Judo vs BJJ

Judo vs BJJ

Everything you need to know about Judo vs BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) from the history, training styles, and comparison of effectiveness. You might think Judo and BJJ are extremely similar or worlds apart here you can get the low down as these two grappling styles go head to head.


The history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Judo are closely entwined. Like many modern forms of grappling they owe a lot to the mother art of Japanese Ju-Jitsu. Ju-Jitsu was founded in Japan by the Samurai as a form of unarmed combat, it was passed down through the centuries until it was taught to a young Kanō Jigorō.

He took Ju-Jitsu and attempted to refine the art to make it more palatable to a hostile Japanese public. At the time it was believed Ju-Jitsu was the preserve of gangsters and undesirables. In his attempt to change Ju-Jitsu’s image he created the martial art and now Olympic sport of Judo.

So far so good but where does BJJ come into all of this? Well one of Kanō Jigorō students Mitsuyo Maeda took up Kanō’s call to export the art of Judo around the world. In doing so Maeda eventually found his was to Brazil in the mid 1910’s where he performed in demonstrations one such demonstration was observed by a young Carlos Gracie.

Lineage of JJJ, Judo BJJ

Carlos went onto learn Judo and pass his knowledge to his younger siblings, one of which was Hélio Gracie who decided to focus on the ground work element of Judo. Hélio wanted to create a system where by a weaker fighter could overcome a stronger and more powerful opponent, he realised that on the ground much of the strength advantage disappeared. This was essentially the founding of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu the most recognisable branch of BJJ. If you want to find out more about BJJ then you can do so here.

Essentially the linage of BJJ is Japanese Ju-Jitsu – Judo – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

What separates Judo and BJJ

Alright so we know that Judo and BJJ are from the same family of martial arts but what separates them into distinct martial arts. Well as was hinted a moment ago Judo is principally practiced from the feet with the intention of throwing an opponent into the floor where as BJJ is predominantly practiced on the ground.

In Judo the main aim of a competitive contest is to throw an opponent and land them on their back to score Ippon and claim victory. In BJJ the aim is to force an opponent to submit by either choking or painfully manipulating their joints. But its not all that simple as Judo also has ground work or Newaza as it is known, and you often see throws in BJJ competitions too.Judo vs BJJ

In competition Judo the Newaza occurs when the two players are on the floor, but no one has achieved Ippon. Most Judo clubs will devote at least some of the time to practicing Newaza techniques. In contrast in BJJ competitions although both of the fighters start from there feet and frequently attempt takedowns no points are scored for the take down. The focus of takedowns in BJJ is to land in a dominant position to start the ground work from a position of advantage.

In BJJ there is also the option to train with or without the traditional Gi uniform. This is not an option you will find in most Judo clubs. There is probably as much difference between Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu as there is between Judo and Jiu-Jitsu in a Gi. If you want to find out more about BJJ Gi vs No-Gi then you can do so here. Many of the points raised in that article would be equally relevant to the Judo vs BJJ debate if you considering No-Gi as an option.

So, as you can see there are some significant differences between the two arts. The one thing that truly separates them is the amount of time dedicated to each position. If you into big throws and explosive bursts of ground work, then Judo will seem more appealing. However, if you’re not to bothered about how you get to the ground and you want lots of time to work for submissions then BJJ is better suited to you.

Which is safer

Both of these arts can be practiced in a safe manner by adults and children. There is no need for there to ever be any danger to any participant providing correct instruction is followed at all times. All martial arts come with the risk of injury but both styles have techniques that are restricted from competition and they certainly won’t be tolerated in a class unless under strict supervision.

In BJJ it is common for some techniques to be restricted to the higher grades to prevent overzealous lower grades inflicting damage on other students. Judo is very similar and has a list of banned techniques that are taught in a safe way to preserve the techniques with out risking injury.

Although in BJJ you will spend a lot of time having your joints pulled in the wrong direction particularly if you’re a white belt there is still a lower risk of getting injured. Being thrown into a mat repeatedly isn’t for everyone and mistimed movements in Judo can result in serious injuries. Fortunately, these are rare occurrences and the majority of classes will pass by without incident.

Whilst injuries can and do occur in both if this is enough to put you off then I don’t think martial arts is for you as all martial arts come with an injury risk.

