Martial Arts training has been growing in popularity in New York City since the 1950’s. Access to Jiu Jitsu schools back then were limited. If I had to find one I most likely would have had to commute long distances – there just wouldn’t be any Jiu Jitsu gyms near me. Until after the first World War that the closest thing New York had to modern day Martial Arts was Boxing and Wrestling, which were primarily designed for spectator events.
Originally developed for Samurai warfare in Japan, it made its way to the west through tough man contests held at carnivals. Jiu Jitsu schools were established slightly different from your typical Wrestling or Boxing Gyms. Because of its military DNA, it had a systemized curriculum of learning which was different from more informal fight gyms.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, simplified as ‘BJJ’, is a generalized description and a derivative of the martial art, Japanese Jiu Jitsu. It has been modified and further developed by Carlos and Helio Gracie over 90 years ago, calling it Gracie Jiu Jitsu®. Although there were other Brazilians that modified this art as well, it was the Gracie Family who structured and enhanced the techniques effectively over time. They propelled their brand of Jiu Jitsu through challenge matches - they were known to post an open challenge to anyone who can defeat them and offering a cash prize to the winner. This was known as the ‘Gracie Challenge’.
How did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu begin in New York City?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship. Rorion Gracie (the son of Helio Gracie) and his business partners created the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and it aired live on November 12, 1993. It was a ‘no rules’ tournament format, where martial artists of different styles fight one another, in a caged octagon. The winner was decided when an opponent was knocked out or ‘tapped’ to signify a submission - there would be only one winner. Royce Gracie (the younger brother of Rorion) was the smallest contestant in the tournament and won all his fights by submitting all his opponents to become the first UFC champion. This was the catalyst that made Gracie Jiu Jitsu very popular.
By 1995 there were 2 academies in New York City that offered instruction in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most early adopters were experienced martial artists that witnessed and appreciated the effectiveness of ground fighting and submissions. This style of martial art was not flashy, as seen in the action movies. However, experienced martial artists understood the reality of having to fight on the ground and became its early adopters.
After the UFC 1 Academies were not easily accessible. They were off the beaten path. One was opened on top of a rehab clinic near Time Square while another on a side street in the East Village. But the serious martial artists found their way to these less traditional martial arts schools.
The Rise of Sport Jiu Jitsu in New York City
In 1997 professional No-Rules Fighting (now known as Mixed Martial Arts) was banned from New York State and by the early to mid-2000s no-rules fighting were limited to a niche group of people fighting in unsanctioned events or amateur events run by the Kickboxing Organizations. The lack of competitive outlet in reality-based fighting gave rise to Sport Jiu Jitsu and Grappling competition. With martial arts gyms incorporating grappling arts into their programs, these tournaments became the avenue to prove these new skills. With wrestlers, grapplers and Jiu Jitsu practitioners competing against one another sport based competition was a way to bridge the disciplines. Incorporating point systems, weight divisions and timed rounds like that of a wrestling match.
Jiu Jitsu in NYC Today
As with many major cities, New York City is well represented in world class Jiu Jitsu practice and events. Tournaments and competitive events in the tri-state area abound and the original self-defense system became distilled into grappling competitions. While the technique and leverage of Gracie Jiu Jitsu are still there, the self-defense component has lost its central role. Success in skill development became measured by competition wins; rather than self-defense proficiency, thus, Beginners prematurely begin to roll (wrestle/spar) and injury became accepted and common place. In fact, most never really get to experience the full benefit of the art, because the barrier of entry is too high. In some instances, it becomes contradictory to its original purpose, which was to develop the weak to become strong. With the introduction of weight division and time limits in tournaments, the self-defense art is lost to sport and leverage and efficiency is traded for athleticism and strength. BJJ in its sport form, is then limited to the athletically gifted.
In New York City, BJJ is Sport Jiu Jitsu
By the end of 2010, the sport Jiu Jitsu scene in the Northeast became the dominant form of practice in New York City. Grappling organizations began to establish tournaments, moving from the West Coast of the U.S. to the East Coast. World Champion Competitors established themselves in New York City, and BJJ culture immediately became synonymous with a grappling-only sport. Today, a majority of the training in New York City is deeply influenced by tournament rules which guide the training and curriculum.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu. A System of Self-Defense
Gracie Jiu Jitsu maintained its guiding principle of self-defense as the primary objective during training. The key difference between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Gracie Jiu Jitsu, is the context which dictates the direction of training and techniques practiced. The focus on practical self-defense application which, relies on the survival mindset and energy efficiency create a completely different training culture than what we’ve seen in the BJJ Gyms in New York City today.
Jiu Jitsu for Beginners
It is not uncommon for most beginners to find themselves walking into a competition-centric training program. The challenge for those that want to learn self-defense is that the context of the training can be confusing in this environment . Questions like, why am I sparring/rolling? Why is my objective to submit the opponent at this stage in my training? Why am I applying these techniques? Why do I need to pass the guard, and what is guard anyway?
The non-sport approach of Gracie Jiu Jitsu deals with a relatable context all centered around self-defense scenarios. What happens if someone puts me in a headlock? What if someone tries to punch me in the face? Or What if I am pinned to the floor? What if I’m attacked by a larger, heavier, and stronger person - how do I protect myself from injury and escape the threat?
