Jennifer Whited, a sophomore, calls it a “martial art without punching,” yet even though Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not incorporate classic hand-to-hand fighting techniques, it does teach participants a number of useful self-defense techniques. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a program that stresses a person’s ability rather than his or her size, is one of the newest martial arts programs that George Mason University’s Aquatic and Fitness Center offers to students, faculty and members of the Fairfax community. As its name implies, the program began in the South American country of Brazil.

According to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Web site, when Mitsuo Maeda, a master of judo and jiu-jitsu, emigrated from Japan to Brazil, Gastao Gracie, a Brazilian politician, contacted him to teach jiu-jitsu to his son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos Gracie subsequently taught the art to his brothers, who then refined the program. After opening their first jiu-jitsu academy in Brazil in 1925, the Gracie family popularized Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which soon became known as ‘Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.’ It was Helio Gracie, one of the smaller Gracie brothers, who made Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu what it is today. He created a program that emphasized how smaller people might defend themselves against much stronger and larger opponents. Rather than relying on brute force, the program teaches leverage techniques designed to force opponents into submission.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is primarily a ground-fighting art; however, the program also provides cardiovascular and strength-building exercise. One of the main goals of the program is to teach self-defense. Whited, who began the course this semester, said that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches “good self-defense for women,” since the techniques in the program do not rely primarily on strength. Police departments, the FBI, CIA and many military groups, such as Marines and Navy SEALs, practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The program is especially useful for the police department, as, unlike other fighting techniques, it allows officers to control offenders without the risk of injury and liability for injuries.

One of the well-known teachers of these military and law enforcement programs is Pedro Sauer, who studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with members of the Gracie family. According to Sauer’s Web site, he has become known as “one of the premiere military and law enforcement instructors in the [U.S.]” Eddie Edmunds, who teaches both the beginner and advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu courses at Mason, trained with Sauer, who is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Like his instructor, Edmunds has an impressive background: he has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a black belt in Jeet Kune Do.

In his classes at Mason, Edmunds teaches both on-the-ground and upright fighting techniques. While some of the moves appear quite complex, as a majority of them are, Edmunds teaches novice moves that someone with little knowledge of the art could master with practice. Both courses are offered on Tuesday nights; the beginner course is at 6:30 p.m., and the advanced course is at 7:30 p.m. Students must have at least one semester of experience with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to enroll in the advanced course. Edmunds also teaches courses at the Fusion Academy, an affiliate of Sauer’s school.

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