The battlefield proven martial art of the samurai was the origin of Jiu-Jitsu. With armor limiting the effectiveness of striking, the Samurai relied on a system of clinch grappling when in close quarters or in absence of their primary weapon. The purpose of this was to take the enemy to the ground where a short blade or manual attack could be used against the articulated joints of the armor. This resulted in a series of joint locks and strangulation tactics in addition to the use of blade weapons.
During the Meiji Restoration (westernization of Japan) the Samurai were outlawed as was the acceptance of their practices. This created a tumultuous resistance that spawned the Satsuma Rebellion (you may be familiar with this war as depicted in the movie "The Last Samurai") which would serve to end the samurai class.
Many martial artists began to leave Japan and found their best work was in circus hosted tough-man contests where they would travel doing combat against catch wrestlers, strongmen and other martial artists for money. Mitsuyo Maeda and many others would travel throughout the United Kingdom, France, United States, Cuba, Mexico, and finally Brazil where Maeda brought with him his "stage name" Conde Koma (Count Combat).
In Brazil pioneers like Carlos Gracie and Luis Franca would learn under Maeda and other Japanese instructors. These men are the first generation pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. However, another faction of grapplers also existed in Brazil. They were led by Euclydes "Tatu" Hatem and practiced a fighting art they called Luta Livre, which is said to have originated from a blend of catch-wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu as well but has traditionally been practiced as Submission Grappling (NOGI).
Quite a class divide exists in Brazil, and it is said that the early days of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (especially the Gracie Lineage) were mainly reserved for the wealthy where as Luta Livre was the art of the common man. Personally, it is very sad to think people of that time said "Luta Livre is the art of the poor, they cannot even afford training uniforms".
The rivalry was quite heated for generations with Tatu having challange matches against George Gracie of the famed Gracie family, and later Perreria against Carlson as well.
This brings me to Carlson Gracie who from all accounts was one of the most unique and loved individuals in the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He created a fued within the Gracie Family when he went his own way and began offering instruction to common people of varying descent. In doing so, many believe he brought Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the masses in Brazil.
It is important to note the arts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Luta Livre both served as fighting arts in the arena of "Vale Tudo" (anything goes fighting) long before the proliferation of modern Jiu-Jitsu as commonly practiced today.
Later the creation of the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" served as one of the best marketing strategies in the history of sport as it launched the now trademarked art of "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" and more so Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the global spotlight.
With the international proliferation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and with a more clearly defined separation between the current practice of BJJ and its more violent MMA / Vale Tudo roots, BJJ has truly become a martial art for everyone.
I believe Chris Haueter said it best when he said "What we do now is Japanese origin, Brazilian Modified, and American & Russian influenced grappling".
There is so much infusion and cross training between Wrestling, Judo, and Sambo, that it is now impossible to tell where one stops and the next begins.
In time Carlson relocated to the Unites States (Chicago) and many members of his team went their own way creating their own pages in BJJ history. Among them were Jorge and Pablo Popovitch (students of Carlson and his younger brother Crolin).
They opened their academy in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where Professor Mike Yanez (now 4th Degree Black Belt) got his start in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ultimately becoming the second Black Belt to be awarded by Pablo Popovitch (2007). Yanez formed Team Popovitch / Highlander Fight Team in Louisville, KY, and later resettled to Tampa, Florida where he resides today.
NXG Combat Sports had a grappling club as part of our early MMA program, but did not have any affiliation or real oversite. In 2012 we connected with a brown belt under Professor Yanez (Josh Hubbard) who soon became a member of our team, and by early 2013 NXG had become an official member of the Team Popovitch / Highlander MMA family.
It is a blessing to have maintained our relationship with Team Popovitch / Highlander MMA for over a decade now, but even more blessed to have developed a close personal friendship with Professor Yanez.
"I'm honored to say I went from White Belt to Black Belt under the same coaching mentorship and affiliation. I'll never forget Professor Yanez's words when he promoted me to Black Belt in 2021... He simply said, LOYALTY IS RARE!
While there are many who assisted and contributed to my journey, none has been more singularly impactful than Prof. Yanez" - Coach Bateman