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Jiu-Jitsu, translated as the gentle art, is one of the oldest forms of martial art. The roots of Jiu-Jitsu lie in India more than 2,000 years before Christ. It was created by monks who could not use any type of weapons to defend their lives against barbarian attacks. It spread through China and eventually took root and further evolved in Japan becoming the first martial art style. The samurai clans in Japan named it Jiu-Jitsu and adopted it as their own traditional style to defeat an opponent regardless if the situation was striking, throwing or grappling. With the passing years, they split the techniques and developed other martial arts styles, such as Judo, Aikido, Karate, etc.

In 1914, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion Esai Maeda immigrated to Brazil where he was instrumental in establishing a Japanese immigrant community. His efforts were aided by Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish descent. As an expression of his gratitude for Gracie's assistance, Maeda taught the Brazilian's oldest son Carlos the essential secrets of the ancient martial arts technique. Carlos taught Maeda's techniques to his four brothers and in 1925 they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil. For the Gracie brothers teaching the art was more than an occupation. It was their passion. One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, paid special interest to the use of the techniques. Helio, being of small frame, light in weight (only 135 pounds), and in frail health, was 16 when he began learning Jiu-Jitsu. Being unable to participate in classes, he would sit and watch his older brother teach every day. One day when Carlos was unable to make it to class, Helio was asked to instruct. Beause of his size and stature, he began to work with and adapt the basic rules of Jiu-Jitsu. He focused on the application of leverage in the art which it possible for a smaller opponent to defeat a larger one. He began experimenting, modifying and enhancing the basic techniques to make them effective for a person regardless of his or her stature. Thus began the development of a new and more effective art - Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Helio's skills eventually enabled him to beat some of the world's greatest fighters. Helio's feats include the longest fight in recorded history - 3 hours and 45 minutes nonstop - and the historic match against Masahiko Kimura, who was probably the greatest fighter Japan ever produced. Now in his 90's, Helio Gracie still teaches and is widely recognized as a living legend. Helio's quest became today's Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art that is continuously evolving as a result of input from practitioners throughout the world.

In the early 1990s, Rorion Gracie moved from Brazil to Los Angeles. He wished to show the world how well the Gracie art of jiu-jitsu worked. In Brazil, no-rules Mixed Martial Art (MMA) contests (known as "vale tudo") had been popular since Carlos Gracie first opened his academy in 1925, but in the world at large most martial arts competitions were restricted to a single style using the specialized rules of that style's practice. Rorion and Art Davie conceived of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. This was a series of pay-per-view television events in the United States that began in 1993. They pitted experts of different martial arts styles against each other in an environment with very few rules in an attempt to see what techniques "really worked" when put under pressure. Rorion also entered his brother Royce Gracie, an expert in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as one of the contestants.

Royce dominated the first years of the UFC against all comers, amassing eleven victories with no fighting losses. At one event he defeated four different fighters in one night. This, from a fighter who, at 170 lbs., was smaller than most of the other competitors in an event with no weight classes. In hindsight, much of Royce's success was due to the fact that he understood very well (and had trained to defend against) the techniques that his opponents would use, whereas they often had no idea what he was doing to them. In addition, the ground fighting strategy and techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu are among the most sophisticated in the world. Besides the immediate impact of an explosion of interest in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu across the world (particularly in the US and Japan), the lasting impact of Royce's early UFC dominance is that almost every successful MMA fighter now includes Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as a significant portion of their training.

Much of the information from the history of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was taken from http://www.rickson.com and http://www.bjj.org

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