In Jiu Jitsu, it may all seem the same, but there are subtle differences between each academy. The biggest one being Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some of you may say is there really a difference between the two?
If you ask a Gracie Jiu Jitsu practitioner if they do Jiu Jitsu, they will quickly correct you. They will say “No! I don’t do Jiu Jitsu. I do Gracie Jiu Jitsu.”
Let’s break down the history of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and compare it to the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We’ll compare the differences and similarities of the two and see how they match up!
The History of Gracie Jiu Jitsu
The common origin story that is told about Jiu Jitsu is actually the beginning of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Judo practitioner Mitsuyo Maeda moved to Brazil to spread the teachings of Judo. He befriended Brazilian politician Gastão Gracie that helped him with immigration and helped him set up Judo demonstrations in Brazil.
One of the first demonstrations was in the city of Belém, which was attended by Gastão’s son Carlos. After the demonstrations, Carlos became one of Maeda’s first students and taught him for a few years.
Carlos, then began showing his younger brother Hélio some of the techniques he learned. Unfortunately he was frail and couldn’t do many of the athletic moves, so they began altering the techniques.
The techniques they began developing were more ground based and relied more on leverage than force. This was the start of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu was a style exclusively taught by the Gracie family. When Hélio’s son Rorion arrived in California in the late 70’s. When Gracie Jiu Jitsu started catching on he trademarked the name Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
The History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu started around the same time and does include influence from the Gracie family. But they weren’t the only ones that were developing Jiu Jitsu in Brazil.
The Gracie brothers weren’t the only students of Maeda. A man named Luis França Filho also trained with Maeda during this time.
Filho is also credited for being one of the pioneers of Jiu Jitsu. He is also the only none Gracie to hold the title of grandmaster(10th degree), making him one of the select few Red Belt holders.
Along with training with Maeda, Filho also trained with another Judo pioneer in Brazil named Geo Imori. Also with Antonio Satake that also helped pioneer Judo in Brazil.
After training with these Judo practitioners, he would go on to teach his style of Jiu Jitsu. A big difference between Filho and the Gracie brothers were the type of students they taught.
The Gracie’s generally taught upper to middle class Brazilians and Filho was known for teaching poor students in the favelas.
One of Filho’s top students 9th Oswaldo Fadda, a Brazilian marine that was one of many military servicemen Filho taught.
Fadda would carry on Filho’s teachings and become the second most prominent Jiu Jitsu lineage behind the Gracie family. His lineage still carries on to this day with links to Jiu Jitsu teams Nova União and Grappling Fight Team.
One of the big differences between Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the curriculums. There is a vast difference in curriculums between the two and their primary focuses.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu’s Curriculum: In Gracie Jiu Jitsu, the primary focus is self defense. A lot of the techniques they teach are supposed to translate to real life situations.
The types of Jiu Jitsu they do are heavily reliant on fundamental Jiu Jitsu. They drill the basics repeatedly until they are near perfect. You probably won’t be seeing any berimbolo or worm guard taught in a Gracie Jiu Jitsu school.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy Curriculum: A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy like Alliance or Gracie Barra also teaches self defense techniques. But their main focus is on sport Jiu Jitsu.
What this means is that they primarily teach techniques that are more for BJJ competitions. Lots of techniques involving scoring points and using the gi. After learning basic moves, you’ll likely learn things like spider guard and lapel chokes at a BJJ academy.
Another big difference between the two is the belt testing process. Gracie Jiu Jitsu schools generally have a list of requirements for each belt.
When the instructor thinks you’re ready, you get put through a test. If you pass the test, you get promoted to the next belt.
Most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies don’t put you through an actual test. They promote students more based on progress 1 to 2 times a year pending on the academy.
After a period when a student puts enough time into training and shows that they’re progressing, they’ll be promoted. They may get put through some ritual like teammates hitting them with their belts, but no actual test.
With class format both are about the same. Usually all Jiu Jitsu schools have close to the same format for how they run their classes.
They usually break it up into three phases: warm up, drill technique or position, and finish with rolling. What technique they practice and how they do rolling rounds will depend on the academy.
Which Jiu Jitsu Style is Better?
Now comes the question, Traditional Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs Modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – which one’s better? This really isn’t a fair question and there really is no right answer. It’s all a matter of preference and what type of training you want to do.
If you want to train in self defense style techniques that are based in fundamentals, Gracie is the right choice.
But if you want to do more sports based and get more intricate with the advanced techniques - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the right choice for you!
At the end of the day it is all Jiu Jitsu. The only difference is what aspects of the martial art do you want to focus on.
Both styles no matter which you choose will be very beneficial to you. You will know how to defend yourself, be healthier, and have a group of great friends to train with. So, whether it is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Gracie Jiu Jitsu choose the style that fits you and go train