Which one should I train

Deciding on which one you should train shouldn’t be too difficult and there’s no reason not to try both and decide if you have a preference. As has already been stated if you want to spend the majority of your time focusing on learning how to throw your opponent into the ground then Judo is the better option. If you prefer the idea of chasing submissions and learning to control someone on the ground, then BJJ is a better option with this goal in mind.Judo vs BJJ

If you goal is to learn something new, meet new people or just to have a good time then both are capable of catering to this in equal measure. There’s a friendly atmosphere around both styles and lots of opportunities to really challenge yourself to do something different. I would however say that if you’re an individual who likes to do things their own way then BJJ is probably better suited to you as there is more freedom to develop a unique style.

Judo is usually taught as a more traditional martial art; most clubs will insist on proper etiquette being followed in the Dojo. This means there’s a lot of bowing usually when entering the Dojo, before stepping on of off the mat at the start and end of classes. This is great for teaching children respect, but it does become a bit labour some if its not something your used to doing.

Without wishing to generalise if you prefer a laidback approach then you may prefer to BJJ as it often takes place in a more relaxed environment. This doesn’t by anyway mean training isn’t taken as seriously as Judo. BJJ is still great at promoting respect but there are certainly fewer formal expressions of etiquette to get acquainted with. If you’re thinking of sending your children to BJJ they will still have the opportunity to learn respect but its not drummed in to them with the same intensity as Judo.

BJJ and in particular the branch fronted by the Gracie family has a focus on the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. This ‘lifestyle’ is all about living a healthy existence outside of your training. This bears a strong resemblance to political and social aspirations that Kanō had for Judo. So both systems have strong ethical codes attached to them but again Judo places more emphasis on this.

Cross training

Cross training has become a bit of a buzz word in martial arts theses days which has a lot to do with the rise of mixed martial arts. Today more than ever you see people training in multiple grappling or striking styles to develop well rounded skills.

This is equally applicable in BJJ and Judo as both have seen significant cross over training from the other. It makes perfect sense as these two arts are complimentary of one another and training in both will surely create a very effective grappler.

The rule changes that have taken place in Judo recently have made it more favorable towards ground work; allowing longer periods of time to work for submissions on the ground. Before the recent changes submissions had to be set up and completed in rapid fashion otherwise the fight would be returned to the feet again. This makes the idea of spending more time grappling on the floor seem advantageous to a competitive Judoka.

Judo has undergone many competition rule changes through the course of its history, these have usually been in response to serious injury or foul play. In this instance though it does seem like the ground work of BJJ has influenced the International Judo Federation to place a greater emphasis on Newaza. It’s likely that this will trickle down to the local Dojo’s and Judo classes which will focus a little more on the ground work.

Equally there is defiantly room for improvement in the take down abilities of most BJJ practitioners. Cross training in Judo could allow them to plug this hole in their game and gain a competitive advantage over future opponents.

Here’s an example of someone nailing a Judo throw in BJJ competition.

A wild prediction for the future of Judo and BJJ

One possibility that is not often discussed is that in the future there is so much cross training and work to develop the ‘weaker’ sides of there game that BJJ and Judo become almost the same art with different competition rule sets. In this scenario you could see fighters performing well in both sets of competitions. Although this might seem a long way off things evolve quickly in the martial arts world, and these two arts are definitely growing closer than they have been since Judo was first exported to Brazil.

Is there a superior art

Honestly; I don’t think there is, but you can feel free to disagree and I’m sure many probably do.

There’s not so much a superior art but an art that is superior for learning specific techniques. If you want to learn to throw people effectively then its Judo. If you want to learn how to become dominant on the ground, then its BJJ.

If you train hard enough in either if theses martial arts, you should be able to beat an untrained opponent even if the fight takes place in that arts ‘weaker’ side.

There are lots of pros and cons to both martial arts and if you want to become a well-rounded grappler and have plenty of time of your hands why not train both. After all you will become better at throwing if your train Judo where this is the focus rather than being taught by someone who is predominately known for their skills on the ground. And the reverse is also true why learn to fight on the ground from someone who is an expert in getting opponents there but might only have a few go to moves to finish from the floor.

Whatever way you look at it Judo and BJJ are both fascinating martial arts that really pack a punch.