Dropping the B from BJJ - by Budo Jake
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.
(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.
(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.
(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!