Introduction to BJJ and MMA
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) have exploded in popularity over the past few decades, becoming two of the most widely practised and followed combat sports worldwide. While they share some techniques and philosophies, BJJ and MMA are distinct disciplines that attract unique types of athletes and fans. In this article, we’ll explore the origins, current landscape, and promising future of these fascinating martial arts.
The Roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu traces its origins to jujutsu, a Japanese martial art emphasising grappling, joint locks, throws, and submission holds. Jujutsu dates back to medieval Japan, where samurai warriors developed unarmed fighting techniques if they lost their weapons in battle.
In the early 20th century, some jujutsu masters emigrated from Japan to Brazil. Among them was Mitsuyo Maeda, who taught the art to the Gracie family in Rio de Janeiro. The Gracies specialised in ground fighting and adapted jujutsu techniques into a new grappling-focused martial art, naming it Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The Rise of MMA
While BJJ was developing in Brazil, full-contact combat sports were also evolving in other parts of the world. In the 1960s and 70s, competitions like vale tudo in Brazil and Shootfighting in Japan pitted fighters of different styles against each other with few rules.
Seeing the potential for intense, dangerous bouts, promoters looked to build regulated leagues that melded techniques from various martial arts. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, founded in 1993, brought together elements of boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, jiu-jitsu, and more. As the sport evolved, those with BJJ backgrounds dominated thanks to their skills on the ground.
The Alliance of BJJ and MMA
It became clear that high-level MMA fighters needed skills in striking, takedowns, and ground fighting to be successful. This is where Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu proved invaluable as a base for MMA training.
BJJ provides excellent technical knowledge for grappling, controlling opponents, and submitting them through chokeholds or joint locks. When paired with striking skills like boxing and Muay Thai, fighters can defend against takedowns and dominate matches on the mat. Almost all current MMA champions and top contenders have black belts in BJJ.
Specialising for Success
Given the close relationship between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, many athletes now train and compete in both disciplines. BJJ provides them an outlet to hone their ground skills against elite submission grapplers in a pure grappling ruleset. The MMA cage allows them to incorporate these techniques into a dynamic, full-contact environment.
Some fighters opt to focus purely on sports BJJ instead of MMA. They can earn prestigious awards like the Mundials World Championships and ADCC submission wrestling titles. Specialising allows them to develop world-class attributes like reaction time, grip fighting, and specific submission attacks.
The Growth of BJJ Gyms
The popularity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has led to academies opening around the world. People are drawn to BJJ for self-defence, fitness, mental challenges, competition goals, and more. Gyms foster tight-knit communities while cultivating lethal submission artists.
Top competitors often open their schools when they retire from competition. They pass down techniques that have been pressure-tested at the highest levels. Some gyms are competition-focused, producing champions year after year. Others prefer a traditional approach, staying true to the Gracie family teachings. All provide high-level instruction in this addictive martial art.
MMA’s Mainstream Appeal
Television deals and creative marketing have helped drive MMA into the mainstream. UFC produces live events in sold-out arenas each month. International fight leagues like ONE Championship broadcast to millions worldwide.
Reality shows like The Ultimate Fighter introduce new fans to the drama, commitment, and technical skill required. Social media allows fighters to build personal brands and interact directly with supporters—and sports bars across America screen pay-per-view cards to packed crowds.
The Future of BJJ and MMA
The next generation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA fighters promise to take the sport to new heights. BJJ stars are incorporating more wrestling, judo, and striking into their games, leading to evolution within grappling competitions. MMA prospects are training in all disciplines in conjunction from a young age, becoming exceptionally well-rounded.
Both sports will continue benefiting from globalisation as youth participation grows across regions like Asia, Africa, and South America. This leads to stylistic fusion and technical innovations. While staying true to their origins in jujutsu martial arts, BJJ and MMA will keep progressing in exciting new directions. The masters of combat sports display both traditionalism and adaptation, setting up a bright future.