While the popularity of this martial art has exploded over the past few years, it has split into two distinct styles. One that focuses on competitive submission grappling and the other on self-defense.
Ronin Athletics - Gracie certified Training Center, New York City.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu maintained a strong root in the West Coast. With Gracie University leading the way in the Self-defense system of the original style. Ronin Athletics, is the only Academy in New York City certified by Gracie University to teach its proprietary curriculums.
The Jiu-Jitsu program at Ronin Athletics is fantastic. The curriculum is intelligently structured, and the coaches are friendly, knowledgeable and supportive. I love the atmosphere, and training there has been a great experience. Highly recommended!
My friend suggested to try Jiu Jitsu when I was looking for a different workout. He referred Ronin Athletics. After receiving the first trial, I fell in love with JJ. Ronin Athletics is brilliant in allowing me to feel confident with my moves. They make it so easy for me to follow. Everyone is so friendly and always helpful. The classes are easy to follow and the logic behind the moves is so practical.
Fantastic school! They teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a well organized and safe way.
It’s been an awesome experience learning Jiu Jitsu here at Ronin Athletics! It's a very welcoming and positive atmosphere and the instructors are top notch! They are insightful, have great attention to detail, give everyone great feedback, are very patient with the students & leave no stone unturned when discussing the techniques and all the intricacies within them. There are a lot of great people from all different walks of life learning Jiu Jitsu here, and with all the Jiu Jitsu options out here in the New York City area, I've got to give myself a huge pat on the back for joining Ronin Athletics! Definitely made the right choice!
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Am I too old to learn Jiu Jitsu?
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, if introduced properly and safely to the novice student, is a martial art that can be practiced by people of all ages, young and old. Unlike the striking arts (like boxing and Muay Thai) BJJ does not include any ballistic striking or encourage the exchanging of blows and vastly limits head trauma and overall contusions. The majority of injuries for the beginner BJJ student can be vastly curtailed if the practice of takedowns is closely monitored and if “rolling” (sparring) is limited and delayed until the student is comfortable both in the full strategy and body movements and pressure required to play this aspect of the game.
What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling martial art with roots in traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, modified initially from the Gracie family in Brazil, They introduced their family brand of the art, which they coined and trademarked, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, to the United States in the mid 1990’s, through the early UFC’s and style versus style challenge matches. In more modern times the competitive sport aspect of BJJ has exploded in popularity and the sport itself has continued to evolve due to its exposure to American wrestling competitive culture as well as the eclectic nature of exposure and blending with other grappling arts (such as Sambo and Judo) BJJ is now a major portion of the MMA fighting formula, as well as an integral part of Army and Law Enforcement combatives, along with its current modern face as a grappling centric tournament sport
What is Gracie Jiu Jitsu?
Gracie Jiu-jitsu is the Gracie family brand of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu/Judo which they modified through years of trial and error, originally passed down to them by Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese Judo expert and avid prize-fighter (who had fought all over the world) The underlying principles of GJJ focus on effective self defense against a larger and heavier opponent. The martial art came to worldwide prominence when Royce Gracie won the first few UFC’s using the family’s art in limited-rules, no time limit, no weight class, tournament setting (which at that time was unprecedented)
What is the difference between Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
The main difference between classical or Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the strategic imperative to take the fight to the ground, pin and exhaust the opponent, until they are able to employ a submission to make their opponent surrender. Classical Jiu-jitsu while employing similar grappling techniques typically don’t emphasize the sharpening of these skills against a resisting opponent in live grappling training sessions (what would be referred to in Judo as “Ne Waza”)
What is the difference between Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Gracie Jiu-jitsu is the Gracie family brand of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu/Judo which they modified through years of trial and error, originally passed down to them by Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese Judo expert and avid prize-fighter (who had fought all over the world) The underlying principles of GJJ focus on effective self defense against a larger and heavier opponent. It is often said that “All Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has roots in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but not all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. This distinction calls to attention that while the modern sport of tournament BJJ has evoked growth and evolution in the movement and strategies of grappling, it has strayed from its self-defense roots where these strategies would be applicable in anything other than a sport specific competitive setting.
Which is better BJJ or MMA?
This will depend on your goals and personal preference - MMA will offer access to striking/takedown emphasis and more a ballistic modality of training that comes with that, which also brings with it the risk of injury associated with those training elements. BJJ will focus mostly on grappling, while not uncommon to learn takedowns, the vast majority of BJJ training typically takes place in the ground, mitigating the chance of injury (if premature introduction into sparring. Is also avoided) and will yield the benefits of a deeper understanding that comes only focusing on one (major) aspect of fighting as opposed to spreading yourself to through three disciplines or more.
What is BJJ?
BJJ is an acronym for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an offshoot of Japanese Judo. BJJ focuses on classical Judo's ground-based submisison and position techniques. It was widely practiced in Brazil by many pioneer Brazilian Masters but was brought into the mainstream and popularized by the famous Gracie family. The Gracie Family developed their own system of practicing the martial art - called Gracie Jiu Jitsu.