In order to help us better appreciate and understand the evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, here’s a timeline of its historical development:

1700s: Hisamori Tenenuchi makes the first recorded use of the Japanese term “Jujitsu” – meaning “gentle art” in reference to kind of martial art that he taught at his school in Japan.

1882: Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) modifies his technique of “Jujitsu” by emphasizing throws and sparring and naming it after himself as: “Kano Jiu Jitsu” and then later as “Judo.”

1909: Geo Omori opened the first jujutsu/judo school in Brazil.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 12.17.19 PM1914: Mitsuyu Maeda (known also as Count Koma) and Satake arrived in Brazil and every newspaper announced their art as being “jiu-jitsu” despite both men calling it Kodokan judoka.

1917: Carlos Gracie, the eldest son of Gastão Gracie, watched a demonstration by “Count Koma” Maeda at the Da Paz Theatre and decided to learn judo. An alternative or complementary version of the story is that Gastão Gracie helped Maeda establish his life in Brazil, and that Maeda returned the favor by teaching Gastão’s son Carlos the art of “judo.”

1925: Carlos Gracie, after 8 years of study, moves to Rio de Janeiro where he opens the Academia Gracie de Jiu Jitsu.

1931: Helio Gracie, the frail youngest brother of Carlos Gracie, defeats the boxer Antonio Portugal, proving that a smaller person can defeat a larger and stronger fighter.

1932: Helio was defeated in a three hour and 43 minute match against former student Vlademar Santana. Carlos’ eldest son Carlson Gracie stepped up and defeated Santana.

1951 (October 23): Japan vs. Brazil. Helio Gracie fights Masahiko Kimura, the best Japanese Jiu-Jitsu fighter of his day. Kimura, who was eighty pounds heavier than Helio, was so confident of victory that he declared if Helio lasted more than three minutes he should be considered the winner. Helio frustrated Kimura for thirteen minutes before Carlos ended the fight to protect his brother from serious injury due to the shoulder lock that today bears Kimura’s name: the kimura. Kimura was very impressed with the improvements and adaptions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At this point, it become clear that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is becoming its own martial art.

1955: On May 24, Helio Gracie, 43, fights Valdemar Santana for 3 hours and 40 minutes. Helio became disoriented and Carlos again ended the match to protect him. Although Santana was the victor, Helio’s ability to fend off attack of a younger, stronger, more athletic, highly skilled grappler for nearly four hours earned him great respect and recognition.

Carlson Gracie opened a school in Copacabana and started teaching “Gracie style Jiu Jitsu” to non-Gracies.

1978: Helio’s eldest son, Rorion Gracie, leaves Brazil for the United States.

1980: The Gracie Challenge. Rorion Gracie invites anyone of any size or discipline to fight him to prove the superiority of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu over all other martial arts.

1986: Carlos Gracie Jr. opens the the very first Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu school in the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro.

1989: Rorion Gracie, with brothers Rickson, Royce, and Royler, opens the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California.

1992: Jean Jacques Machado, a protege of Carlos Grace, Jr captures every major title and competition award then available. This same year he moves to the United States and begins the “Machado” line of black belts.

1993: Ultimate Fighting Championship #1. On November 12, Rorion Gracie organizes the very first Ultimate Fighting Championship. His brother Royce Gracie, despite being the smallest, emerged as the victor by employing Jiu Jitsu agains the other martial artists. Here’s the final fight of UFC 1 with Royce Gracie against Kimo Leopoldo (who comes in carrying a giant wooden cross):

The rest is recent Jiu Jitsu history. UFC made Jiu Jitsu a household name and Jiu Jitsu gyms have popped up all over the world.

1996: The First Pan-Am (North and South American) Championship and first World Jiu Jitsu Championship.

1998: The first Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championship created by Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

2002: Carlos Gracie Jr (founder of Gracie Barra school) founds the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF).

2003: Eddie Bravo (student of Jean Jacques Machado) defeats Royler Gracie by triangle in quarterfinals at Abu Dhabi 2003 and goes on to promote and lead a no-gi version of Jiu Jitsu.

2004: First IBJJF European Championship tournament.

2007: The Gracie Barra International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) creates a no-gi (grappling without the traditional Japanese kimono) division: World Nogi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship

The Four Branches of BJJ:

  1. Gracie Barra: Founded by Carlos Gracie, Jr. It’s the largest group of schools. More focused on BJJ as a sport as Carlos Jr. also founded the IBJJF.
  2. Gracie Humaita: Helio Gracie line associated with Royler and Rolker Gracie.
  3. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu: Break off from Gracie Humaita. Associated with Rorion or Royce Grace, and more recently with Rener Gracie or Ryron Gracie who are popular on YouTube. Gracie JJ is focused more on self-defense than on sport.
  4. Alliance Jiu Jitsu: Founded in 1993, by Romero Jacaré Cavalcanti, Fabio Gurgel, Alexandre Paiva and Fernando Gurgel. Strongly based on winning tournaments.