This modified variant of Japanese Kodokan judo places a greater emphasis on ground work than its parent art, which focuses more on standing throws. It relies primarily on joint locks and chokeholds, which allow adept practitioners to defeat larger opponents without requiring any great strength.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s story begins with a Scots-Portuguese family named Gracie. Taught by Mitsuyo Maeda, a representative of Jigoro Kano, young Carlos Gracie became adept in the art and passed it along to his brothers, including Helio, whose frailty and diminutive frame made him a perfect exponent of the art’s technical superiority. The family became responsible for popularizing the art through so-called vale tudo challenge matches, modifying it to suit their practical needs, which increasingly involved competition.
Helio’s eldest son, Rorion, hand-picked his younger brother Royce to represent the family art in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. Weighing a scant 170 pounds, Gracie faced much larger and more imposing opponents yet went on to win three of the first four single-elimination UFC tournaments. After witnessing the art’s brutally effective submissions, a new generation of practitioners adopted the style, making it a modern martial arts staple.