In the end of the 19th century, some Jiu-Jitsu and Judo masters emigrated from Japan to other continents, teaching the martial arts as well as taking part in fights and competitions. Esai Maeda Koma, also known as “Conde Koma,” was one such master. Koma arrived in Brazil in 1915, and settled in Belem do Para the next year, where he met a man named Gastao Gracie.
The father of eight children, among them five boys and three girls,
Gastao became a Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast and brought his oldest son, Carlos,
to learn from the Japanese master. For a naturally frail fifteen-year
old Carlos Gracie, Jiu-Jitsu became a method not simply for fighting, but
for personal improvement. At nineteen, he moved to Rio de Janeiro with his
family and began teaching and fighting.
In 1925, he opened the first school, known as the “Academia Gracie de Jiu-Jitsu.” Since then, Carlos started to share his knowledge with his brothers, adapting and refining the techniques to the naturally weaker characteristics of his family. Having created an efficient self defense system, the Gracies saw in the art a way to become more tolerant, respectful, and self-confident. With a goal of proving Jiu-Jitsu’s superiority over other martial arts, they challenged the greatest fighters of his time. He also managed the fighting careers of his brothers. Because they were fighting and defeating opponents fifty or sixty pounds heavier, the Gracies quickly gained recognition and prestige.
These techniques were so distinctive that the sport became attached to a national
identity, and is now commonly known as “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” practiced by martial
artists all over the world, including Japan.