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To Gi or not to Gi

Published onDec 11, 2021
To Gi or not to Gi

In exploring the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it is important to know the cultures and the people who influenced the art in making it the worldwide combat sport it is in modern culture. It is a martial art that people of all ages can begin to train and learn things in the art form, while as with all martial arts it is not completely based upon violence.

This martial art is based upon getting your opponent on the ground and trying to force a submission while tiring out your adversary. One early lesson is learning first off of your back to defend yourself from a stronger opponent before you learn how to get someone to ground and utilize those techniques. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has also become a basis for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

With the development of this new sport amateur and professional competitors are both exposed to the many techniques and disciplines acquired from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Although many striking martial arts become popular, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a ground based martial art that attracts many different types of people.

The use of the tactics has been adopted by the United States Army, as well as the militaries in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.[1] The ability to use hand-to-hand combat in a life and death type of situation is obviously critical to someone in the military who must be ready at all times to be defensive in case a violent situation were to occur. The techniques that you learn would increase one’s ability to defend themselves against any combative opponent, but could also be applied to an unwanted confrontation in a public setting.

One of the main components to get others interested as some the sport has allowed many of people smaller in stature to excel. There is a prime example in Helio Gracie, who defeated the Brazilian Boxing Champion, the World Champion of Sumo, and the Japanese vice-champion of Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie’s also had a primetime television show on Monday nights that aired from Rio de Janeiro.[2] This show “Heroes in the Ring” was crucial to the spread among Brazilians and although it had detractors throughout the 1950’s it grew from 250,000 to 1.8 million viewers. This television show was much like modern MMA events with fights being fairly violent and there was even an arm fractured within 6 months of the first broadcast.[2] With the sport of Boxing slowly dying there was something that needed to take the place of the once adored sport. With MMA slowly developing from sports like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and different forms of wrestling I believe the ability to learn these sports to defend yourself, as well as compete in a martial arts competition led to a big reason that the sport is as big as it is today.

As the people were exposed to this new fighting system it was able to intrigue those of “macho” status as well as the people who want to learn martial arts as a practice of discipline. After these fights were exposed to the American audience the UFC brought the model of mixing fighting arts to an American audience through the pay-per-view format.[2]In knowing the history of a subject, it also helps to know more of the subject that is being discussed. Unlike a stand-up martial art obviously a ground martial art will most likely need to be initiated from the standing position, unless a fight is started while already on the ground. Jiu-jitsu relies heavily on weight-shifting while on top or bottom and the ability in holds to manipulate joints.[3]It is with the boom of martial arts movie explosion in the 90’s with the pay-per-view event of UFC 1 that there was a mass exposure. For many this was the first real exposure outside of a movie of Eastern Martial arts as well as Latin American martial arts.[2]Many people seeing the work of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu conquer other martial arts as well as the events that would follow would further push Brazilian Jiu-jitsu toward the sports world.

I think that when discussing the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu it is almost impossible not to mention the Gracie family and their contributions. They’ve been constantly mentioned in my research and there are many times when it is referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Coincidentally the basis for many martial artists is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because of it’s proficiency after it helped start the martial arts boom and helped build mixed martial arts reach the heights it has after not even being recognized as a sport or in some cases legal. The spread of the art to the United States seems to be due to the popularity through anyone’s ability to learn and the exposure to audiences from UFC 1 that would continue to the mid 90’s.

[1] Angela da Rocha et al., “Diasporic and Transnational Internationalization: The Case of Brazilian Martial Arts,” Brazilian Administration Review 12, no. 4 (December 2015): 3,

[2]Cairus, Jose. 2013. “The Gracie Clan and the Making of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: National Identity, Culture, and Performance, 1905-2003.” Dissertation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: York University.

[3]Hopkins, D.S. 2015. What Is Jiu-Jitsu? The Martial Arts and How to Undertstand Them. N.p.: First Edition Design Publishing.

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