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African Mixed Martial Arts - Empowering People to Reach Their Potential
African Mixed Martial Arts - Empowering People to Reach Their Potential

The Advantage of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Child putting an adult in an arm bar!

If your goal is to become a fighter or to be able to defend yourself completely, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has significant advantages over most other martial arts. It remains the only single style that addresses all areas of fighting completely without the need for cross-training. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was designed as a fighting style to defeat other martial arts, where styles like Boxing, Karate, Kung Fu, Shotokan, and Tae Kwon Do all specialize in striking someone, none of them present solutions for someone who is pinned on the ground; conversely, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu combined with Kenpo Karate offers solutions for defending against striking attacks while standing and on the ground in addition to all methods of grappling attacks. With the popularity of contests like the Ultimate Fighting Championship, you will see people naming their styles as Wrestling or Kickboxing, but they all (and must) supplement their training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To this day, there are still fighters entering the cage with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as their only method of training to ensure their victories.

What martial art is used widely by the United States Military and Law Enforcement agencies throughout the world?

James "Bobby" Ware using BJJ to break Dr. Thalheimer's arm, wrist, and shoulder!

The Military has recognized the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a martial art not only for sportive contests, but in the real world as well. Sophisticated armies around the world cannot afford to buy into theories or Hollywood myths about martial arts; for a soldier, knowledge of martial arts is life and death, not a hobby or a film script. Through a scientific method, trial and error and process of elimination, The United States Army chose Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to be the core of their Combatives Program. In 2002, SFC Matthew Larson rewrote the Army Combatives Manual (FM 3-25.150) and made Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the backbone for the entire work. Today, it is hard to find any elite Military or Law Enforcement agency that does not incorporate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a serious part of their doctrine.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsue helps you against a much larger and stronger opponent.

What is Jiu-Jitsu?

A martial art and combat sport that focuses on groundfighting, with the goal of gaining a dominant position from which to force an attacker to submit, either through strikes or a finishing hold. Modern Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) traces its origins to Japanese jujutsu (the traditional Japanese spelling), which had existed for several centuries in Japan. Jujutsu translates as "soft art," an expression that conveys its central principle---to yield to your opponent's strength and use it against them, while using leverage and technique to maximize your own strength.

By applying the "soft art" principles to fighting on the ground (a place where most fights will end up anyway), jiu-jitsu allows a smaller, weaker person to more successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant. Jiu-jitsu can be used for self-defense, sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition; in fact, a background in jiu-jitsu is considered essential for any serious MMA fighter.

In contrast to more traditional martial arts, modern BJJ places little emphasis on static forms and "lethal" moves, neither of which can be practiced in any realistic context. Instead, the techniques of BJJ allow students to train cooperatively and safely at full speed; thus, students become comfortable with combat and can test the effectiveness of their techniques every day. Live sparring and drilling always play a central role in training and are often the criteria on which rankings are determined.

History of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Dr. Thalheimer using BJJ to put James "Bobby" Ware to sleep!

BJJ is also known as Gracie jiu-jitsu, in honor of the Gracie family. Helio Gracie, the founder of the style as we know it today, is still alive and teaching, so most of the events in the development of the art are fairly recent and well documented. Thus, the history of Gracie jiu-jitsu, much like the application of the art itself, does not depend on vague traditions or unfounded legends.

In the early part of the 20th century, Helio's brother Carlos Gracie studied Japanese jujutsu under the great champion Mitsuyo Maeda (known in Brazil as Conde Koma, or the "Count of Combat"). The system that Maeda taught was a modified version of pre-World War II jujutsu, with a heavy focus on ne-waza (ground technique).

Carlos Gracie taught these techniques to his younger brothers and to his older sons, and they in turn taught their brothers, sons, nephews and cousins. The Gracies began to open academies to teach others, and jiu-jitsu soon became the family business. Carlos knew that the system his family was developing could surpass any contemporary martial art in realistic combat. To prove this to the rest of the world, he issued the "Gracie Challenge." This was an open invitation to fight anytime, anywhere, regardless of style or size. The tradition of the open challenge has been continued by his family and students, who have consistently demonstrated the superiority of Gracie jiu-jitsu throughout the world.

