The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs American Jiu Jitsu Argument

By Elisabeth Clay 

So, I think one thing we have started seeing a rise in is the topic of “American” Jiu Jitsu, at least people saying they do “American” jiu jitsu (Lis rolls her eyes). I have been asked a few times what I think about it and have even been automatically lumped into the category of “American” Jiu Jitsu. Before I dive into it, to make it short and sweet, I think it is absolutely ridiculous. It’s still the exact same sport.  

My Opinion: It’s a Marketing Strategy

People start by saying well it has evolved; jiu jitsu in America has evolved. While Jiu jitsu has evolved, it has evolved all over the world. It’s a dynamic martial art unlike most of the other martial arts with their takatas. American jiu jitsu is still the exact same thing; it is jiu jitsu. Each player’s game is specific to that person, and they each look very different. It is all the art and principle of jiu jitsu. What separates it from the old school Japanese jiu jitsu is the static nature of Japanese JJ, which came from judo (again with the takatas and rigid rules). BJJ, or jiu jitsu, is its own sport. Regardless of how it evolves, the fact that it can evolve makes it jiu jitsu. 

Fracturing the Sport

When people divide or fracture the sport, we lose everything we have fought for years to accomplish, especially when it comes to being seen as equal to the Brazilians we were competing against. Why are  we trying to divide it? Americans are doing the exact same thing we’ve said we didn’t want and have fought against for years. We are putting a divide in the community. It is jiu jitsu regardless of what nationality does it or how it develops. We should embrace each other. Don’t get me wrong, I am American, born and bred. I love my country, but I am so grateful to the Brazilians who brought jiu jitsu to us and shared it. For those who were willing to share the sport, my life has been changed forever. 

It’s Not a Different Sport

Just because someone slaps American on top of the Brazilian before jiu jitsu doesn’t make it a different sport. And for people saying, well the Americans have added more wrestling to it, it has a different style to it. Okay fine, so the Americans in jiu jitsu tend to wrestle more, but that doesn’t make it a different sport. So, by this token, the Russians in judo have a very different style then the Americans, and they have a different style then the Japanese, but it is still judo. They still compete in the Olympics together.   

Let’s take this argument to a whole other level. If our overall style in America makes it “American Jiu Jitsu,” then in Australia it must be “Australian Jiu Jitsu” and, in Korea, “Korean Jiu Jitsu.” We each change the rules and fight over who is right or wrong, but where do we draw the line? It is all just jiu jitsu, but if we must put something in front of it, it’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Why should it be “Brazilian?” Easy, it’s out of RESPECT. They created this dynamic, ever growing, changing, and developing art. I love this art so much, and it has made my life what it is. I will forever be grateful for those who were courageous enough to share this art with Americans, with me, and ultimately with you.\ 

Stop Trying to Divide the Sport

Even in my decade of practicing jiu jitsu, I think we were almost to the point of earning respect from the Brazilian masters of jiu jitsu. Now, here are Americans starting the rivalry. Stop trying to have people think Americans are doing something crazy and new; we aren’t. We might be adding new things, but so have many other people (from all over the world) over the years. I cannot change anyone else’s mind.  As for me, there is no such thing as “American Jiu Jitsu.” We are a worldwide community of jiu jitsu or Brazilian jiu jitsu.  

I love this sport, I love this community, I love the respect we show on and off the mats. See you out there on the mats. Become your lion or lioness! 

Follow me on Social Media:

Instagram: ElisabethClayBJJ Facebook: Elisabeth Clay YouTube: ElisabethClayBJJ Website: