Dropping the B from BJJ - by Budo Jake

Dropping the B from BJJ - by Budo Jake

Royce Gracie UFC

In the US, since the 90’s the art that I practice and teach has been called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sometimes Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Take off the gi and it might be called grappling, submission grappling, or nogi grappling.

Some will argue that Judo guys have been doing pretty much the same thing we BJJ guys have been doing, but for a lot longer. While I agree in part, most Judo clubs focus much more on stand up, and much less on the ground.

Kosen Judo 

(Photo: Old School Judo in Japan)

Back when the Rorion and other Gracies brought the art to the US, there were already small groups of Japanese Jujutsu practitioners here. For the most part, these groups were fairly small and didn’t offer much in terms of full resistance sparring. Often times, they were teaching kata (prescribed forms), similar to what modern day BJJ schools might do in their self-defense programs.

George Kirby Jujutsu

(Photo: George Kirby - an early Japanese Jujutsu teacher in the US, link to DVD)

Because these Japanese jujutsu groups were already in the US, we needed a name to differentiate the Brazilian counterparts, hence the name BJJ or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. After seeing Royce in UFC 1 (live on PPV in my case), it was clear that BJJ was very different than Japanese Jujutsu.

During my first trip to Brazil I was surprised to learn that they don’t call it BJJ in their own country, it’s simply Jiu-Jitsu. Looking back, it makes sense. In Brazil they were continuing what they were taught (by Mitsuyo Maeda and other Japanese teachers). Back in those early days it seems there was much more focus on ground work, even in Japan.

 Jake & Terere

(Photo: Interviewing the legend Terere in Brazil. Link to episode.)

So that brings me to my question. BJJ has been spread far and wide in the US. Japanese Jujutsu has not fared as well. For many people,  laypeople and hardcore practitioners, Jiu-Jitsu = BJJ. When someone says “the current UFC champ has great Jiu-Jitsu no one is confusing that for the Japanese style. In my conversations I rarely use the B. I think it’s time we drop it. What do you think? Please drop a comment below and let me know!


26 comments

  • Laura H

    I can certainly see your point regarding how the “b” has lost its relevancy per se In the US. I also think, however, that the initialism of BJJ somewhat stands in its own right, similar to how we use other initslisms like NASA.

  • JC

    Yeah also drop the ‘French’ from fries because there are fries everywhere. Who cares? BJJ comes from Brazil, 99% of the world champions have been Brazilian, 99% of the best teachers are Brazilian, so stop being so but hurt because the best sport in the world is not American. It is Brazilian (im not even Brazilian, just to clarify), and it will always be Brazilian, just like Sumo is Japanese or Baseball is American. In Europe we can soccer football, and your football we call it American football. But even if one day it became more popular than European football, we wouldn’t try to delete the American from it because we don’t care!! We don’t try to make things ours if they are not. Its origin is American, right? So American it is, just like Jiu jitsu is Brazilian and will always be.

  • Raymond A Marmol

    Yeap! I noticed that a long time ago. I am 51 years old. And I praciced a form Jiu-jitsu over here at the East Coast. It’s a Hybrid Art that emcompasses mostly jiujitsu. But, the japanese version/modified by the late Florendo Visitacion A.k.a. Professor Vee. And I learned of the Gracies in the early 90’s. Before the UFC. And they called it Gracie Jiu-jitsu. But, now years later. If I mention any of the old Japanese based jiu-jitsu systems, not many people or should I say hardly anybody knows what I am talking about, But, you mention to them BJJ. And most people’s light bulbs light up. Yeap!! Today when you mention Jiu-jitsu what comes to mind is BJJ/Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

  • Kenneth Sohl

    Then, as you say, there are BJJ schools that teach more like the Japanese schools while surely there must be Japanese schools that still teach the old way. Most people I meet simply call it all Jujutsu, so, I think you may already have what you propose.

  • Pasquale Albino

    Yes Jujutsu is Jujutsu weather from Japan or Brazil. But different styles like Hakkoryu, witch I teach has kata.like judo.

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