The Soft Art.

This is the history of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

According to some historians, the Jiu-jitsu or ‘soft art’, originated in India and was practised by Buddhist monks. Concerned with selfdefense, the monks developed a technique based on the principles of balance, body system articulation and levers, avoiding the use of strength and weapons. As buddhism expended, jiu-jitsu travelled through Southeast Asia, China and finally Japan, where it developed and became popular.

From late 19th century, some jiu-jitsu masters migrated from Japan to other continents, living out of the martial art and competition fights.

Esai Maeda Koma, also known as Conde Koma, was one of them. After traveling with his troupe, fighting in many countries in Europe and American continent, he arrived to Brazil in 1915 where he settled home in Belém do Pará in the following year, where he met Gastão Gracie. Father to eight children, five boys and three girls. Gastão became a jiu-jitsu enthusiast and took his oldest, Carlos, to learn it with Conde Koma.

Small by nature, in the age of 15, Carlos Gracie found in the jiu-jitsu a way of personal realisation. At 19, he moved to Rio de Janeiro with his family and adopted the career of fighter and martial art instructor. Travelled to Belo Horizonte and then São Paulo, teaching and winning competitions against physically stronger opponents. In 1925, he returned to Rio and opened the first Jiu-jitsu Gracie academy. He also invited his brothers, Oswaldo and Gastão, to advise him and took on the responsibility to raise the younger brothers George, 14, and Hélio, 12.

Since then, Carlos started to pass his knowledge to his brothers, improving and fitting the technique to the small physical complexion characteristic to his family.

He also passed on his life’s philosophy and natural eating concepts, becoming then a pioneer with the creation of a special diet for athletes, the Gracie Diet, turning Jiu-jitsu in a synonym of health.

In possession of an efficient personal defence technic, Carlos Gracie saw in jiu-jitsu a way to become a more tolerant man, respectful and self confident. Imbued to prove jiu-jitsu’s superiority and form a family tradition, Carlos Gracie launched challenges to the biggest fighters in his time and manage his brothers’ careers.

Facing opponents 20 to 30 kg heavier, the Gracie family would soon acquire national fame and notoriety. Attracted by the new market which opened around jiu-jitsu, many Japanese came to Rio, however, none of them founded such solid school as the Gracie academy, as the jiu-jitsu they practiced privileged the take downs while the Gracie’s improved ground fight and finishing strokes.

By modifying the internacional rules of the Japanese jiu-jitsu in fights he and his brothers performed, Carlos Gracie started the first case of a nationality change in a fight, or sport, world sporting history. Years later, the Japanese martial art started to be called Brazilian jiu-jitsu, being exported all over the world, including Japan.