Maeda's Jiujitsu?

 I am posting this here as I do not want this to turn into a troll war.  Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I would like to discuss Maeda's Jiujitsu as compared to the Gracie system.  Also, I am not considering modern sport BJJ but specifically speaking of Maeda's Jiujitsu as it relates to Gracie Jiujitsu.  

 What was it that made the Gracie system unique from that which they learned from their Sensei, Maeda?Opinions please.

According to Renzo Gracie and John Danaher's book, Mastering Jujutsu:

Maeda's background was in classical Tenshin Shin'yo jujutsu and (more importantly) Kodokan judo. His kodokan judo was going through a "ne-waza revolution" in which groundwork was thrust to the forefront of training.

Maeda was a veteran of challenge matches under various rules against boxers, catch-as-catch-can wrestlers and other fighters by the time he began training the Gracie family in the 1920s. These were done with and without the jacket.

The character of Maeda's day-to-day training with Carlos (et al) is unclear. Everyone involved has long since passed away, and left no record of the period.

Gracie & Danaher credit Maeda with establishing the fundamantals of jiu-jitsu. They mention that several pictures exist of Maeda training without the jacket,in positions that appear to be more influenced by catch as catch can wrestling than classical judo/jujutsu.

The Brazilians continued to develop the art through "years of research and hard fought experience" by establishing a "hierarchy of positions". If you've ever trained BJJ, you know that the idea is to establish a dominant position in order to attempt a submission hold. This is reflected by the points system in sport BJJ.


Helio Gracie, who never trained under Maeda, takes (more or less) sole credit for the development of BJJ's efficacy in an interview at

"I adapted the jiu-jitsu to my characteristics. I was weak and awkward, light [with 1,75 meters of height, and never passing more than 63 kilos (138.6 lbs.)]. I could not manage to do what my brother [Carlos] did, because his jiu-jitsu depended on strength and ability. I had neither the one nor the other of those. Then I made that which is known today. I perfected the flawed technique of my brother on behalf of weaker people, using the principles of physics, like force and the leverage. You, for example, can not lift a car with the strength of your two arms, but with a jack you can lift a car. That's what I did. I discovered techniques of leverage that optimize the force. These modifications made a form of jiu-jitsu that is superior to the jiu-jitsu that existed before that, and today the jiu-jitsu that the entire world knows is my jiu-jitsu."

He expands:

"Who today would want to fly in an airplane of Santos-Dumont? Or who would want to ride in a Ford made in 1930? What I mean is that I didn't invent jiu-jitsu. But I took a piece of junk like a Santos-Dumont airplane. You're not going to fly from here to that corner in that. There is no jiu-jitsu that invented; I just improved it.."


Maeda was a Judo guy that spent time in Europe first and then later two years in the US touring with Wrestlers, before he went to Brazil. His only two losses came to CACC wrestlers in Europe. It is correct to say that nobodt really knows what he was teaching by the time he got to Brazil, but surely is was some combination of these arts. I have a history of Maeda that I will post next. He was a Judo student at the time that Newaza was being incorporated into Judo.

After having several of his top students become newaza experts, Kano thought it a good idea to use this type of Judo in the school system. As the matches ended in submission instead of serious injury, it would be seen more in a sportive way. So in 1914 he organized the All Japan High School championships at Kyoto Imperial University. He called this sportive style Kosen. By 1925 so much emphasis was on newaza - because of its success in contest that Kano had to make some new Judo rules limiting the amount of time the Judoka could stay on the ground. This "Kosen Rule" continued into the 1940's, stating Shiai had to be 70% standing and 30% ground fighting. This led to an early split in the Kodokan Judo movement. Many of those Judoka whom Kano had set to master newaza, had spent time inventing new series of movements, escapes, and submissions. They and their students were now dominating even the Kodokan contests. There was so much negativity with this, that Kano sent many of them abroad to teach Judo elsewhere. He was very aware that they would not be easily defeated no matter where they went, and he also smartly removed the challenge they presented in Japan. Some of the known Kosen Judoka were Yamashita, Hirata, Tomita, Yokoyama and Maeda.

Kosen Judo has only continued in a few places. One example is Hirata Kanae's dojo is in Japan. He died in 1998, but the dojo still continues. Then there is Brazil, which started with Maeda. Mitsuyo Maeda who began training in Judo in 1897, and became one of the troublesome Kosen Judoka who was sent abroad with Tsunejiro Tomita. Traveling in the US, Maeda outshone his senior Tomita, defeating wrestlers and fighters that had beaten Tomita. Tomita and Maeda went their separate ways - with Maeda going onto the early "fighting circuit" for money. He even travelled to Europe where he lost the only two matches of his life against a Catch Wrestler. He spent extra time with the wrestler learning some of those techniques. Finally in 1915 Maeda settled in Brazil where he taught Carlos Gracie, the son of a local politician. Carlos Gracie and his brothers adopted the Kosen Judo techniques and developed them further during the 20th century into what came to be known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Maeda was in London, England, from February 1907 - June 1908. According to one historical source he entered and was defeated in a Catch as Catch Can tournament. Maeda evidiently learned form his losses and may have studied some Catch while in the UK. The source asserts that:
Maeda Mitsuyo, a judo 5-dan who had wrestled professionally in the United States, Britain, Spain, Cuba, Panama, and Mexico, settles in Brazil. Around 1919, while working for a Brazilian circus, Maeda taught a mix of Kodokan judo and catch-as-catch-can wrestling to a 17-year old Brazilian named Carlos Gracie

