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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Conflict Resolution, Self Defense, Focus

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:  Conflict Resolution, Self Defense, Focus

Assistant Editor

20 Jun, 2019

We are pretty familiar with the term "Martial Art". Broadly martial art covers a wide range of activities that involve different fighting techniques, physical exercises; however, martial art is not just about physical activity. Martial art is a combination of self-defense, exercise for a healthy body and methods of mental discipline that enhances spiritual growth. 

Though mostly people associate martial arts to the East Asian cultures but they are by no means unique to just Asia. An extensive system of combat martial arts was practiced by the Europeans referred to as the Historical European Martial Arts. Though the main intention of martial art is to defend one from physical threat and to defeat the opponent physically, however, most Asian martial arts are linked not just for physical combat but are linked to spiritual or religious beliefs and philosophies such as Buddhism and Daoism.

Though different forms of martial arts have been practiced all across the globe but when we study the ancient cultures of Asia it is quite evident that martial art was a very integral part of life in this part of the world. There are hundreds of practices and methods which fall under the martial art category and have been passed down many generations in total secrecy. It has also been found from the evidences that martial arts had developed in the countries that have been historically isolated from the Western World. There still remain many conflicts regarding the theories and opinions regarding the origins of martial art. 

Artifacts as old as 2000 to 4000 years old those have been found in Asia point towards its origin in India, China and Japan. Artifacts from India and China have been found depicting paintings of people striking poses that point towards possible martial art practices. According to some historian Qigong is one of the oldest form of martial art that existed in China 5000 years ago. The foundation of the Asian martial arts is a likely blend of the Indian and Chinese arts. Extensive trade occurred between these two regions of Asia beginning around 600 B.C through the Silk route. As an early legend in martial arts often reiterates the story of the Indian monk Bodhidharma who was supposedly the third son of Pallava king from Kanchipuram, who had awakened his kundalini and renounced the royal life to become a monk. He is credited with founding the meditative philosophy of Zen Buddhism and also influencing the unarmed combat arts of the Shaolin temple in China. Some consider him to be the progenitor of Shaolin martial arts, many of which have come to be known as Kung fu. It is said that when Bodhidharma reached the Shaolin monastery he found the Shaolin monks weak and in order to improve their physical and mental ability so that they could endure long sessions of meditations, he is said to have taught the Shaolin monks 18 exercises, which in all probability were derived from ancient Kalaripayattu practices that prevailed in the South Indian state of Kerala. Bodhidharma was supposed to be an expert of the martial art form of Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu is believed to be one of the oldest of martial arts that is said to have been developed by the Sage Parasurama, who was the master of all martial art forms. Sage Parasurama developed the techniques of Kalaripayattu and trained the warriors in the art form making them as sharp and supple as the animals in the wild.  

While different martial art forms have their own unique facets, they all have a very common characteristic which is the systemization of fighting techniques. The methods of trainings vary; some have set routines that are performed alone while some techniques use a partner. These techniques are especially common in the Asian and the Asian- derived martial arts.

The different variations and combinations that most martial arts follow are broadly;

Striking: Punching, Kicking and other strikes using the elbows knees and open hand.

Grappling: Throwing, Joint locking, and pinning techniques.

Weaponry: Traditional Weaponry, and Modern Weaponry.

With the increase in the trade between America, China and Japan in the late 19th century along with other things like food, Westerners also started practicing the martial arts. In the 1970's and 1980s there was an increased media interest in the Asian martial art form with many movies being made in collaboration with Asian actors and Hollywood.  Bruce Lee and his movies gained immense popularity and led to widespread interest in martial art in America. 

Martial arts existed in classical European civilization as well, most notably in Greece. Boxing, wrestling were part of ancient Olympic Games, and who can forget the Gladiatorial combats that were part of the Roman public spectacle. However, with the rise in firearms martial art in Europe declined. As a result, martial arts that originated in Europe did not survive or is almost non-existent today as opposed to Asia where it still exists.

One of the Asian martial art that has made its presence in the Western world is that of Jiu Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu was practiced by the Samurais of Japan. Samurai warriors were well-armored and would usually fight on horseback, however the art of Jiu-Jitsu was developed to allow the Samurai warrior to fight effectively in the event that they found themselves unarmed and on foot. As Samurai warriors were always dressed in armors it restricted their mobility and as such the techniques that were incorporated in Jiu-Jitsu included throwing, joint locks and strangles in addition to striking moves that are found in other martial art forms.

By the mid 1800's Jiu-Jitsu had fragmented into several styles. Several new techniques were developed from style to style but all of the new styles still incorporated the hand to hand combat of strikes, grappling, weapon-based attacks and disarms. It was also in the 1800 that Jigoro Kano developed his own style which later evolved into Judo, which went to become one of the most widely practiced sports worldwide. 

One student of Jigoro Kano's Mitsuo Maeda emigrated from Japan to settle in Brazil in the year 1974. He was assisted in settling by a local politician named George Gracie. As a token of gratitude Mitsuo taught Jiu-Jitsu to George Gracie's son Carlos Gracie. Carlos than shared his knowledge with some of his brothers and in 1925 opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil.

Over the years, Carlos and Helio Gracie and their students worked on refining their art focusing their attention on the submission ground fighting, a technique that allows a smaller man to defend against and ultimately defeat a larger opponent or attacker. Further Jiu-Jitsu was refined incorporating moves from wrestling into the curriculum. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become very popular as it benefits people from all walks of life. It is considered the best martial art for street defense due to multiple factors. The techniques are effective to overpower larger and stronger opponents. It gives one the control necessary to inflict only as much damage as the situation calls for. One unique feature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is its techniques are not based on striking, kicking or physical prowess. It teaches the art of grappling where one is taught distance control, leverage, position and submissions to effectively handle physically aggressive opponent. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a non-striking peaceful alternative to self defense. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches how to grapple, effectively move to remove dangerous weapons of the opponent's fists and feet. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also unique because of the amount of techniques, the way these are applied and training. The amount of techniques present in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very extraordinary and takes more time than other martial arts to master or achieve a black belt. These are the reasons why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most unique and effective martial arts for children and adult alike.

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By: Madhuchanda Saxena