History of History of Jiu-Jitsu

By: Tufy Kairuz
Resident Historian in Toronto, Canada.
The History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: A NEW APPROACH


In the wake of the recent globalization experienced by the hybrid martial arts known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, practitioners and non-practitioners alike had been increasingly interested in its origins. Versions of the history of the BJJ have been in a vogue among practitioners for long time. More recently, however, these stories with mystery and controversial overtones circulate through internet as well as in printed form. I would attribute this phenomenon to a combination of factors ranging from lack of systematic research to partisan disputes between factions of practitioners. As result of this myriad of incongruent information (or absence of any), the BJJ’s history was re-invented through the practice described by the British Scholars Eric Hobsbawn and Terence O. Ranger as the “Invention of Tradition”.

Understanding reasons and circumstances that led the creation of this BJJ’s gospel is the first step for a historian to set in motion a new approach on the subject. Therefore, my intention here is not necessary to conflict with pre-existent “traditions”. In addition, it is ironic to witness the exacerbation of polemics around BJJ’s history in consequence of its sounding success word-wide. Just to remind the readers, the BJJ until the 1980s was practiced almost exclusively in Rio de Janeiro at a handful of Dojos mostly scattered throughout the south side (Zona Sul) of the city. Only in the early 1990s, BJJ’s arts cable TV show called
“Ultimate Fighting Championship”. Thus, a obscure combat sport practiced only in Brazil turned into a martial art exported in planetary scale that gave birth a high-profitable industry of entertainment. Such tremendous impact certainly rocks the parochial world of BJJ in many ways. The attempt to monopolize its knowledge (and mythical creation) through an internal tug-of-war is one, among others, aspects of BJJ’s global boom. Against this background, my research is primary academic in nature and purpose the BJJ’s history is only a tool that I use to discuss and analyze the history of Brazil during the twentieth century. However, as long-time practitioner of martial arts, BJJ’s fan and native to Rio de Janeiro, I also nurture great curiosity toward the process by which this Japanese martial art was re-invented in my hometown. I was kindly invited by Hannette Staack and Andre Terencio to post portions of my academic research on their website. The duo of black belts aforementioned epitomizes the avatar on BJJ’s master of the twenty-first century. They not only relentlessly pursue improve their technical skills, but are strongly committed with professionalism and high standards of teaching excellence. Despite their youth they soon realize, prior to many long-time practitioners, that BJJ is a passionate life-style (and business) that goes way beyond the duel of egos. Moreover, the BJJ is also a school where body and souls are shaped. A comprehensive knowledge of its history would be perhaps the beginning of a new curriculum to forge a new type of BJJ’s practitioner. After the initial expansion of BJJ, a very peculiar diaspora of Brazilian practitioners ensued, led them to settle literary all over the world. These communities of expatriates (many becoming immigrants) had to face challenges stemming from the very dynamic of globalization. As for example, challenges of being incorporated under the powerful and financial appealing umbrella of the so called mixed martial arts among others dilemmas. These are issues that should be addressed individually as well collectively by BJJ’s practitioners. By launching innovate strategies such as the present one Hannette and Andre are effectively are spearheading the prototype of the BJJ’s practitioner in the twenty-first century. The BJJ’s community is ripe for a new level of understanding about the art they “breath” on daily basis. The history of BJJ is exciting on its own right because it is not only a mythical trajectory of larger-than-life individuals. It is saga of a complex society forged on its maladies and virtues. The process in which the BJJ evolved from its Japanese matrix into a hybrid Brazilian combat sports stands as a useful paradigm to understand our society: In the beginning was result of the actions of few, but over the time became the product of combined efforts of many, therefore should be shared by all.





The Brazil-based Brazil-021 is linked to Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu Confederation.
The US-based Brazil-021 is linked to International Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.


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