Brazil has a short history of martial compared to Asia, Capoeira is probably the only Brazilian Martial Arts that has evolved purely in Brazil which started aroudn the 16th century, at this time Portugal had claimed one of the largest territories of the colonial empires, but lacked people to colonize it, especially workers. In the Brazilian colony, the Portuguese, like many European colonists, chose to use slavery to supply this shortage of workers. Capoeira arose as a hope of survival for an escaped slave, completely unequipped, in this hostile, unknown land. The dance was incorporated to avoid detection and corporal punishments. If slaves were caught practicing fighting techniques, they could be punished or executed. With music and rhythmic moves, they raised no suspicion of escape attempts.
Brazilian Ju Jitsu, which has risen to fame much more recently was created by a Japanese called Mitsuyo Maeda (1878-1941) and was a martial arts prodigy who eventually became one of the greatest fighters in the history of Judo. Maeda originally practiced classical styles of Jiu Jitsu, eventually entering the Kodokan to study Judo. After remaining undefeated in Judo tournament competition, Kano sent Maeda to the U.S.A. in 1904 to spread the message of Kodokan Judo. Over the course of his career, Maeda fought in literally hundreds of matches, grappling with and without the gi, and fighting in “mixed” matches (that included striking and kicking, commonly referred to as “no-holds-barred” fights). During his travels, Maeda fought in the United States, Great Britain, continental Europe, Cuba, Mexico and finally Brazil.
In the early 20th Century a side show event at Brazilian carnivals and festivals was gaining popularity. Known as “Vale Tudo” or “No Rules”, these were combat contests that pitted two men against each other in a ring or open space for the entertainment of on-lookers.
These Vale Tudo matches are direct ancestors to modern Mixed Martial Arts matches and many in Brazil still refer MMA as Vale Tudo. These matches were not a sport as MMA is today; there were no promotions, weight classes or championships, and fighters represented their styles and their schools more so than just themselves.