The international progression of jiu-jitsu is really easy to monitor. The Gracies popularized it in Brazil and then diverted their efforts to America. It’s easy to see that Brazil and USA have the highest amount of BJJ athletes. However, Japan, the world’s third largest jiu-jitsu market (after Brazil and the USA), also has gyms worth experiencing. Here are five cities you must visit and train in in your lifetime.
- San Diego
Originally, Los Angeles was one of the more famous hot spots in the USA for jiu-jitsu because of the large amount of Gracies that went there to live in the 90s. Rickson especially built a local reputation for himself when he ran his academy out of his garage. However, as the sport grew and other champions started to move to California, San Diego became the more natural choice for large academies to open. The weather and lifestyle was more suitable for Brazilians because of the beach life they were used to in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil. Now, San Diego houses a huge network of academies that is unparalleled anywhere in the world. The weather is great and you have various world-class gyms to visit - what more could you ask for?
- Rio de Janeiro
Rio is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In addition to its aesthetic beauty, Rio is the mecca of BJJ. Helio Gracie’s original academy was built there and still runs there today - known as Gracie Humaita. That is only a fraction of the history that rests there. To train in Rio is to experience that history first hand in several old academies. This is definitely a place worth visiting and taking the time to immerse yourself in the fun Brazilian culture we have all heard about from our academies and Brazilian instructors.
It’s always interesting to think about how jiu-jitsu had originated in Japan, was reinvented by the Brazilians but then made a return to Japan and embraced by so many athletes. Tokyo is another massive international jiu-jitsu hub. It houses many schools that have plenty of black belts to roll with that have their own unique styles as the Japanese are a very creative and passionate people. You will experience jiu-jitsu games that you won’t necessarily find in the USA or Brazil.
- New York
New York is the USA’s second jiu-jitsu hub after San Diego. Originally, Renzo Gracie had moved to NYC to get his jiu-jitsu better known. In time, Renzo became successful in building the busiest academy in the world. Later, other champions like Vitor Shaolin and Marcelo Garcia followed suit and have done so successfully. Now, NYC houses many gyms and you can easily walk around and notice guys sporting their jiu-jitsu tees and hoodies.
- Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo is Brazil’s economic center, the NYC of Brazil. With international culture and plenty of good food to experience, SP also has tons of world-class gyms to visit. The most reputable would have to be the Alliance headquarters run by ‘The General’, Fabio Gurgel - a man who needs no introduction. There are many other famous champions that come from SP, but today, the best known are Leandro Lo and the Miyao brothers.