What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and why is it so popular today?

Just like any subculture, some sports remain in relative obscurity for years before breaking into the mainstream. That is also the case with Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The Voice of London went to talk to Geoffrey Sautner, an instructor in several Brazilian jiu-jitsu academies across London. In our interview, he reveals how and where jiu-jitsu formed and why it has managed to become so popular today.

Jiu-jitsu is a grappling-based martial art that has deep roots in Japan but was later modified in Brazil. This niche martial art came to prominence during the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event back in 1993.

One of the creators of the event was Brazilian martial artist Rorion Gracie. The event was not the first of its kind, but at the time it was a precedent for American audiences. In quite a stark contrast from what the UFC is today, in 1993 the tournament had only a handful of rules and no weight classes. This was exactly the reason why the winner of the UFC came to a surprise to everyone. Royce Gracie was the first UFC champion, having defeated four opponents, each 20 or more kilograms heavier. To many sports historians and fans, this was a landmark event which highlighted the perseverance of martial art technique over heavier and stronger opponents.

After the first UFC tournament Royce became a martial arts icon, which introduced Brazilian jiu-jitsu to a much wider audience. The martial art’s fanbase has been growing steadily since the late 1990s. From this a lot of new jiu-jitsu gyms have opened to meet the high demand.

It was just a few months ago when Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted one of the best MMA strikers in the world, Conor McGregor. This was the most watched UFC event ever with over 2.4 million pay-per-view buys. Most importantly, that fight highlighted the effectiveness of high-level grappling. All 2.4 million eyes saw that and for many this was a new perspective on mixed martial arts.

Words: Kristiyan Stefanov | Subbing: George Robson

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