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Could You Tap Out Your Toughest Ancestors?

Have you ever wondered if our ancient ancestors had any form of grappling similar to what we practice today?

With the rise in popularity of Brazilian jiu jitsu, it’s easy to forget that this martial art is relatively new in the United States. The first Ultimate Fighting Championships proved that Brazilian jiu jitsu on its own could beat all other martial arts styles, and now to compete at an elite level, one must have a basic knowledge of the fundamentals. But did our ancestors grapple? Let’s take a look.

From archaeological evidence, we know that ancient civilizations practiced some forms of combat training that involved grappling techniques. Ancient Egyptians practiced wrestling as part of their military training regimen and even used it for recreation and sport. In China, there were various forms of grappling practiced in Kung Fu—some weapons-based and others based on an unarmed style with throws and joint locks. Meanwhile, in India, wrestling was part of the traditional Vedic culture; many Indian martial arts incorporate various elements from folk wrestling traditions.

Were these techniques similar to modern Jiu Jitsu?

Given what we know about ancient martial arts practices, it's clear that our ancestors grappled—but did they grapple in a way that resembles modern day jiu jitsu? It depends on who you ask! Some experts believe that while certain aspects may be similar, there are too many differences between ancient grappling techniques and modern jiu jitsu to make any definitive statements about their relationship. On the other hand, some practitioners claim that there is continuity between ancient styles and 21st century Brazilian jiu jitsu—that modern practitioners are really just rediscovering something our ancestors already knew.

Ultimately, we will never know if this generation is the most skilled when it comes to fighting—but we can certainly learn from the lessons of history! From archaeological evidence to oral traditions passed down through generations, it’s clear that our ancestors grappled in some way or another throughout human history. Whether these grappling techniques resembled what we practice today as Brazilian jiu jitsu remains up for debate. What is certain is that learning how to fight responsibly gives us all a better chance for survival should we ever find ourselves in physical danger—and thanks to modern martial arts like BJJ, even those who are not naturally gifted fighters can still hold their own against stronger opponents. So get out there and start training!

Prof. Tony

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