What Is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu? GJJ vs BJJ

If you’ve been learning about martial arts and grappling sports like Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) no doubt you’ve come across Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Exactly what Gracie jiu-jitsu is, and how it compares to BJJ isn’t immediately obvious. So, today I will cover exactly what Gracie Jiu-jitsu is and how it differs from BJJ.

Overall, Gracie Jiu-jitsu is a trademark of a company founded by Rorion, Rener, and Ryron Gracie. It refers to the specific style of jiu-jitsu taught by them at their Gracie Certified training centers. But, it can also mean any jiu-jitsu taught by a person with the last name Gracie. 

However, it’s not typically called as such and is instead just called Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ). It’s a little complicated why Gracie jiu-jitsu is called why it is, and how it differs from BJJ. So, below, I will the similarities and differences between them, and what exactly is meant by each term.

Is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Different from BJJ

Gracie jiu-jitsu is from Brazil, and so is BJJ. There are a range of different grappling martial arts that a similar to BJJ. So, are Gracie Jiu-jitsu and BJJ in fact different?

As a general rule, Gracie Jiu-jitsu is different from Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ). But, only in the naming convention. Gracie Jiu-jitsu is a registered trademark of Rorion Gracie. However, the techniques are Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques. In practice, most of the techniques are identical to BJJ.

As you may know, BJJ originated from Mitsuyo Maeda who traveled to Brazil. Originally jiu-jitsu was the fighting art of the Japanese military all the way back to samurai times. And was the unarmed combat used for war trained by the samurai. The samurai were the military arm of the ruling families in Japan at the time.

It is a long rather complex history. But, in short, eventually, the ruling families and samurai lost their position as the ruling class and jiu-jitsu fell out of favor. It was later revived by Jigoro Kano, who changed it into a peaceful art for self-development. 

He renamed it from jiu-jitsu, or the alternative spelling ju-jitsu, to ju-do (jiu-do). Which is the martial art you’ve likely heard of called judo, which is an Olympic sport.

How Gracie jiu-jitsu and BJJ started

Mitsuyo Maeda was a student of Jigoro Kano – the founder of judo. When he traveled to Brazil he taught this art to a member of the Gracie family. In about the 1920s. The nephews and sons of the first Gracie family members to learn and practice jiu-jitsu traveled to the USA to spread the art.

The Gracie family is a large family from Brazil. Many of the Gracie family members and cousins such as the Machado’s immigrated to the USA, where they began teaching BJJ. Rorion Gracie the eldest son of Helio Gracie, founded the UFC which he later sold. And due to how effective the art was it soon became incredibly popular. 

As the UFC has become more and more popular it also caused BJJ to become very popular. To where nowadays it’s very easy to find a BJJ school. Rorion Gracie is the older son of Helio Gracie, the brother of Carlos Gracie. Carlos Gracie is the original Gracie family member that Misuyo Maeda taught jiu-jitsu to. 

Rorion Gracie and his sons Rener and Ryron Gracie have a very popular jiu-jitsu training system. They have online courses on their website the Gracie University. As well as, many Gracie-certified training centers around the world.

It appears that Rorion trademarked the name Gracie Jiu-jitsu to differentiate it. And to keep the training methods and the focus on self-defense pure. 

Each person who trains BJJ has a slightly different style. This is due to different body types favoring different positions. As well as, different preferences for different techniques.

Because of that, no two BJJ black belts are the same. For example, if you learn BJJ from one member of the Gracie family it will be slightly different from BJJ taught by another family member. But, most of the core techniques are identical. Such as the core self-defense curriculum. 

Any BJJ instructor will have been taught by a Gracie family member

All BJJ stems from the same source, Mitsuyo Maeda who brought the art to Brasil. Any black belt instructor that teaches BJJ will have been taught by a member of the Gracie family, or a student of a Gracie family member. There are also cousins of the Gracie family such as the well-known Machado family. Although they don’t have the Gracie name, they are in practice ‘Gracies’.

