Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Complete Beginners Guide

An in depth guide on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2018 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Complete Beginners Guide

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is designed around helping a smaller and weaker person to defend themselves from a larger and stronger opponent. By using the right leverage and technique, BJJ takes the battle to the ground. Applying joint locks and choke holds is the name of the game which makes it popular for sport grappling and self-defense.

The father of BJJ is a Brazilian man called Maeda. He was a smaller person with a big dream for Brazilian martial arts. In 1882 Maeda decided to begin teaching other Brazilians the judo techniques he picked up while in Japan. He changed some aspects of the style to fit his sensibilities and increase safety before he began BJJ. He wasn’t the only Brazilian trying to create a national martial art but he was one of the most successful.

But it wasn’t long before someone noticed the new style and recognized its utility. BJJ combines sports, physical fitness, and some of the judo fighting style from Japan in a way that minimizes the benefits of size. Then it almost instantly became a hit with Brazilians looking to learn a sport and martial art. It was fun to watch others perform, easy to learn but also deadly in the streets.

One reason the style is so successful is the focus on live practice. Sparring and live drills take up a large portion of overall training time. Because there are no strikes involved, students can practice at full intensity and with multiple opponents with minimal protective gear. Live sparring is one of the best ways to prepare students for competition and actual self-defense.

Gracie is the biggest name in BJJ

By 1917, Maeda was performing in Brazil when Carlos Gracie watched one of these demonstrations. Carlos trained under Maeda for a few years before he trained his brother Hélio Gracie what he knew. Hélio continued developing Gracie jiu-jitsu as a softer version of the traditional judo.

At the same time, another Brazilian student of Maeda named Luiz França developed his own style of BJJ. This variant became famous for their footlocks and survives to this day. But França style isn’t as popular as Gracie’s version worldwide. A big part of the difference is the publicity that Gracie’s style got from UFC that França didn’t.

While França specializes in footlocks, Gracie BJJ focuses on redirecting an opponent’s strength. This makes Gracie style a great self-defense choice for small statured people and França for larger students. Gracie style set itself apart with spectacular wins in the early UFC tournaments and continues to dominate in the ring.


BJJ is a bit special

BJJ is a style specializing in grapples, joint locks, choke holds, and submission holds. These traits help neutralize the natural benefits of superior reach and powerful striking skills. This makes it ideal for MMA fighters looking to build up their ground game or counter more powerful strikers.

Gracie wanted his style to be a national martial art and influence Brazilian culture. So some of the more dangerous and brutal moves disappeared from the style completely. Spinal and cervical locks are so dangerous that sport BJJ strictly prohibits their use. Few teachers are willing to teach these forbidden techniques as well due to the risk involved to participants.

BJJ counts scoring and non-scoring takedowns in Japanese judo as legal. But it also incorporates takedowns from other styles like wrestling or sambo. It even allows direct takedowns by touching the legs, a feature that is uncommon to other styles. These features help BJJ to work well in the ring or on the streets.

A competitive style

Sport BJJ doesn’t have any strikes in the training manual. Instead, there is a focus on submissions. This allows students to practice full speed, full power sparring with minimal threat of injury. They even have different names for the different ways to spar.

Drills is practicing techniques against non-resisting partners. Isolation sparring or positional drilling is practicing a specific technique or set of techniques. Full sparring is where each partner tries to make the other submit using any legal technique.

The focus on sparring means that physical conditioning is an incredibly important part of training. High-level fighters commonly use intensely specialized training techniques to help them maximize their ability. Schools normally end up focusing on preparing fighters for competition or teaching self-defense.


Designed for Self Defense

All BJJ schools teach combat sport fighters the techniques they need to win. But some schools are better at making fighters than others. A few focus only on teaching everyday people to stay safe in dangerous situations. But the best schools offer a balanced approach between self-defense and professional effectiveness.

Gracie style BJJ is one of the schools that train world class fighters and everyday people. The Gracie family’s traditional school bases its techniques on field-tested self-defense. They maintain strict traditions around training that prepare people for street fights. But they do wear the traditional BJJ gis.

Reflex drills are full contact drills where one student is surrounded by other students and attacked. The student must defend themselves for a period of time or until they make their opponents submit. These drills aim to provide a realistic scenario where the student must react to an attack they aren’t expecting.



  1. – BJJ Heroes – What is Jiu Jitsu
  2. – Hywel Teague – The ‘Other’ Brazilian Martial Art: Capoeira & Jiu-Jitsu’s Love-Hate Story
  3. – Becca Borawski Jenkins – The beginners Guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  4. – Not Attributed – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Beginners A-Z