Earning Respect: The Gracie Challenge

Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ, has gained quite a following since its inception more than a century ago. The philosophy and techniques of the martial arts have mostly appealed to non-athletic and non-muscular people as they learn how to defend themselves against bigger, stronger, and heavier opponents. But the road to respectability and popularity had not been a smooth journey for its practitioners early on.

The Gracie family is synonymous to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Since the late 1910s, the family has passed on the style from generation to generation and countless students. The first member to learn BJJ was Carlos Gracie, studying it from Kodokan judo master Mistuyo Maeda. And in his attempt to promote the art and superiority of Gracie’s style of BJJ, Carlos issued the first Gracie Challenge in the 1920s.

Image source: attacktheback.com
                      Image source: attacktheback.com

The Gracie Challenge was vale tudo, or a no holds barred match that featured a smaller Gracie against a larger and more athletic opponent. The Gracies defeated martial artists of many different styles and lost just a few fights, earning respect from a lot of people.

Rorion Gracie, Carlos’ nephew, would, later on, introduce Brazilian jiu-jitsu to the U.S., where at that time eastern martial arts dominated. And in his effort to gain local respect, he brought the Gracie Challenge along with him.

Image source: espn.go.com

It was effective as they won a huge number of fights that drew the attention of large crowds of students from different martial art styles. The no holds barred fights would also lead to the creation of mixed martial arts fighting and, eventually, the institution of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Peter Spennato is a very proficient martial artist of many different styles, which now include Gracie jiu-jitsu. Connect with him on Google+ for more discussion on martial arts.


The Way of the China Hand: A Brief History of Tang Soo Do

Not a lot of people are aware about Tang Soo Do (pronounced as tong-soo-do), a traditional Korean martial art. But its origins date back two thousand years, and was a system of the common people to protect themselves from samurai swords.

Tang Soo Do is considered an empty handed self-defense. “Tang” represents Chinese influence in the development of the modernized martial arts. Grand Master Hwang Kee, the founder of Moo Duk Kwan, studied the current Tang Soo Do form in China. When Korea was occupied by Japan more than a hundred years ago, the local Koreans were forbidden to practice their traditional martial arts. Many Koreans escaped the Japanese rule, and trained martial arts in China.

Image source: carytangsoodo.com

“Soo” is translated as “open hand.” The martial art has techniques for striking that involve the use of open hands. It also meant to trick the opponent into thinking the warrior is un-armed. While a lot of martial arts are designed to go on combats with a chosen weapon, Tang Soo Do artists work with only their bare hands.

When the Korean peninsula was unified under the Silla Dynasty, Hwa Rang Dan warriors combined the philosophies of Won Kwang and Soo Bak Ki to form Soo Bak Do. Soo Bak Do was included in a code of chivalry for the Korean peninsula unification. In the Yi and Koryo Dynasties, martial arts were used for sophisticated combative art and recreation.

As Taek Kyun and Soo Bak Do practitioners were forbidden to do martial arts during the Japanese occupation, artists continued their training underground. After the Second World War, the Tang Soo Do became an official sport and organization.

However, in 1965, the Korea Tang Soo Do Association wanted to unite all Korean martial arts under one name. But those who were for Tang Soo Do chose to remain traditional with their craft rather than join the Tae Kwon Do association.

Peter Spennato is a proficient martial artist who has been training since the 1960’s. Know more about Tang Soo Do and other traditional martial arts when you visit this blog.