In addition:

Kano was introduced to Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master of Tenjin-Shinyo Ryu Jiu-Jitsu. Tenshin shinyo ryu is a school of jujutsu founded by Iso Mataemon highly regarded for its vital-point attacks (atemi-waza) and immobilization methods (torae). Popular belief is that the art was a forging of the schools Yoshin ryu and the Shin-no-Shindo ryu. Contrary to many Jiu-Jitsu schools Fukuda emphasized free-style practice over kata (forms), which resulted in a more realistic training approach (this would later heavily influence Kano‘s preference towards randori). Unfortunately, after only one year of training with Kano Fukuda suddenly fell very ill and died. Following Fukuda’s death Kano began another Tenjin-Shinyo Ryu instructor named Masatomo Iso (who’s teaching and training style was similar to Fukuda’s). Kano dedicated all of his free time to Jiu-Jitsu. He would train with an incredible passion. His intensity eventually reached the point where he would go home exhausted, fall asleep into nightmares, and wake up shouting Jiu-Jitsu words and kicking off his blankets. However, Kano’s diligence paid off, by time he was 21, he had become a master of Tenjin-Shinyo Ryu Jiu-Jitsu.

The Kodokan had established itself as a well-respected and undefeated school until 1900 when it entered a contest against Fusen Ryu Jiu-Jitsu. The Fusen Ryu differed from other Jiu-Jitsu school in Japan in that they dedicated almost all their training to "ne waza", or grappling techniques. At this point the Kodokan was skilled in striking and without companion in throwing skill, however they had very limited ability in ground grappling. In the contest the Fusen Ryu realized they could not outmatch the Kodokan on their feet so they employed a unique ploy. The Fusen Ryu fighters would pull the Kodokan fighters between their legs and fall to the ground, once on the ground they would apply a choke or joint lock and force the Kodokan fighters to submit (the modern day equivalent to "pulling guard"). The Kodokan were defeated by submission in all ten of their matches, it was the school’s first defeat. Kano now realized that ne waza was of equal or greater importance to tachi waza (throwing techniques). Immediately following his school’s defeat Kano persuaded Fusen Ryu's headmaster, Mataemon Tanabe, to instruct him on Fusen Ryu’s techniques and principles. Kano also sought out a similar grappling intensive style Jikishin Ryu Jiu-Jitsu and began to incorporate its techniques into the Kodokan.

Maeda was at Kodokan from 1897 until 1904. So he was there throughout this period that Kano himself was learning and adapting Fusen and Jikishin. Maeda was his top student. In all likelihood Kano used Maeda as his guinea pig. I would think that would be unavoidable. We know that Maeda already studied the Tenjhin style which Kano was a Master of by 21. I would venture to say that Maeda mastered all three under Kano while at Kodokan.

 I fully respect the Gracie's right to call thier family art Gracie Jiujitsu as most other Budoka in history after having studied a system and personalizing it often gave the art a new name unique from the one they had studied.  So because they learned this Japanese method and adopted it into their family and personalized it, I think it is an honest intention to call it Gracie Jiujitsu as the knowledge they learned was now theirs.  

 I guess one of the main questions I have concerning the history of Gracie Jiujitsu is what makes is unique.  It seems the one of predominant arguments is that the Gracies modified Maeda's Jiujitsu for a weaker, smaller man to defeat a larger man.  I'm not sure this is a good example.  Maeda seemed to be the smaller man in many of his matches, yet he was victorious.  Surely if he relied on more strength based techniques versus the larger skilled wrestlers he would have met defeat, yet he was mostly victorious in his matches, so that dispells the myth of a strength based Jiujitsu.  

 I do feel that what Maeda taught to the Gracie family was not Judo as we know it today and perhaps not even Judo as it was practiced in Japan at that point.  He obviously cross trained and formed a system that could be used against foes of the western culture as well as the eastern culture, therefore creating a very international system.  

 So I still feel that I have not found that which makes Gracie Jiujitsu unique from Maeda's Jiujitsu.  It would be quite interesting to know exactly what was taught to the Gracie's and then it would be more obvious what changes were made or maybe it was as simple as putting more focus on one aspect of the art.

 Thanks for the replies.  Hackett, "Mastering Jiu-jitsu" is an excellent book.  e.kay, I will be printing off the info you provided.

Carlos Gracie Jr said in an interview from Grappling Magazine (sept 2002) that his uncle Helio actually developed more of the defensives aspects of Brazilian Jiujitsu.

