The history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) goes back through the Gracie family to their original teacher, Mitsuyo Maeda (Conde Coma) and his training in the Kodokan, the home of Judo.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, although obviously similar in many respects to Judo and other traditional systems of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, differs in some fundamental ways from all other related systems. Judo was originally designed as a powerful system of self-defense that also included a sportive component and the idea of self-cultivation and the mutual benefit of members of society. Presently, although the techniques of Judo may certainly be applied in real fighting situations (and many practitioners of "sport" Judo have applied their skills very effectively in non-sportive confrontations), the emphasis in most schools is on sport competition. During the course of the last century the rules of Judo began to emphasize means of achieving victory in competition that did not necessarily reflect the conditions of all in fighting. For example, a Judo match may be won by a throw or a pin hold without a submission. These rules and limited groundwork that forbids many of the original submission holds found in early Judo somewhat limit direct applicability to street fights. Other styles of classical Jiu Jitsu are still plagued by the original problem Kano addressed with his emphasis on randori, namely, technical training is limited to kata practice.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has followed a different course in the last 80 years. The Gracie challenge and participation in countless free fighting events has led to a different emphasis in fighting strategy and the development of unique rules for BJJ sport competition. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is divided into three broad categories, each mutually supportive of the others; self-defense (including striking techniques and unarmed techniques against armed opponents), free fighting competition (commonly referred to as "vale tudo" or "anything goes" events, now popularly called MMA), and sport grappling with and without the gi (matches that include a wide range of submission holds, but no striking). Even the rules of sport grappling matches are designed to ingrain the proper strategy to be applied in the street. For example in a sport BJJ match, points are awarded based on achieving superior positions, positions from which not only grappling techniques can be more readily applied, but also from which strikes may be applied or defended. Students naturally seek the positions that will garner them the most points, thereby constantly reinforcing the most efficient strategy for real life confrontations. This "position-submission" strategy has proven to be the most effective for real life confrontations.
The overall fighting strategy of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is designed to equip a physically smaller or weaker individual with an effective method of defending against a larger and stronger attacker. When applying BJJ techniques, leverage is paramount, as leverage is the secret to the amplification and most efficient use of force. BJJ also has the most developed methods of fighting while on one's back, a position weaker fighters will often find themselves when attacked. The innovations of the Gracie family, most notably by grandmasters Carlos and Helio Gracie, and continuing with BJJ fighters today, through constant testing and refinement in the crucible of actual fights, has resulted in this unique style of Jiu Jitsu.