Gracie jiu-jitsu has since grown and expanded around the world from its humble beginnings in Rio de Janeiro. Focusing on technique and leverage, jiu-jitsu has become a widely-practiced art- from the mats to the octagon and to everyday life, jiu-jitsu has become above all a lifestyle. But what are the origins of this sport?
The earliest reference to jiu-jitsu and its grappling techniques are found within Babylonian statues, found to have been dated back to the Third Millennium B.C. It is from here that history leaps and leads us to monks in Southern India who ultimately formulated and practiced the fundamental techniques of jiu-jitsu. Through Buddhism, an advanced knowledge of the human body and the study of physics, these monks were able to develop movements based on leverage, momentum, balance and weight as a form of art to be used against threatening adversaries. This link between jiu-jitsu and Buddhism ultimately provided the sport with the mobility to migrate to China and Japan, where it was to be truly utilised and perfected.
The time of the Samurai, although clouded by war and combat, was a period in which jiu-jitsu flourished and developed into a formally recognisable art. Utilised by Japanese combatants, jiu-jitsu was adopted, practiced and perfected within the first school established by Hisamori Tenenuchi, which opened in 1532 and coined the phrase jiu-jitsu. Although perfected on the battlefield, the transition from war to peace led by the formation of the Tokugawa military government meant that jiu-jitsu adopted a new sentiment of ‘living in peace, but remembering war’. It was with the end of the feudal system and fears of western influence that jiu-jitsu become a secret art, inevitably being distilled into different fractions of martial arts such as Karate, Judo and Aikido. As jiu-jitsu was broken down into numerous martial arts, Judo became the centrefold of Japanese society as Jigaro Kan, the founder of Judo, worked tirelessly to integrate it within both police training and as an Olympic sport.
THE BIRTH OF GRACIE jiu-jitsu
The migration of Mitsuyo Maeda, Japan’s champion in Judoka and jiu-jitsu from Japan eventually brought Judo to Brazil. Here, Maedo formed a business relationship with a diplomat by the name of Gastão Gracie, who helped him settle in Brazil. In return, Maedo volunteered to teach jiu-jitsu to Gastão’s son, Carlos, while Hélio, Carlos's younger brother who was seen as physically frail, was advised not to participate in any exercise as he did not pose the strength or endurance for it. This caused Hélio to spend much of his time observing his older brother train and teach classes. It was only until he was 16, that Hélio taught his first class to a student due to the absence of his brother Carlos. The first class was such a success that the student advised Carlos that, ‘I’ve had a class with your brother and if you don’t mind from now on I’ll continue taking classes with him’. From that day onwards, Hélio became the mastermind behind Gracie jiu-jitsu with his focus being on leverage, rather than strength and explosiveness, to create an art that could be utilised against any stature. The linage of Gracie has grown through Hélio's nine children; Rickson, Rorion, Relson ,Royler, Rolker, Royce, Robin, Rerika and Ricci, with the Gracie academy living on with both sons Rolker and Rolyer running the academy for their father.
Although the roots of Gracie jiu-jitsu have come from Japan and India, its style and technique varies greatly, with a more resolute focus on leverage and mobility rather than physical domination.
TO THE PRESENT
2001 saw the arrival of Gracie Jiu Jitsu on the shores of Australia with Bruno Panno, one of Royler Gracie’s first black belts, arriving in Australia. Seeing a demand for jiu jitsu, Bruno established Gracie Sydney in Maroubra, which has since moved and expanded over the years. Bruno also founded the NSW BJJ Federation and remains as the organisation’s current Director. Under Bruno’s guidance, our coaches, Jairson and George, began their journey in the Maroubra academy over thirteen years ago. Through this training and their passion for jiu-jitsu, in 2016, Jairson and George opened up the first Gracie Academy in Parramatta with permission from Royler Gracie and Bruno Panno.
George Atton and Jairson Rosa with Bruno Panno