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Jiu-Jitsu, the oldest form of martial art, originated in India more than 2,000 years before Christ. Developed by Buddhist monks, it spread through China and eventually settled in Japan. Over the years, since the Meiji restoration in the last century, Jiu-Jitsu became practically extinct in Japan surviving only as a very restricted sportive form of Judo.

In 1914, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champions Esai Maeda and Inomata arrived in Brazil to help establish a Japanese immigration colony in that developing country. He was aided by Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish decent. To show his gratitude, the Jiu-Jitsu master taught the basic secrets of that ancient fighting style to Gastao's son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos taught Maeda's techniques to his brothers: Oswaldo, Gastao, Jorge and Helio and in 1925 they opened the "Gracie" Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Botafogo, a district of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Carlos and his brothers, particularly Helio, changed the original art, adding new techniques and discarding older, less efficient ones. At that point, Jiu-Jitsu became Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a more efficient and complete fighting system.

Jiu-jitsu, originally a sport for the elite, became increasingly popular and now has a large following. Rio is currently the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu capital of the world with the most number of schools and practitioners.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prefers bringing an opponent to the ground and then relying on grappling techniques to subdue the opponent utilizing holds, armlocks, chokes, leglocks, and strikes.This strategy takes away the advantage of an opponent with superior striking abilities. It can also mitigate the advantage of a stronger and much larger opponent relying on wrestling or grappling.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu favors pragmatic techniques that were tested in numerous challenge matches by the Gracie clan and their students. In Vale Tudo (which means "anything goes") tournaments in Brazil, Gracie family members and their students have fought in these no-holds barred fighting matches for over 65 years and have fared very well against a multitude of combative arts both western and asian. Many martial arts have lost their combative rationale. In Japan, for example, the arts of war (bujutsu) were corrupted into budo which means "martial way." With peace and the modernization of Japan, dangerous and pragmatic techniques gave way to martial arts that emphasized art over practicality as well as emphasizing self-improvement or socialization and eventually sportive competition. Those familiar with pre-war Kodokan Judo understand the rapid transition of Judo towards sport and less on purely combative effectiveness as Kodokan Judo itself veered away from the "old" schools of jiu-jitsu and their often "dangerous" techniques as deemed by Judo's own founder Jigoro Kano.

The sportive aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is embodied in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. Competitors wear judo "jackets" and pants just like their Judo counterparts except the rules favor strategies and techniques that are oriented towards combat effectiveness.The closest equivalent of Brazilian or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is Ko-sen Judo. The Ko-sen tradition refers to the network of the oldest high schools and universities in Japan which include Tokyo and Kyoto Universities. They hold their own competitions, and their tournaments favor "groundwork" or newaza (in Japanese) just like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.