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 commentaires

  • Mark Tennenhouse

    Why not call it Judo groundfighting? We now know that in terms of actual technique and factual history(not Gracie marketing), that it was Judo that the Gracies and others copied, not Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu died out and was replaced with Judo in Japan and elsewhere. Gracie’s supposed teachers were NOT Jiu Jitsu guys, they were Judo black belts.

  • Rocky Fails

    I agree with this idea, but I don’t know if the two current sides, GJJ and BJJ will be able to come to a mutual agreement on it. Either way, I normally just say jiu-jitsu.

  • Joey

    I’m a Judo black belt, and can qualify what you say Jake when you say most clubs focus on teaching-waza (standing). I started jiu jitsu as a judo brown belt and was smoked every week for two months by 2 stripe white belts once we got on the ground.
    I also rarely use the “B”. To me it’s just jiu jitsu, because that’s the only jiu jitsu I know and see being used effectively in the world. I have had DZR guys explain that there’s should be called jiu jitsu, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu be called BJJ because DZR is the most effective. Staying away from that argument for now, I think that it’s important to recognize the contribution the development in Brazil has made, because “BJJ” is definitely different. But is is so ubiquitous in the world now that we can drop the “B”.

  • Matthew

    I totally agree, it’s all jiu-jitsu in some way! My wife still calls it North American pajama wrestling to mess with me!
    In the Gi we trust!

  • Dave

    There are still a lot of “Japanese” jujutsu-based schools in the US.
    Not calling it GJJ or BJJ or something else could lead some aikido people to think they and I are training the same way.
    If you wanted to let them think that before taking them to the ground then that is your call.

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