250+ Adults and Kids

The History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Mitsuyo Maeda cuba BJJ brazilian jiu jitsu belfast around the turn of the century. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is widely acknowledged as the most effective martial art in the world.  The Gracie family, from Rio De Janerio, Brazil, are considered the founding fathers of BJJ, having learnt a hybrid form of judo and traditional Ju Jitsu from a travelling Japanese prizefighter, Mitsuyo Maeda, in the early 1900s. The creator of Judo, Jigoro Kano had tasked Maeda with spreading his new sport around the world, and when Maeda left Brazil, the Gracies started their own academy, teaching their modified ‘Gracie’ (Brazilian) Jiu Jitsu.

Gracie BJJ Belfast Maeda Descendants
Top Right, Mauricio Gomes, Father of Roger Gracie and the man responsible for bringing BJJ to the UK. Bottom left 2nd in, Carlos Gracie Jr Founder of Gracie Barra (1986)

For the next 80 years the Gracie family modified and refined their art, holding public challenge matches to prove the effectiveness of their blend of jiu jitsu.   Despite these very public, and often controversial, matches, the art remained largely unknown outside of Brazil.  This changed in the 1990s.  In 1993 the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was established.  This competition pitted various styles of martial arts against each other.  Royce Gracie, son of one of the founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, dominated the event, beating each of his much-larger and stronger opponents with ease.  Royce’s performance in the UFC changed the martial arts world forever: his performance demonstrated that with the correct application of technique and leverage the weaker and smaller man could defeat any adversary.  Since 1993 there has been an explosion in the growth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with clubs in Los Angeles to Australia, China to Russia.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Belfast

Closer to home, in the late 1990s Mauricio Gomes, a representative of Gracie Barra and an extended member of the Gracie family, arrived in the British Isles and set up BJJ clubs in London, Birmingham, and Belfast.  Gracie Barra Northern Ireland was constituted, and since then the club has grown from strength to strength.  Maintaining close ties with its sister clubs across Britain and Ireland, the club has hosted some of the most highly regarded practitioners in history of the art, including Mauricio’s son Roger Gracie (the most successful BJJ competitor of all time), as well as four-time world champion Braulio Estima (IBJJF Hall of Famer and ADCC champion) and his brother Victor Estima (NoGi world champion).

In 2011, and with Maurico’s blessing, Braulio Estima awarded Graham Keys his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He was the first person in Northern Ireland, and the third in Ireland, to attain this rank.

 Under Graham’s tutelage, Gracie Barra Belfast has become Northern Ireland’s most successful Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies, having produced Irish, British, European and World champions.    Recently, and in recognition of the Graham’s expertise, Ulster Rugby approached the club to help with their training and preparation for their up-coming 2014 season.

Today, Gracie Barra Northern Ireland is the only official Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club in Northern Ireland, and the largest and most successful BJJ club in Belfast. Everyone is welcome to come and train, at our classes held in a number of locations across Belfast.  The club can trace its lineage directly back to the founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Carlos Gracie Jr > Braulio Estima > Graham Keys. 

So you’re interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but you aren’t quite sure where to start or what it’s all about? What not take a look at the FAQ and see if this answers your question. If not, then feel free to ask a question on our Facebook page – you are sure to get some useful (and some not so serious) answers!! Alternatively, email us.