For example, Connor McGregor the well-known MMA competitor learned his BJJ from John Kavanagh who is a black belt under Matt Thornton, who got his black belt from Chris Hautter, who received his black belt from Rigan Machado.

When I was training BJJ, my instructor was a black belt who got his black belt from a black belt that trained under a Gracie family member. 

Another famous BJJ instructor John Danaher got his black belt from Renzo Gracie who has an academy in New York. John Danaher’s students are some of the most successful BJJ competitors such as Gordon Ryan.

Here’s a video of Gordon Ryan:

John Danaher’s students are particularly skilled in submissions involving the legs, such as heel hooks, kneebars, and leg locks. Whereas, other BJJ practitioners prefer the closed guard position or the mount position.

There is also traditional jiu-jitsu but it is far less common

It’s also possible to find jiu-jitsu schools that aren’t Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). They also have their roots in Japan. However, these schools are very rare. The style of jiu-jitsu can also differ a lot from BJJ.

If you do a search for a local jiu-jitsu school in your area, it’s virtually guaranteed the school that will come up is a BJJ school. But, many MMA gyms also have a BJJ class that you can go to separately. They also typically have membership that includes unlimited classes for all the different martial arts for MMA such as wrestling, boxing, and kickboxing.

What Does Gracie Mean in BJJ

Gracie is not a common word in English, so it can be a bit confusing exactly what it means when it’s used to refer to BJJ. Here’s a summary of what the term Gracie means in BJJ.

Gracie is the surname of the original founders of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). The Gracie family is a large family from Brazil. The martial art jiu-jitsu comes from Japan. A Japanese national Mitsuyo Maeda traveled to Brazil where he taught his art to Carlos Gracie, in about the 1920s.

Carlos Gracie was very passionate about jiu-jitsu as well as his brother Helio Gracie. They trained a lot of jiu-jitsu and their sons, nieces, and nephews trained a lot of jiu-jitsu from an early age. They also become professional fighters. 

Later in about the 1990s, many Gracie family members traveled to the USA. They began teaching the art, and it became very popular.

It wasn’t until when the UFC first began, and started to become very popular that BJJ started to become a common martial art. It’s now a core martial art in any MMA gym. BJJ is quite similar to judo, and sambo. 

They all have the same root martial art which is jiu-jitsu. All BJJ is in practice Gracie jiu-jitsu because it comes from Carlos Gracie and other members of the Gracie family.

Is Gracie BJJ Good

There are a range of different styles of BJJ, as well as, other martial arts. Some are quite similar to BJJ, and Gracie BJJ, whereas, others are very different. So, how does Gracie BJJ compare, and is it good?

In general, Gracie Brazilian jiu-jitsu is good. Technically, all BJJ is Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Due to the fact, that all BJJ comes from Mitsuyo Maeda who taught Carlos Gracie the art of jiu-jitsu in Brazil, in about the 1920s. Compared to other martial arts it is one of the best for winning a fight.

As you may be aware, there is mixed martial arts (MMA). Any martial art can be used in MMA, provided it adheres to the rules. However, in MMA typically the best martial arts are:

  • Boxing
  • BJJ
  • Wrestling
  • Kickboxing

Judo is also very effective. However, it is very similar to BJJ. Therefore, it’s somewhat splitting hairs to train it separately. This can be seen by the huge success of an Olympic judoka – a person who does judo – Rhonda Rousey. 

Judo is a bit different from BJJ because the main emphasis is on throws and takedowns from the standing position.

It is now a self-evident fact that BJJ is very effective. The reason is in MMA competition the objective is to win. Because if you win you win twice you as much prize money. Therefore, MMA fighters are always looking for ways to gain an edge over their competition. 

If BJJ was not good, then MMA competitors would not train it. However, all MMA fighters need at least some BJJ to have a chance in MMA.

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