-jitsu. However it was in Japan that it grew and became enriched
and was transformed into the more complete and better system of
self-defense that we know today.
More than 100 distinct styles
were created and put in the in the service of feudal lords in their
wars. With the passage of time, jiu-jitsu became a major martial art of
the Japanese and one of their national treasures. Although they were men
of small size, jiu-jitsu made them to be powerful and unbeatable against
Birth of Judo
In the middle of the last
century, a grave threat presented itself to the Japanese people,
resulting in serious danger to their great secret of jiu-jitsu. Japan,
which until that time had kept itself closed off to the greedy
Westerners, received on July 8 of 1853 a visit from a North American
squadron of ships commanded by
Commodore Perry. When Perry met the Japanese Shogun, he gave
him a letter demanding that Japan open up its ports.
Perry returned the next year
(1854) with a new squadron of ships. In the
meantime the Japanese decided to open the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate,
both small and unimportant.
In 1869 the Emperor defeated the
Shogun. The Meiji era was initiated and new ports were thrown open. In
1871 the emperor initiated major social reforms to address the threat
posed by the Westerners. The "Westernization" of Japan and
consequent penetration by foreigners was initiated in this period. What
had been until then a country closed off to the covetous Europeans and
Americans, now faced serious challenges.
The small Japanese, with their
knowledge of jiu-jitsu, had the conditions to defeat the bigger, and
stronger foreigners. However, at this very moment, jiu-jitsu, which had
been the technical superiority of the Japanese, vanished from view.
The curiosity of the foreigner
to learn the famous system of fight came to be a major problem for the
sons of the land of the rising sun. The Japanese government decided to
create a bogus style of jiu-jitsu for external use, without efficiency
for real fights. An employee in the Ministry of Culture who was
also a jiu-jitsu teacher, was chosen to create a fake jiu-jitsu for
"the English to see" (para inglêses ver) . Thus was
born the Kano System of jiu-jitsu (that later was baptized with the name
of judo), created by a civil servant named Jigoro Kano who (in 1882)
founded the Kodokan school.
Thus the secrets of jiu-jitsu
were hidden from the eyes of foreigners. Books and other publications
about the real jiu-jitsu were confiscated.
One hundred and thirteen styles
of jiu-jitsu and thousands of schools changed their names to
"judo". Teaching jiu-jitsu to foreigners became a crime of
treason. The sport of judo, which had now become nothing more than the
sport of jiu-jitsu throws and take downs, was exported
to the West accompanied by a tremendous propaganda effort. The Japanese
continued to train jiu-jitsu, but secretly. Recently, after the death of
Kano, they felt that judo was hobbled, in relation to jiu-jitsu, and so,
without the disturbing presence of Kano, they surreptitiously introduced
into judo a style of jiu-jitsu to provide self-defense techniques for
judokas, who by then knew only sports judo. In this way, goshin-jitsu
was introduced into judo.
In the same spirit, at
the beginning of this century, Professor Funakoshi transformed karate-jitsu
(a style of jiu-jitsu) into a sport that was useless for real fights and
called it karate-do.
like judo, expanded rapidly in the West accompanied by lots of
Not satisfied with
dismembering jiu-jitsu, around the beginning of the century, the
Japanese then made a sport out of the joint twisting curriculum of
jiu-jitsu, which became aiki-jitsu, which in turn led to aikido.
Jiu-Jitsu into Brazil
In 1914, a world
champion of jiu-jitsu, Kosei Maeda, known as Conde Koma, who won great
victories all over the world against every style of fighting, arrived in
Brazil. In Belém do Pará, Koma taught the real jiu-jitsu to his
diligent student, Carlos Gracie, who moved to Rio in 1920 with his
brothers, of whom he was the uncontested leader, and established the
first academy of jiu-jitsu, at Rua Marquês de Abrantes, Praia do
From that time on,
jiu-jitsu spread with blood and sweat. Fighting with kimono, previously
unknown to Brazilians, proved itself with victories over all styles that
existed in Brazil , such as capoeira, Greco-Roman, boxing, and later,
sports judo, and recently, sports karate.
The epic and
unforgettable fights of Helio Gracie, against physically stronger
adversaries, put Brazilian jiu-jitsu above all the other styles of
fight. The successive victories of skinny men over muscular
giants, quickly made believers out of even the most skeptical doubters,
in the invincibility of jiu-jitsu. After years of victories and studies
to improve the ground fighting aspect of the style known as Brasileiro
de Jiu-Jitsu, jiu-jitsu fighting was launched, which included punches
Program "Herois do Ringue"
Launched in the 1950's,
Herois do Ringue showed the world examples of real jiu-jitsu fighting,
as in the time of Imperial Japan, when there were jiu-jitsu fights,
sometimes to the death, in the presence of the Emperor. Western people
hadn't seen such violent fights before, and Herois do Ringue suffered
from a campaign against it by people with competing interests. Finally
it was banned, despite epic resistance by lovers of jiu-jitsu. As a
result it was prohibited to use strikes. With these restrictions, the
Gracie Academy announced that it would immediately withdraw from
participation the first time that a fight didn't
have the characteristics of real combat.
practiced, was called Luta Livre Americana, or Vale Tudo, and later,
Luta Livre Brasileira, and finally, Jiu-Jitsu sem kimono or Luta Livre
Brasileiro is expanding internationally, as a result of the work done
during the 1920's by Carlos Gracie who passed along to his brothers the
knowledge that he learned from Conde Koma. Later, successor and faithful
student of the ideas of his older brother, Helio Gracie, maintained the
tradition helping to bring up the new generation, among whom notable
names are Carlson Gracie, Rolls Gracie, and the current Number One,
Rickson Gracie, and too many other names to mention, but who deserve
admiration and respect.
**Translator's Note: The
above document, a five page pamphlet (cover below) originally
written by Dr. Helcio
Leal Binda, was
revised by Reyson Gracie. Roberto Pedreira accepts
responsibility for the translation, but not for the content
(some of which is historically inaccurate).
(c) 2009, Roberto
Pedreira, all rights reserved.
Revised November 14,
More about the origins of
If you are interested in the history
of jiu-jitsu in Brazil, you will want to read:
Choque: The Untold
Story of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil, Volume
1, 1856-1949 (latest revised edition)
Choque: The Untold
Story of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil, Volume
Choque: The Untold
Story of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil, Volume 3, 1961-1999.
Jiu-Jitsu in the South Zone
Origins of Jiu-Jitsu: The Father of All Fights"
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