What is the Difference between American Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

What is the Difference between American Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu originated from Judo which had its traces in Japan. Judo arose in Japan but the foundations of BJJ are no doubt laid in Brazil. A Brazilian family, known as the Gracie family was the first-ever pioneer of BJJ. Then Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu passed through various processes of evolution.

“The rising number of American champions in BJJ indicates that Americans will soon dominate Brazilian athletes in BJJ in the coming years.”

The BJJ which we have now is a modified initial form of jiu-jitsu. With time, BJJ spread its roots to various countries of the world, including the US. Currently, BJJ is one of the most practiced grappling sports after wrestling in the US. Various Americans earn a big name in BJJ and are running their own BJJ schools.

They evolved BJJ according to their rules and regulations and now another term American Jiu-Jitsu originated. Here we have a complete discussion of how BJJ is linked with AJJ and what is the difference between both grappling sports.

1. What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the famous grappling martial arts which has its foundations in Japanese combat sports. It originated as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900s. In Brazil, BJJ is termed only as Jiu-Jitsu. When Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu made its way to America and Europe, Jiu-Jitsu transitioned into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to make itself distinctive from other traditional Jiu-Jitsu forms and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

BJJ is clearly a different martial art from that of Traditional Jiu-Jitsu. Judo originated from Wrestling, but Judo and Wrestling are very different in their rules. Despite originating from wrestling, the difference between Judo and Wrestling can be seen clearly, even by a person who has minimum exposure to martial arts.

2. History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

To understand the importance of the relevant context, it is necessary to know and understand its history.

2.1. Origin of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

The origins of Jiu-Jitsu were ancient and according to one legend story had its foundations at the age of Indian Buddhist monks around 356 BC. Buddhist Monks of India had to travel frequently in their country and have problems with bandits who frequently used to attack and harm them.

Buddhists wanted to originate a defense system that enabled the weaknesses of the body and made techniques to subdue their opponents. They did not want to kill their opponents.

This is true that Jiu-Jitsu had a link with Indian monks but Jiu-Jitsu we see today had its origin in Japan. Samurai warriors always came to the battlefield with armor and sat on horseback.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu was created when Samurai Warriors were trained to fight on the ground. The fighting armor of samurai warriors did not allow them to move freely. Therefore, the Japanese induced a fighting style that involves joint locks, chokes, and strangles.

2.2. Origin of Judo

In the mid-1800s, various fighting styles came into being from Jiu-Jitsu. Every fighting style had its own ways like grappling, weapon-based fights, striking, etc. One of these styles is Ryu. Around the 1880s, Kano Jigoro, a young Jiu-Jitsuka, derived Ryu into Judo. At that time, Judo was the most wanted and practiced sport around the globe. 

2.3. From Judo To Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In 1914, a Japanese named Mitsuyo Maeda traveled to Brazil to set up a Japanese colony there. He was one of the top students of Jigoro Kano. In Brazil, Maeda met with Gastao Gracie who was a businessman and had a political persona in Brazil.

Maeda wanted some help from Gastao. And in return, Gastao wanted him to teach his son the techniques of Judo/Jiu-Jitsu. Maeda became the Judo teacher of Gastao’s Son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos learned Judo/Jiu-Jitsu from Master Maeda from 15 to 21 years of age.

After Maeda’s departure to Japan, Carlos was well-versed in Judo/Jiu-Jitsu with his brother Helio Gracie. Both brothers opened their own BJJ gym by the name “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy” in 1925. For years they fought without rules. But in 1970, Rolls Gracie made various rules and refined the fighting style. He introduced BJJ to the various competitions of the world. He wanted to prove the effectiveness of BJJ in front of other martial arts like wrestling, judo, etc.

2.4. The Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is modified from defensive art to a sport. Thousands of academies around the world are open to give training in BJJ. BJJ also has its governing organization, named as International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) which organizes various competitions all around the world. Various other fighting styles, organizations, and institutions like ADCC also originated from BJJ and still continue to do so like the American Jiu-Jitsu (AJJ).

In terms of techniques and moves, BJJ is evolving day by day. Furthermore, BJJ had also made its way to the USA. Various grapplers from the USA are considered top-class grapplers. The interventions in the BJJ started a new era in which BJJ is one of the most spreading combat sports like Submission only Jiu-Jitsu of Eddie Bravo’s Eddie Bravo Invitationals (EBI).

3. What is American Jiu-Jitsu?

American Jiu-Jitsu can probably be explained as the hybrid of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and American Wrestling style. Jake Shields, a world-class grappler is well known for initiating AJJ. American Jiu-Jitsu is mainly focused on top position with pressure techniques so that their opponent would be at a disadvantageous position.

It is also true that both BJJ and Wrestling do not have any original roots in the USA but Americans have adopted both combat sports very eagerly. A lot of Americans had their Jiu-Jitsu career started at the high school or college level.

They mixed both BJJ and Wrestling and termed it American Jiu-Jitsu. The American Jiu-Jitsu style is closer to the wrestling approach and this Jiu-Jitsu style is adopted by various American grapplers.

4. History and Origin of American Jiu-Jitsu

The history of American Jiu-Jitsu started in 1994 when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offered a Jiu-Jitsu class to their students. They used the term American Jiu-Jitsu for the first time to introduce a BJJ-like combat sport in their institute/culture. Their webpage executed the description of various techniques which are taught in that class. Those techniques included  joint locks, strikes, submission holds, throws, and weapon use.    

