What Is The Difference Between BJJ and Judo?

From an outsiders perspective BJJ and Judo appear to be the same sport. Both involve two people trying to wrestle each other while wearing funny looking uniforms. However we will show the key differences between the two martial arts which result in BJJ and Judo being very different sports.

What Is The Difference Between BJJ and Judo? The key difference between BJJ and Judo is the rules. BJJ focuses largely on establishing control of your opponent while on the ground through pins and submissions while only placing a small emphasis on standing takedown techniques. Judo is the opposite it places a large emphasis on standing techniques (Tachi-waza) and only a small emphasis on ground techniques (Ne-waza).

In BJJ athletes are awarded points for takedowns but are not penalised for taking themselves down and establishing their guard. In contrast in Judo a single takedown can result in an athlete winning the match and athletes would instantly lose if they took themselves down and pulled guard which is very popular in BJJ. In BJJ a pin only results in the athlete scoring points but in Judo a pin lasting for more than 20 seconds result in victory.

In BJJ athletes are given as long as the match lasts to fight on the ground. A referee will not interfere and stand the athletes up. This is not the case in Judo where athletes typically only have a few seconds to establish a submission or a pin before the referee pauses the match and forces both athletes to stand up.

Judo has created a rule set which seeks to promote big crowd pleasing throws to the detriment of Ne-waza. BJJ has instead chosen to create rules which promote the use of the guard as a defensive and attacking strategy while giving athletes the best chance to submit each other.

Is Judo Similar To BJJ? 

Yes, Judo is similar to BJJ. Both are grappling based combat sports where the goal is to establish control over your opponent through takedowns, pins and submissions. All the techniques found in BJJ can also be found in Judo. For example the 3 most famous submissions in BJJ, the armbar, triangle and rear naked choke were in the original Judo curriculum and are known as jūji-gatame, sankaku-jime and hadakajime.

Judo and BJJ both have similar uniforms. In Judo and BJJ athletes wear what is known as a Gi. Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) designed the uniform based on traditional Japanese clothing from the 20th century. Kano’s original Gi uniform had shorter sleeves and pants however the modern Judo and BJJ Gi remain very similar to the original uniform. The Gi is said to be the first martial arts uniform. The Gracies kept the same uniform as Judo when they created BJJ.

BJJ is a derivative of Judo. Carlos Gracie was taught Judo by one of Kano’s original students Mitsuyo Maeda. Carlos Gracie then opened his own school in 1925 and chose to focus on the ground fighting aspect of Judo leading to the creation of a different sport. Both sports have chosen to go their separate ways creating distinct rule sets but there still remains fundamental similarities between Judo and BJJ.

Cultural Differences Between BJJ and Judo

BJJ is a Brazilian martial art whereas Judo is a Japanese martial art. Both countries have distinct cultures which has resulted in key cultural differences between the two sports. In Japan bowing is a common form of greeting and is common place in Judo. Brazil is not a bowing culture and even though some schools have maintained the bowing gesture they absorbed from BJJ’s Judo roots most schools incorporate hugging and handshakes which are much more common in Brazilian culture.

BJJ even created its own unique form of handshake where you slap your partners hand and then fist bump. This often occurs before sparring. I wouldn’t recommend performing that handshake in a Judo school in Japan.

Japanese are known for being strict proponents of time management, Brazilians not so much. If a Judo class says it starts at 6pm then you better be there by 5:45pm ready to go. In contrast many people have stories of going to train BJJ in Brazil for the first time and being confused when they turned up to training at the scheduled time only to find an empty gym. Then waiting 30mins before people start arriving and another 30mins after people have finished chatting before training finally begins.

Japanese are known for being disciplined and hard workers, whereas Brazilians are known for being more laid back and relaxed. Judo has absorbed this Japanese work ethic. Judo training tends to be strict with the structure of the class, what is being taught and the standard to which the students are performing the techniques. Stricter Judo coaches are known for forcing students to perform thousands of repetitions until they are happy with the technical proficiency of the student. BJJ tends to be a lot more laid back.

Often BJJ coaches will come up with the day’s training plan a few minutes before class starts and the techniques will often be randomly chosen. The amount of time dedicated to each part of training is also up for debate each training session.

The cultural differences between Japan and Brazil has created different training environments between Judo and BJJ. Judo tends to be a stricter more disciplined environment whereas BJJ tends to be a more relaxed casual environment.

Different Ideal Strategies – BJJ Vs Judo

Due to the rule differences between BJJ and Judo different ideal strategies have emerged. In BJJ many athletes choose to pull guard which is where they deliberately take themselves down to the mat. The reason this strategy works is that in BJJ athletes are not penalised for this move and many athletes find it easier to submit or sweep their opponent from their guard.

In Judo guard pulling is not performed as it would count as a takedown and the athlete would lose. In Judo athletes after a failed throw attempt will quickly flop to their stomachs to avoid being pinned. Also when an athlete is thrown they will attempt to land on their stomach to avoid points being awarded. In BJJ this strategy isn’t viable as one of the highest percentage finishes is a rear naked choke so athletes avoid exposing their backs to their opponent at all costs.

Here is a great highlight of Zantaraia employing this strategy in Judo.


Is Judo or BJJ Better for Self Defence?

Both Judo and BJJ are good for self defence. All fights start standing and Judo players are more competent in the standing position compared to BJJ players. However many fights end up on the ground where BJJ players are more competent. Judo is a more explosive sport than BJJ which is beneficial in a self defence where you are trying to end the fight as soon as possible. High level Judo and BJJ athletes should both be able defend themselves in a self defence situation.

Is Judo More Effective Than BJJ?

Judo is more effective than BJJ in a Judo competition and vice versa. The sports are different and you need different skills to succeed in each of them. Both Judo and BJJ are effective in street fights.

Which Is Easier To Learn BJJ or Judo?

BJJ is easier to learn than Judo, particularly as a beginner. There is a steep learning curve in Judo. It is hard particularly for adults to learn how to break fall (fall after being thrown without being injured) correctly and confidently. It can take adults weeks to learn to fall correctly to the point where they are able to be thrown while drilling and months before they can be thrown in sparring safely.

Also it can be very hard for beginners to grasp how to throw someone. As Judo throws feel effortless when you correctly break your opponents balance but completely breakdown if you arent able to establish Kazushi (breaking balance). Kazushi is very hard for beginners to get the hang of and can prevent beginners from throwing people for months.

As BJJ focuses on the ground beginners can still practice the sport while their break fall is still developing. I know purple belts who can not break fall correctly. A beginner in BJJ can spar on their first day this is something that is not possible in Judo. BJJ techniques are easier to learn and can be performed slowly and gently. It is very hard to perform a Judo throw slowly as it requires momentum to work.

BJJ also teaches a variety of takedowns which are more beginner friendly compared to Judo such as single leg and double leg takedowns. A beginner in BJJ will be able to progress faster than a beginner in Judo due to the flatter learning curve.

Why Is BJJ More Popular Than Judo?

BJJ is more popular than Judo in America however Judo is far more popular than BJJ across the world. There are approximately 1,000,000 BJJ practioners around the world whereas there is estimated to be 50,000,000 Judokas. Judo is more popular because it has been around longer than BJJ. Judo spread across the world much earlier than BJJ. Judo is an Olympic sport. Judo is in the curriculum of schools across the world. Judo has major sponsorship deals and is broadcast on TV around the globe.

BJJ and Judo are two very similar sports with the same goals and similar techniques. However the different rules between BJJ and Judo has led to the creation of two distinct sports.

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