10 Best Examples of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Fiction (Movies, TV and Books)

10 Best Examples of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Fiction (Movies, TV and Books)

Written by Alexander Darwin @CombatCodes. Photo by Ryan Best @RyanBestArt

I’ve always kept an eye out for Brazilian jiu jitsu in fiction. Every time I see even the slightest grappling exchange during an action scene, I remember it vividly. I pause and rewind or highlight the text.

These many glimpses of grappling are one reason I decided to write the Combat Codes saga, a sci-fi series that asks the question: what would a world be like where nations resolved conflicts with one-on-one, unarmed combat, instead of armies? Well, for starters there’s a ton of grappling action, much of it taking place within the planet’s most prestigious martial arts academy. Imagine if Harry Potter learned to throw a nasty heel hook instead of casting wingardium leviosa. And futuristic steroids are rampant, of course, because each nation is attempting to field the best team of fighters to represent them.

Here’s my top list of grappling glimpses, those films, tv shows and books that helped inspire me to write the Combat Codes.


  1. Mel Gibson’s Triangle in Lethal Weapon

In this 1988 classic action flick, Mel Gibson throws up a triangle choke to finish off Gary Busey.  The scene was choreographed by Rorion Gracie himself.

Clearly, Mel was not “too old for this sh*t,” and was able to tap into his BJJ fundamentals when he was nearly gassed out.


  1. The Flying Omoplata in The Kingsman

In this 2014 spy movie (and comic book series), the protagonist played by Taron Egerton, dispatches several armed foes and then proceeds to leap into a flying omoplata to disarm another adversary. Flashy? Yes. Fun? For sure.

The second book of the Combat Codes, Grievar’s Blood, has one particular fight scene where the omoplata is utilized in place of a triangle choke. It can be tough to finish the triangle against bigger or wider (especially shoulder-width) opponents, so the shoulder lock is always a great option.


  1. The Simpsons – Guard Player


In the Simpsons season 24 episode 2, a man threatens Homer by falling onto his back and telling him he has “mastered Brazilian jiu jitsu” and to “crawl atop me, and meet your doom!” Perhaps inspired by a Miyao? 


  1. John Wick 2 – The Museum Scene

In the second installment of John Wick from 2017, we are treated to even more grappling courtesy of Keanu Reeves and his trainers, the Machado brothers. In one particular action scene, Mr. Wick executes a seamless series of Judo and BJJ techniques, from a seoi nage to a rolling omoplata (of course, interspersed with him killing dozens of baddies by handgun fire).


  1. The Mandalorian – Gina Carano Kicks Mando’s A*s

In the 2019 Star Wars hit spinoff, the Mandalorian, former MMA fighter Gina Carano plays mercenary Cara Dune. When she encounters our protagonist in a close-quarters brawl, she employs some great dirty boxing along with a well-executed tomoe nage sweep. I have spoken.

Star Wars was a massive inspiration for me in creating the Combat Codes universe, in particular the mix of technology (old and new) with a Samurai-style feudal society. The Grievar Knights in the Combat Codes fight to serve the rest of society, just as the Samurai and Jedi do.


  1. Bond hits the RNC – Casino Royale

After fighting off two machete-wielding henchmen, Bond sinks the Mata Leão on a staircase to finish the job. Daniel Craig ushers in a fantastic Bond series transition with a gritty, realistic, fighting style after Brosnan’s stiff, formulaic Bond. However, the man Craig strangles supposedly dies just after going unconscious (which is a problem in most movies and books still, either because the creators don’t understand the mechanism / result of a strangle, or the reality is too hard to portray). 

I purposefully make sure to avoid this misconception in the Combat Codes saga, I’ve seen it happen too many times. If someone is getting strangled unconscious, they should be expected to wake up almost immediately. If someone is to be killed with a strangle, it needs to be held quite a bit longer.


  1. Low Gravity Jiu Jitsu – The Expanse

Julie Mao, the muse of the popular space opera novel and television series, the Expanse, is a purple belt in “low gravity jiu jitsu,” which she learned on Ceres Station. Low gravity grappling would certainly be an interesting experiment: no difference between mount and guard and takedowns would be non-existent. Perhaps someone might organize a tournament on the international space station (Mo Jassim?) Who would be the best low gravity BJJ player right now?


  1. John Rains Series – Jiu Jitsu Assassin 

John Rain is an action hero that rivals Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne, in particular because he is an expert in BJJ and Judo and author Barry Eisler vividly depicts action sequences with accurate martial techniques. In one book, Rain practices his BJJ in Brazil and in another he works on his Judo at the Kodokan (Eisler trains both BJJ and Judo). The ill-fated 2009 movie ‘Rain Fall’ will hopefully be redeemed by the upcoming John Rain Keanu Reeves TV series (fingers crossed!)


  1. Limitless – The Marcelo Garcia Rash Guard

Not the film with Bradley Cooper, but the single-season 2015 TV show based on it, contains one of the best Brazilian jiu jitsu introductions out there. The protagonist in the show has the drug-induced ability to learn skills with uncanny speed, and utilizes this to learn BJJ. His instructor showcases the basics of BJJ and even shows some “shoulder of justice” side control pressure. And, there’s a Marcelo Garcia rash-guard sighting in the scene!  

The Combat Codes saga certainly incorporates performance enhancing drugs. Imagine what nations would put into their champion fighters if everything was on the line: resources, land and lives.


  1. Issac Asimov’s Foundation – Heliconian Twisting

One of the fathers of sci-fi, Asimov, wrote about a form of submission wrestling in his epic Foundation trilogy, first published in 1951 and winning the Hugo award for ‘Best All Time Series’ in 1966. The book’s main character, Hari Seldon, became a practiced ‘Twister’ while on his home planet of Helicon, where his father owned tobacco plantations. Could this be where Eddie Bravo came up with the name of his signature technique?

Asimov was one of the reasons I began writing sci-fi.  Truly a visionary.