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IS JIU JITSU A SPORT
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IS JIU JITSU A SPORT

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The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become one of the most popular forms of combat in the world today. BJJ has a complex series of fast transitions, dominant control positions and high calibre submissions that include leverage based joint locks and chokeholds. Many athletes are looking to add the bjj philosophy to their combat repertoire, especially Mixed Martial Artists. BJJ isn't just for athletes, as people from all walks of life are finding the art fun and challenging all at the same time.

What This Article Covers:

There have been heated debates over the course of the grappling arts history, concerning the makeup of the combat style. The question remains, is jiu jitsu a sport or simply a self defense art used to protect someone from an attacker. The significance of the rising competition level in BJJ, has secured its fundamental place in the world of combat sports today. Even when we look at MMA and how athletes in that sport can utilise the techniques from BJJ, then there is no debate that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu indeed is a sport.

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is bjj a sport

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THE HISTORY OF BJJ

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a significant history that dates back to the early 1900's. The art of BJJ was founded off of the core principles involved in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, and what would later be known as Judo. Kano Jigoro was the founding father of Kodokan Judo, and it was him who sent his prize pupil Mitsuyo Maeda all around the world to spread his art. After Mitsuyo visited multiple countries, and challenged multiple styles of Martial Arts, he landed in Brazil. It was here that the significance of his Martial Art would cross paths with the prominent creators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Carlos Gracie Sr would meet Mitsuyo Maeda after watching him demonstrate Judo at the Da Paz theatre in Rio de Janeiro. Mitsuyo would agree to teach Carlos Gracie his style of Martial Arts. Carlos trained under the Japanese legend for 5 years before passing on his knowledge to his brothers Oswaldo, Gastao Jr, George and Helio. The brothers trained comprehensively in the Martial Art before Helio discovered that he had many flaws in executing high calibre Judo throws. Helio would go on and develop his own traditional jiu jitsu fighting system, which would later be known as Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The Gracie Brothers would challenge everyone in Brazil including many Luta Livre fighters, which resulted in out of control brawls for the best part of 50 years. After some controversial moments in history, Vale Tudo was banned nationwide in Brazil, causing an uproar in the community.

Helio would then try and spread his Gracie Jiu Jitsu over in America. He travelled with his son's Rorion, Rickson and Royce as they facilitated their own BJJ Academy. Rorion was extremely ingenious as he began a career as an extra in television, where he engaged in some choreography in many different Martial Arts movies. After the beginning of the Ultimate Fighting Championship which saw Royce Gracie win the event, it put the Gracie name on the map. Gracie Jiu Jitsu became extremely popular all over the world after the televised event of the inaugural UFC. The evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was only just beginning, as many athletes began learning the art and developing it into their styles of fighting.

THE EVOLUTION FROM SELF DEFENSE TO COMPETITIVE BJJ

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu began with Helio Gracie's self defense combat system. As his art progressed over the course of the first 20 years the art was suited more for Vale Tudo, which is an early form of Mixed Martial Arts. Even though there were many competitions between BJJ and Luta Livre, the art was still mainly for self defense purposes. Helio wanted to spread his self defense systems across the globe in an effort to take over the world of Martial Arts and get rich in the process. As the popularity grew throughout Brazil, many fans would watch events facilitated by the Gracies. The big moment in the competitive evolution was when Carlson Gracie scheduled a Luta Livre vs BJJ public challenge fight. This event ended up becoming the pivotal moment in grappling history as the Luta Livre Vs BJJ showdown exploded. BJJ won all three fights as Walid Ismail, Fabio Gurgel, and Murilo Bustamante defeated Eugenio Tadeu, Denilson Maia, and Marcelo Mendes, which sparked a competitive thrill throughout the nation of Brazil. 

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu kept on evolving as the Gracie clan decided to spread their art over in America. With the birth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the early 90's, Royce Gracie showed why jiu jitsu is the best Martial Art, after stealing the limelight and representing the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As a result of the success of the inaugural UFC event, Jiu Jitsu exploded across the United States of America. All of a sudden there was a demand for learning Jiu Jitsu, which led to the rise of international Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments. Organisations like the IBJJF and the ADCC have tailored their events to showcase the grappling skills of many superstar athletes. Now that BJJ was becoming more mainstream, the art itself began to steer away from the traditional self defense component. BJJ was now being taught as a sporting concept, so practitioners could prepare for tournaments. This training meant that concepts like scoring points and staying in a dominant position were taught more often, and encouraged more than the traditional submission aspect. 

