by Jose Tufy Cairus

Legacy

This dissertation examines the transformation of a modernized Japanese school of martial arts, alternatively known as jiu-jitsu or Kodokan judo, into a Brazilian combat sport. It encompasses jiu-jitsu’s introduction in the early 1900s, the creation of a native style in the following decades and its globalization under the hybrid form known as “Brazilian jiu-jitsu.” The adoption of jiu-jitsu in the military is part of a larger project of modernization conceived by the Brazilian elite aiming to provide the emergent middle-classes with innovative fitness trends. Around the World War I, however, a branch of the Gracies, a Scottish cum Rio de Janeiro family with genteel pretensions, joined a troupe of Japanese martial artists and adopted jiu-jitsu as part of their circus act. In the following decades, the Gracies supported by their upper class peers and by a nationalist regime, launched a comprehensive process of jiu-jitsu reinvention that evolves into a hybrid combat sport exported worldwide at the end of the twentieth century. Using sources such as state and private archives, newspapers and magazines this study suggests that the making of Brazilian jiu-jitsu through the agency of the Gracie family reflect historical constructed values stemming from a patriarchal culture, social and racial inequality and nationalism.

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