What is Jiu-Jitsu? – An Ultimate Guide

what is jiujitsu,Brazilian jiu-jitsu martial arts

Have you ever watched Bruce Lee’s classic films where he flaunts his impressive fighting skills or followed a winning streak of Khabib Nurmagomedov in UFC tournaments?

Both these fighters are masters of martial arts but their fighting styles are very different. There are more than 170 types of martial arts today, each with its own moves and rules.

Jiu-Jitsu, also known as BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), is one of the most popular martial arts styles. Let’s talk more about what is jiu-jitsu?

What is Jiu-Jitsu?

Boys Practicing Jiu Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu is a form of one-on-one ground combat sport, also known as BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu).

The word Jiu-Jitsu originates from the Japanese language, whereJu means ‘to be gentle’ andJustu means ‘technique, action or trick’, which taken together can be translated to mean “gentle action”. So if someone asks you — “what is jiu-jitsu?” should you respond by saying a “gentle action”?

Well, it is not exactly ‘gentle action’ but if you consider other martial art disciplines, jiu-jitsu it is a lot more gentle than the other fighting styles. BJJ focuses more on subduing and grappling rather than strikes and kicks.

This martial art emphasizes the skill of dominating the fight by pushing your opponent to the ground using a number of techniques like joint locks or choke holds, forcing the opponent into submission.

Jiu-Jitsu is also known as “human chess” because it requires presence of mind – the fighter has to observe human body movements and plan the next move to bring down their opponent.

It involves hundreds of techniques that can improve your reasoning skills as you are constantly thinking and planning your next move.

The biggest advantage of Jiu-Jitsu is that it can be done by anyone. Jiu-Jitsu is a unique form of martial arts that was designed for weaker people to protect themselves from stronger opponents.

Leveraging weight distribution along with incorporating a few tactical moves – like wrist lock, clock choke, and joint locking techniques – can help a weaker person dominate a stronger opponent. It is definitely beneficial in self-defense situations.

Terms Used in Jiu-Jitsu

Every sport has its own terms and vocabulary used for understanding the aspects of the game and jiu-jitsu is no exception. Let’s take a look at some important terms used in jiu-jitsu:


An armbar is an arm lock where the fighter dominates his opponent by having full control over his hands. The fighter also has to cross his legs over the opponent’s hand and grasp it tightly.


Base refers to the position where a fighter has a firm balance on the surface, making it difficult for his opponent to knock him off to the ground.


A part of the uniform, the belt denotes the ranking skill level of a fighter. Brazilian jiu-jitsu includes five belts: White, Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. The black belt is the highest level of jiu-jitsu while white is for beginners.


Breakfall is a technique where a fighter can minimize the impact of falling on the ground.


It is an action where a fighter is on the ground and counteracts the dominant opponent to dislodge him from a mounting position.

Butterfly Guard

Grabbing the opponent in a firm lock where he can not apply his planned moves is called a butterfly guard.


Clinch is a position where a fighter has dominant control of his opponent in a standing position.


It is a high-intensity workout routine, a combination of calisthenics, weightlifting and gymnastics. CrossFit is a program that helps in the improvement of strength and metabolic conditioning of fighters.


An abnormal position of a body that causes pain is called a crank.

Close Guard

Close guard is an effective way of dominating your opponent. In this move, the fighter locks his leg around the opponent and takes control by locking his head in one hand and grabbing his arm in the other.

Full Guard

A defensive position where a fighter wraps his legs around the opponent which restricts the movement and prevents the opponent from escaping or standing up.


Boy in Karate Gi

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu uniform is also known as a gi. It is made up of a durable material that does not allow the opponent to get hold of a fighter easily.

Gi Choke

A gi choke is a technique where a fighter can choke the opponent by using his gi uniform.

No Gi

No gi is a term that means training without a jiu-jitsu uniform or gi jacket.

Spider Guard

It is a form of guard in which a fighter uses both his arms and legs to dominate the opponent.


Mount refers to the position where a fighter is on top of their opponent.


OSS is a phrase that is uttered by a jiu-jitsu student after the teacher states any instruction. In general, it is a way of greeting and demonstrating respect to others.


Submission is a key term in jiu-Jitsu which means “I give up”. If a fighter gets held in a firm grip where he can not continue, he is forced into submission. This declares the opponent as a winner.

Take Down

Bringing your opponent to the ground is called a takedown. A takedown awards the fighter with 2 points.

Rules of Jiu-Jitsu

Now that you are aware of the terms used in jiu-jitsu, let’s move on to the rules of the game.

Some of the basic rules of Brazilian jiu-jitsu are as follows:

  • Before a round starts, both the competitors have to stand in a manner where they are facing each other.
  • The match is initiated once the players move to the ground and after this initiation, the game can not be reset.
  • Aggressive moves like slamming, striking, or any sort of dirty techniques are not allowed in jiu-jitsu.
  • Leg locking is not allowed for white belt fighters, while blue belt fighters can still benefit from ankle locking.
  • Escaping rear mount positions is not rewarded.
  • No points are to be awarded if a player passes to the side control.
  • The referee calls out the points in Portuguese – a potential language barrier.
  • The referee will give directions for the match with hand signals.
  • A player cannot run out of bounds to escape if he is in a locked position.
  • It is up to the referee to choose the winner in case of a tie.

As you can see, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has a great set of rules to form a fair competition, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more rules involved in jiu-jitsu – its complete rule book can be found on the website of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

Points Distribution

Man in boxing ring

The points of Brazilian jiu-jitsu are distributed in the following manner:

  • Rear Mount – 4 Points
  • Take Down – 2 Points
  • Knee on Belly – 2 Points
  • Mount – 4 Points
  • Passing the Guard – 3 Points

Top Jiu-Jitsu Championships

The IBJFF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) originally founded the jiu-jitsu world championship, called the World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Other countries also adopted this idea and soon a number of major championships sprang up around the world.

Following the footsteps of IBJFF, the United Arab Emirates founded the 2nd biggest Jiu-Jitsu championship named the AJP Tour (Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship) formed under the supervision of UAEJJF (United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation).

Let’s take a look at the top three championships of jiu-jitsu:

World Championship (IBJJF)

The World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, also known as “Mundials” is the biggest jiu-jitsu competition. It is hosted annually by International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. The first championship was held in 1996 at Tijuca Tênis Clube gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Abu Dhabi World Pro (UAEJJF)

Sponsored by his Highness H. H. Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, this tournament was inaugurated in 2009 with a purse of $111,000 USD. United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation conducts this championship annually with players taking part from all over the world.

The competition usually takes place at the Zayed Sports City Tennis Complex, in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. While it is not mandatory for national pros to participate, if they do wish to take part in the competition they are welcome to join – plus the UAEJJF will cover all their expenses.

Pan American (IBJJF)

The Pan American Championship was one of the first steps towards the internationalization of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Its first tournament was held in 1995 where the legend Rigan Machado stood as a winner.

The first edition of the Pan American Championship hosted 250 athletes. After over two decades of constant growth, the number of participants this championship has grown to over 3000 participants.

The Takeaway

So now you know what is jiu-jitsu – the most important terms, the history, and rules of egagement of the sport.

Jiu-Jitsu is a very useful skill for all kinds of people, and can be used for self-defense if needed. It can be especially useful in situations where your opponent is stronger.


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