UFC World Champion Royce Gracie training with Dr. Thalheimer and
James "Bobby" Ware.

Carlos Gracie

As a young man, Helio was the smallest of the Gracie brothers, and also the most sickly. He was prone to fainting spells, and due to these health issues, Helio was not allowed to train jiu-jitsu. Instead, he spent much of his time watching and studying the techniques that his brothers taught in class. At the age of 17, Helio was called on to teach when Carlos, the instructor at the time, was not available for one of his student's lessons. Carlos arrived later offering his apologies, but the student assured him it was no problem and requested that he be allowed to continue training with Helio. Carlos agreed, and Helio became an instructor.

Helio soon realized that even though he understood the techniques in theory, in reality, they were much harder to execute. With his smaller size, Helio began to feel that he just did not have the brute strength and athleticism required for many of the jiu-jitsu techniques. He began adapting the moves for his particular physical attributes, and through trial and error, he learned to maximize leverage and minimize the force needed to execute the moves. From these experiments, he created the more streamlined and universal art that we now know as Gracie jiu-jitsu, thus coming closer to the goal of the "soft art."

Of course, much of the popularity of Gracie jiu-jitsu in the U.S. today is due to the success of Helio's son, Royce Gracie, in the early UFC events.

Royce Gracie and the birth of the UFC

Until the 1990s the Gracie family remained largely unknown in the U.S., despite their reputation in Brazil. Aside from rumors about the "Gracie Challenge" and grainy VHS tapes showing some of their victories over opponents from other styles, the Gracies and their style were still generally shrouded in mystery.

Using BJJ you can end a fight without ever striking your opponent.

Looking for an opportunity to showcase their art on a larger stage, the Gracies, along with other investors, began to develop the concept of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). They sought to create a martial arts tournament that would replicate true combat as closely as possible, and thus determine which style was the most effective. The UFC was to be a tournament in the truest sense, requiring fighters to advance through several rounds of matches in one night. There were to be no weight classes and no time limits, only biting and eye-gouging were forbidden, and wins could only come by knockout or submission.

The concept finally came together in 1993, and the tournament was set to air live on U.S. pay-per-view. Competitors from several different styles enlisted to represent their arts, which included Sumo, Savate, Shootfighting, Boxing, Karate, and others. Rickson Gracie, the family's most proven fighter, was expected to be the logical choice to represent Gracie jiu-jitsu, but his younger brother Royce, at a slight 175 lbs., was deliberately chosen to show that the techniques could be used to defeat much larger opponents.

In the U.S. at the time of the first UFC, grappling arts were a distant second in popularity to striking arts. It was expected that strikers would dominate the competition, and Royce was generally considered to be an underdog. In spite of these doubts, Royce was able to impose his will and his game plan on his opponents, who often found themselves out of the match as soon as the fight hit the mat. He sustained very little damage, dished out even less to his opponents (despite opportunities to do so), and ended each of his fights cleanly by submission. Royce won three straight fights to capture the tournament crown that night, and in the first few years of the UFC, he went on to accumulate 11 wins by submission and was the tournament champion of UFC 1, 2, and 4.

Royce Gracie - UFC #1 Champion

Dr. Thalheimer, Evaldo Lima, Royce Gracie, and James "Bobby" Ware

Royce's victories drew attention to the effectiveness of not only Gracie jiu-jitsu in particular but grappling in general. The early UFC tournaments were largely contested by fighters who specialized in only one aspect of combat, and grappling proved to be the most effective single strategy. Interest in grappling arts surged, and in turn, grapplers sought to maintain their edge by training in striking arts. Today's mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes train in several different disciplines, and with this cross-training and the implementation of standard rule sets, the look and style of MMA fighting has changed; however, a foundation in jiu-jitsu is still considered an essential element for any serious competitor.

Under new ownership, the UFC continues today and has grown to be the premier MMA organization. And Royce, now in his 40s, teaches seminars throughout the world.


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