In 2000, the top-class Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and UFC Champion, Jake Shields, won various major BJJ tournaments like ADCC and Pan-American, etc. This was the time when he made his debut in MMA and became UFC's competitor. In MMA tournaments, Jake Shields executed his wrestling skills which involved high-pressure attacks from the top position.

After his successful implementation of American Jiu-Jitsu, Jake Shields got a tattoo on his forearm with an eagle sign. The fighting style showcased by Jake Shields was a mixture of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu along with American Wrestling

Another big name in BJJ, Keenan Cornelius also became part of the history of American Jiu-Jitsu. He opened his academy, named Legion AJJ gym which offers American Jiu-Jitsu sessions, and became the first-ever academy of AJJ.

5. Best American Grapplers  

In the initial decades of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's inception, Brazilians overcame the BJJ circuit with their cutting-edge techniques and fighting styles. With time, when BJJ spread all around the world, Americans became the nation that adopted this game more passionately.

Now Americans have a great number of top grapplers who are beating the Brazilian grapplers with their grappling skills. Top-class American grapplers include Gordon Ryan, Jake Shields, Keenan CorneliusMackenzie DernRobert DrysdaleBJ Penn, and Gianni Grippo among many others.

Eddie Bravo is considered a pioneer of a new form of Jiu-Jitsu in the US after the establishment of his notorious Twister and rubber guard system and his 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. His various students are making big waves in BJJ as No-Gi Champions.

Some of them are Geo and Richie Martinez, BJ Barch, Ben Eddy, and Nathan Orchid. His new style of Jiu-Jitsu is also attained by various grapplers including Jordan Holy, Adrian Madrid, Ethan Crelinsten, Damien Anderson, Kieran Kichuk, and Keith Krikorian.

6. Which Country Has the Best Grapplers?

When it comes to discussing which country is producing more BJJ champions and grapplers, we have to look at the list of champions of IBJJF. According to the IBJJF majority of the IBJJF tournament champions are currently Brazilians but in a few years we can expect the equation or Brazilian dominance to change.

No doubt the number of American grapplers is rising day by day.

“The rising number of American champions in BJJ indicates that Americans will soon dominate Brazilian athletes in BJJ in the coming years.” 

Americans took some years to overcome the Brazilian in No-Gi ground and the bottom line is They did it. Various American grapplers are the world's best No-Gi grapplers. Gordon Ryan is an example of an undisputed American BJJ No-Gi King.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was started in Brazil so it is not a wonder that Brazilians are taking the lead in medals. The important thing is that Americans come into competition and stretch to an extent in a short period of time.

7. American Jiu-Jitsu is Absorbing Jiu-Jitsu in its Culture

American Jiu-Jitsu has some differences as well as similarities with BJJ in its style, approach and execution. With time, American Jiu-Jitsu is now recognized as a distinctive fighting style. No doubt, MIT and Jake Shield used the term American Jiu-Jitsu for the first time.

But Keenan Cornelius is now working as the prominent personality who is taking bold steps to promote American Jiu-Jitsu. Cornelius's major attempt to promote American Jiu-Jitsu was the inauguration of his academy “Legion AJJ”. This is not the only academy offering AJJ training but this is also the biggest one.

Cornelius is well known for his lapels and worm guard systems so he is cruising great in Gi. But at the same time, he also has some specialties in No-Gi BJJ and is a stellar player in No-Gi. After all this discussion, it is necessary to point out that Keenan and Shield are honoring BJJ but at the same time, Keenan stripped the title of BJJ from the name of his academy.

It seems like American grapplers wanted to make their own fighting style named American Jiu-Jitsu. As Keenan Cornelius stated once;

“I’m going to try to find the scattered Americans around the world and pull them together to form the Avengers.”

8. Draculino and his Thoughts on BJJ/AJJ Controversy

Draculine is a Brazilian with US nationality. In 2000, in a debate about which Jiu-Jitsu style is superior, he stated that there is only one Jiu-Jitsu, not Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or American Jiu-Jitsu. By saying this, he gathered all the grapplers under the same umbrella.

He further added that, if someone has the right to use the term American Jiu-Jitsu, it is Eddie Bravo. Eddie Bravo had great services for Jiu-Jitsu. Eddie Bravo is the leading body of Jiu-Jitsu in the USA who created his own system which is accepted internationally.

9. Main Differences Between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and American Jiu-Jitsu

There is not a big difference between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and American Jiu-Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a traditional style of Jiu-Jitsu that was started by Carlos Gracie and his brother Helio Gracie. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was first originated by its founders as a self-defense system.

This defensive art was modified with time, converted into a sport and now we have the updated version of BJJ. BJJ athletes wear uniforms (BJJ Gi) and their grips help them to pass the guard, apply chokes and joint locks, and in various sweeps. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a swiftly growing sport in the world which has a long list of talented athletes.     

In contrast, American Jiu-Jitsu is a modified form of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which shares various techniques with BJJ. American Jiu-Jitsu is also inclined toward American Wrestling techniques as Americans are well-known in the world for their wrestling.

American Jiu-Jitsu practitioners very successfully introduced their wrestling style into Jiu-jItsu. Now their athletes are proving their American Jiu-Jitsu style in the World by dominating in various major championships like ADCC, UFC, and IBJJF, especially in No-Gi.

10. Conclusion

American Jiu-Jitsu has its origins in BJJ but now AJJ is making its own recognition. American Jiu-Jitsu is a blend of BJJ and American Wrestling. According to Jake Shields’s definition, AJJ is arising as a unique combat sport.

Overall, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and American Jiu-Jitsu both are considered grappling. No matter how much they are different from each other, their fundamentals lie in the same bud.

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