Learn more about jiu jitsu with a great documentary.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s rise has been helped immensely by the internet, specifically the sharing of interesting and entertaining videos and documentaries. Below are some of the documentaries you should consider watching to learn more about the art, introduce others to it, or to learn about specific BJJ legends:
Southern California has become the mecca of modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with some of the biggest competitions held there each year, and some of the biggest names in the art calling it home.
Roll: Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal takes viewers on a journey there, starting with some of the first Americans to train and earn black belts from the Gracies, going all the way up to the present day and even touching on the future of jiu jitsu.
It explores many topics and includes early stories about the Gracies, dojo storming and the gym challenges that used to take place, and the competition scene (or lack thereof) in the early days versus today.
Choke has been described by podcaster and UFC commentator Joe Rogan as one of the greatest documentaries in history. While that might be a bit of an overstatement, Choke is still an excellent documentary which follows BJJ legend Rickson Gracie as he prepares for and then competes in the 1995 Vale Tudo Japan competition.
The documentary explores Rickson’s winning mindset and training going into the competition, as well as some of the preparation and mindset of the other competitors. It also follows Rickson during the competition, showing the various fights of the night.
This FloGrappling documentary shows the rise of Giancarlo Bodoni and his eventual win at the 2022 ADCC World Championships against Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa.
It’s an interesting story about how he overcame an injury, but more importantly how he overcame perceptions of not being “dangerous enough” as a competitor. It’s also worth a watch for the glimpse into how Giancarlo trained under John Danaher to improve and eventually triumph.
Kurt Osiander is an interesting character in the BJJ world, with a colorful life and an excellent YouTube channel filled with many technique videos.
This documentary by Stuart Cooper is from 2014, so it doesn’t show Osiander’s current situation after he stopped teaching at Ralph Gracie’s academy, but it’s still an interesting watch. It’s a deep dive into his start in jiu jitsu and his approach to teaching, his thoughts on the future of BJJ, and even his artistic side creating tattoos.
The Gentle Art of Travel is a documentary which follows BJJ Globetrotters founder Christian Graugart around for a full year of BJJ camps. It’s an interesting documentary because rather than only focus on jiu jitsu through the lens of competition, it digs into the story behind BJJ Globetrotters, and Christian’s philosophy to life.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to attend a BJJ camp, this documentary is a perfect glimpse into some of the fun experiences you can have.
It’s also a beautifully shot documentary and is filled with picturesque shots of the locations the camps are held in including Austria, Italy and Iceland.
Eddie Bravo is one of the biggest innovators in BJJ, responsible for the creation of the rubber guard and numerous other techniques as well as combat jiu jitsu.
Building An Empire gives you a glimpse into the thought process behind the evolution of his jiu jitsu teaching, including his start in BJJ, his thoughts about jiu jitsu in MMA, and his teaching style.
While the other two parts of this documentary are only available on the FloGrappling website, this first episode is still a great watch.
Daisy Fresh is an inspirational underdog story about a motley crew of jiu jitsu athletes training out of Pedigo Submission Fighting (PSF) in Mount Vernon, Illinois, USA. This specific documentary shows the journey to number one in the 2021 IBJJF Pan Championship. It also explores gym owner Heath Pedigo’s history and approach to leading his team.
It also shows some of the matches the athletes have, and digs into their personal backgrounds, showing how jiu jitsu gives people the power to overcome personal challenges.
While the above documentary is one glimpse into the Pedigo Submission Fighting story, FloGrappling has a number of episodes and seasons about the team which more deeply explore the gym, Heath and the grapplers who train together. Below are some of the episodes in Season 1:
- Episode 1. The first episode introduces the gym and some of the grapplers who train there and even sleep there on the mats.
- Episode 2. Join the team matside as they compete in the IBJJF No Gi World Championship. This episode is great for aspiring competitors as it shows the full experience including wins and losses.
- Episode 3. This episode explores the living situation of the athletes and their training and preparation for the Fight 2 Win promotion.
- Episode 4. In this episode the team travels to Texas in an RV to compete in Fight 2 Win.
- Episode 5. This episode shows the team competing in the Austin Fight 2 Win promotion.
Arte Suave Vol 1 and 2
While not technically a documentary, Arte Suave is an interesting two volume “video magazine” showcasing some of the greatest athletes in BJJ in the early 2000s.
Volume one follows Daniel Moraes, Carlos Gracie Jr, Marcelo Garcia, André Galvão, Roger Gracie and more as they train and discuss their training philosophies and mindsets.
Volume two features a large beginning portion with Royler Gracie discussing his training, mindset, family life and some stories about the wider Gracie family. It’s then followed by interviews with Leo Veira, Demian Maia and more talking about jiu jitsu, stories about the Gracie family and more.