He said that the offensives aspect were already intact and really strong. He said they really didn't need improvement.

Here are his words:

"The jiujits method my father learned was very Japanese in nature, but definitely not the modern Japanese Jiu-jitsu you see today. It was the old method that influenced the Judo techniques later on. My father learned that method and modified certain aspects of what was taught to him; but it was his brother, my uncle Helio, who made great improvements in the defensive aspects of the art. The Jiu-jitsu learned by my father had all the necessary attacking components. The offensive techniques were really strong and barely needed any improvements. The old Jiu-jitsu was strong on attacking techniques but weak on defense. Helio...came up with new ways of controlling the opponent and developed new strategies for the defensive aspects of jiu-jitsu. how to control a bigger and stronger opponent became the main point of the defensive maneuvers."

Thanks for posting that MG. Very interesting.

EKaye, did you write that bio of Maeda?



 Also, does anyone have information about the Fadda(sp?) family Jiujitsu and how this style relates to Maeda's Jiujitsu?  

 Another question, did Catch-Wrestling of this time period incorporate the use of the guard as used in the Japanese grappling systems?

"Another question, did Catch-Wrestling of this time period incorporate the use of the guard as used in the Japanese grappling systems?"

Highly unlikely. CW of the time had different rules including pins, so a wrestler would not stay on their back voluntarily. Having said that, it does not mean that they had nothing to do there. It is a matter of making a distinction between CW in the ring, and CW for fighting.

There is some information about Fadda on Fernando Pinduka's websight (it is in Portugese BUT it has to be one of the more comprehensive historical accounts of Jiu-jitsu in Brazil. It includes my stories as well as important figures and persons).

Apparently Fadda's is very much into the therapeutic aspects of Jiujitsu and his style is geared toward health and physical therapy. My understanding is he has taught and teach Jiu-jitsu to alot of disabled individuals.

He is essentially similar to Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais was a European student of Judo great Mikonosuke Kawaishi (who is credited as introducing and teaching Judo in France and had a big influence on the European style of Judo). Feldenkrais actually wrote a book on groundfighting. Any way Feldenkrais devoted his life to developing exercise and drills to help people physically and health wise.

Fadda is similar to Feldenkrais in regards to what he is doing with his jiujitsu.


their is not real documented evidence the maeda and fusen ryu were his "jiu jitsu"..their is evidence of fusen ryu coming to the kodokan at that time (as did many other arts including shotokan karate amongst many others..there was no centre for martial arts, and kano welcomed any and all to the kodokan)..

the only evidence is maeda as one of kano's top jujitsu (name used of the day..the use of judo did not become widely accepted until many years after)..

my only point is that jujitsu in general was being practiced and represented at the kodokan, and the result was kodokan judo...anyone who was doing jujitsu at that time was very likely related to kano and his jujitsu as that other clubs/styles and practice of jujitsu was not accepted within japan..

kano kept martial arts of japan and specifically, many styles of jujitsu alive because of his social and political ties..

maeda was practicing the jujitsu of the day (kodokan judo) and that is what he used in his challenge matches and this is what he brought to brazil..

I guess that we will have to agree to disagree. I think that there is plenty of evidence that Maeda had more than just Kodokan Judo under his belt. The Japanese were the original cross trainers. Anyone over there at that time with high rank, probably had high rank in a number of different arts. From my research, and from my experience studying MA for 19 years and the manner in which it is taught, I am fairly confident that Maeda learned a number of Ju Jitsu styles while with Kano and then later wrestling in the UK and the US.

how old was maeda when he joined the kodokan?

he was pretty young, what are the odds that maeda had time and the ability to study all these jujitsu styles, which were to a great extent dissolved by the japanese government? as you know, jujitsu was all but driven underground and it was kano who made a case to present it as something else..

He was at the Kodokan for seven years. More than enough time, when that is all you are doing.

We must also remember that Japanese Jujutsu did not die out, lose out to occupational banning, or become enveloped under one banner of the Kodokan.

 Also to note is that most of the early Kodokan representatives were basically trained in Traditional Japanese  Jujutsu and when fighting were just as much a representative of Jujutsu technique as were they Kodokan technique.

 Finally, not all Jujutsu fought and lost against Judo.  Some Jujutsu were very secretive and tried not to partake in challenge matches.  

 Koryu(traditional) Japanese Jujutsu is still alive today, such as the Katori Shinto Ryu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, and the Bujinkan contains many Koryu.

Wayland is Correct.

Maeda brought Judo, not a Ryu-Ha to Brazil.

Kai, I'm not so sure it's as simple as that. From the above reading, it is obvious that Maeda was much more than a Judoka. His background coming from not only Judo but Traditional Japanese Jiujitsu then going on to an eclectic mix after having trained with Western Wrestler's and Boxers.

 I do not want to discredit his Judo training which was of great importance I'm sure but I'm trying to look at the complete fighter that was Maeda and more importantly, what is the difference if any between original Gracie Jiujitsu and Maeda Jiujitsu.