Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an extremely popular martial art that has grown in popularity thanks to mixed martial arts. Before mixed martial arts, the sport rose to prominence in America, thanks to the world-renown Gracie family. However, most people know very little about where the effective martial art was before Brazil.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu actually has its roots in Judo. A senior and experienced Judo player named Mitsuyo Maeda, traveled the world, demonstrating Judo. Eventually, he came to Brazil. During an exhibition, Carlos Gracie was so impressed with the martial art, that he started learning it from Maeda and after developing, he taught his siblings.
Carlos Gracie began to challenge experienced Capoeira artists in Brazil and with his success, Jiu Jitsu became extremely effective. The brothers focused on bringing skilled opponents to the ground and their art grew away from its origins in Judo. In 1925, the Gracie's created their first dojo and competed in fights called Vale Tudo. Helio Gracie spoke on his contributions to BJJ saying "I did not develop a sport. I developed a style for self-defense. Our Jiu Jitsu, is like what the samurai's do, without the weapons. We perfect the techniques so much, that even the week people like me, and anyone else can benefit from it."
In the late 80s, the Gracies started organizing what is known now as "The Gracie Challenges." They demonstrated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu against traditional martial artists and helped developed the sport in the United States. During this time frame, the brothers referred to their style "Brazilian" Jiu Jitsu, in order to differentiate it from Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Judo.
The Gracie family was intimately involved with the development of the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, which took notes from the Brazilian Vale Tudo fights. Brazilian Jit Jitsu continues to grow in popularity and style.