One of the best things about Arte Suave is the large amount of footage of each of these athletes rolling and training. There are also some technique videos sprinkled in throughout.
If you’re looking to introduce someone into the world of Brazilian jiu jitsu, this is the documentary to use. Jiu-Jitsu VS The World is almost a who’s who of interviews with legends from the BJJ world including Renzo Gracie, Rigan Machado, Eddie Bravo, Kurt Osiander and many more.
It covers many different topics including what jiu jitsu is, its roots, the jiu jitsu lifestyle, the purpose of BJJ, what it teaches you, the belt system, women in BJJ, kids in BJJ and many other topics. It doesn’t go into huge depth for any one topic but it’s a good introduction to the martial art.
This creative documentary by David Torres Labansat talks about personal growth through jiu jitsu. Unlike many of the other documentaries on this list, it explores the everyday practitioners who train each week, and discusses their experiences with BJJ, including learning, competing, ego, the philosophy of BJJ and other topics. It also talks about women training in BJJ, and why BJJ is so addictive.
If the other films on this list are a bit too long for you, The Way of Jiu-Jitsu is a great choice at just under 20 minutes. It’s a great watch with interviews with some of the best in the art, including Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, Cobrinha and Renzo Gracie.
The Way of Jiu-Jitsu is a general documentary about BJJ which is perfect for those looking to start. It covers a variety of topics including the learning journey of BJJ, the teaching approach of world class jiu jitsu teachers, and finally also gives you a peek into the jiu jitsu lifestyle and philosophy.
Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller is a world class jiu jitsu coach and competitor who co-founded the Paragon Academy in Santa Barbara in 1998. This documentary focuses on Miller’s life as a teacher and competitor, including his early days in Brazil and his move to the USA in 1996. It also explores his teaching style, his thoughts about the future of BJJ, and the many positive benefits of training.
It also includes interviews with many of Miller’s students talking about how jiu jitsu has impacted their lives positively and their thoughts about Miller.
Renzo Gracie is one of the legends and pioneers of jiu jitsu, especially in the MMA scene. This 2008 documentary follows him around as he trains and explores his colourful personality, ambitions and family history.
You’ll see his thoughts about jiu jitsu, injury recovery, Brazil, and his past fights. The documentary also explores many of his MMA fights including Pride 1 and 2, Pride Bushido and the International Fight League. The documentary also explores his relationship with his brother Ryan, and his experiences training Daniel Gracie.
This German-language documentary follows four Gracie Barra competitors in Hamburg as they prepare and train for AJP Amsterdam. It’s a realistic glimpse into what it takes to compete and shows not only the individual preparation but also the teamwork that’s required to compete in BJJ. It shows the ups and downs of competition, so it’s perfect if you’re looking to compete for the first time and want to see what it could be like.
Rolled Up by BudoVideos is the hidden gem in the jiu jitsu video world. It’s a video series where Jake, the CEO of BudoVideos travels to interview various BJJ legends and learn from them. While many of the older Rolled Up videos are technique masterclasses or basic interviews, the later episodes are almost mini-documentaries. The production quality of this series is high, and Jake interviews, learns techniques and often rolls with the guest for the episode.
The interviews are high quality and explore what the guest is currently up to, their past and current competition achievements and goals, and their future goals. The techniques are also well shot and informative, with the guests showing techniques they’re currently enjoying or finding success with.
Unfortunately the last Rolled up episode was posted two years ago, but there’s still plenty of previous great episodes to watch.
The Saint of Crackland is a short documentary from Ryan Ford, the host of The Grappling Central Podcast. It’s a unique documentary compared to the others on this list because it’s not about a legendary competitor or the history of BJJ, but instead about the power of BJJ to help create social change.
The documentary follows Ryan as he is introduced to a social project which uses jiu jitsu to help the underprivileged youth of Cracolandia, one of the worst drug and crime impacted neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
It explores how the project was started, and interviews Lael Rodrigues, the key instructor behind it, plus the young Brazilians who train jiu jitsu through the project.
While this is a Japanese language documentary with no English subtitles or dubs that we could find, it’s still a great glimpse into Rickson’s life as an older man, being filmed in 2015.
It’s an interesting look into his life story and the impact of the death of his son Rockson. It also shows his life now after his MMA career. It shows him training at home, surfing his life after competition. It also covers some of Kron’s MMA career.
And don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese, Rickson and Kron’s pieces to camera are obviously all in English.
Documentaries coming soon
At the time of writing the following documentaries were reported to be coming soon:
- Closed Guard: The Origins of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil. This documentary is aiming to give an unbiased account of the origin of BJJ. Legendary BJJ competitor and MMA athlete Robert Drysdale is the executive producer of this documentary.
- Little Grapplers. Little Grapplers explores the benefits of BJJ for children.
Did we miss a documentary? Let us know in the comments section below.