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TRADITIONAL GI JIU JITSU 

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a long tradition of wearing a Gi uniform during combat. The art that Helio invented, utilised many grips on an opponent's Gi, this was to make it easier to choke an opponent. Over the years there have been many developments made with Gi grips. The introduction of movements that utilised lapel grips and pants grips has become more and more common. The Gracie clan were dominant wearing a traditional Gi, as many opponents struggled to keep up with Gracie Jiu Jitsu. During the last 20 years there have been significant innovations in Gi Jiu Jitsu. Moves like the Brabo choke, the baseball bat choke, the loop choke and various other lapel chokes have come to the forefront of the Brazilian art. Other positional controls like lapel guard, lasso guard, gubba guard and spider guard are playing significant roles in many athletes' game styles. Even though there are continuous innovations being brought to the table, the element of old school and traditional chokes like the clock choke, the bow and arrow choke, the ezekiel and the cross collar choke will always remain some of the deadliest and efficient Jiu Jitsu maneuvers there are.

THE RISE OF NO GI BJJ

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has always had a traditional element about it, but now in more recent times the more modern version of No Gi is making its way into the community. The rise of international No Gi competition has become extremely popular with prestigious events like the ADCC, Submission Underground, Fight 2 Win, Who's Number One, Polaris and the Eddie Bravo Invitational. No Gi BJJ or otherwise known as submission grappling, is becoming almost a separate Martial Art to the more traditional style of Gi Jiu Jitsu. The sport of No Gi is home to some of BJJ's most famous jiu jitsu practitioners, with athletes like Gordon Ryan, Craig Jones, Lachlan Giles, Eddie Cummings, Andre Galvao, Mikey Muscamesi and Tye Ruotulo are gaining popularity with fans all over the world. 

The No Gi brand of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is very different to the traditional style of Gi. In No Gi a practitioner wears a rashguard, compression pants and a pair of shorts. Competitors cannot grip onto the clothes of their opponents, rather they will rely on forms of wrestling grips which include neckties, wrist grips, arm drags, leg drags, body locks, overhooks and underhooks. There are usually different rulesets too, as higher level No Gi competitors are free to attack heel hooks, calf slicers, toeholds and other various advanced submissions. This brand of grappling is threatening to become the premier division of brazilian jiu jitsu in the world today. 

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BJJ A SPORTING RULESET

As the evolution of BJJ has split into two separate sports, the art of No Gi has gained a significant ruleset. Many high level tournaments are now adopting a round robin format, which is giving competitors much more experience when they sign up to compete. There have also been significant allowances in terms of submission maneuvers, with the inclusion of knee reaping, toeholds, heel hooks and other banned or illegal moves. The sporting aspect of BJJ is also guided by a point system, as opposed to the brutality of the old school Vale Tudo fights that Helio promoted. In a competition sense practitioners will score points for different control positions like the mount, side control, back control and knee on belly. Points are also scored when a practitioner executes a sweep, takedowns or passes the guard. Advantages are given to practitioners that attempt submissions while their opponents are forced to defend. Advantages can also be given when a practitioner takes down an opponent to the mat, but lands out of bounds. Penalties are handed out when practitioners use illegal grips or stall in a position. If an opponent gathers enough penalties throughout the course of the match, this can result in loss of points or a disqualification. The point system only comes into effect if a practitioner does not finish the fight with a submission.

IS SPORTS BJJ GOOD FOR EVERYONE 

Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is definitely a must for all individuals. The old school combative version of self defense, can help a person become self confident to defend themselves or the ones they love. In terms of the sporting aspect of BJJ, this can also be extremely helpful to people from all walks of life. In some cases it is probably more acceptable to train in this version of the art, due to the less brutal aspects involved. Nowadays people do not necessarily want to injure an attacker, instead they would rather subdue them and wait for the police to arrive. Training in the sporting aspect of BJJ is heavily focused on scoring points, which effectively is learning how to subdue and control an opponent. Training in this form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is beneficial for kids and adults alike, as the skills a student will learn far outweigh any other dangerous form of Martial Arts. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be a very technical and a gentle way of controlling an opponent, so this form of Jiu Jitsu may be more acceptable to the general population.

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THE FUTURE OF BJJ

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has come from a rough upbringing, with the close minded and stubborn ideology Helio Gracie used to implement. Since these days the art has grown significantly with many adaptations including women in jiu jitsu, and a heavy sporting aspect. There has been great promise of an eventful future for BJJ, as the international popularity of the martial art has risen exponentially in the last 10 years. There has been talk about the possibility of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu becoming an Olympic sport but these are only rumours. If this was to happen then the sport needs to undertake a massive overhaul in its conduct system. This means the sport itself needs to appoint a governing body to oversee the entire sport before the IOC will even consider any future bids.

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is jujitsu a sport

There is work being done behind the scenes, but this is a long and slow process. For now the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is mainly focused on IBJJF world championships and many other televised No Gi events like the ADCC,Who's Number One, Fight 2 Win, and many other prestigious tournaments. There is indeed a bright future for BJJ, as the number of members worldwide is rapidly growing every year. This includes the growth of ladies Jiu Jitsu and the junior ranks of BJJ. Many of these practitioners are joining in competition tournaments, in order to raise their skill levels and become high level in the art.

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