Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Judo: The Differences Explained

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Judo are two of the most popular martial arts globally. At first glance, you might think that they have enough in common to be interchangeable, when in fact, there are many things that set them apart. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on grappling with an emphasis on ground fighting. In contrast, Judo emphasizes throwing techniques and has less of a focus on ground fighting. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a lot more dynamic than Judo and requires constant movement, but Judo can be harder on the body.

Read on for in-depth explanations of the key differences between BJJ and Judo, which sport to learn first, and the benefits of cross-training the two.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Judo Difference

Although most beginners can’t easily differentiate between BJJ and Judo, these sports have several striking differences.

Let’s discuss these differences (and more) in greater detail:

Focus

Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting and grappling: the main idea is to dominate the opponent on the ground.

In contrast, Judo focuses more on throwing techniques and submissions. This martial art emphasizes taking down a person from a standing position and holding them in a submission position for up to 20 seconds or until they submit themselves.

Techniques

Judokas and Jujitsukas apply different types of movements in their sports. Here is a breakdown of the various techniques these practitioners must learn:

BJJ Techniques

  • Proper breathing: This is something that all Jiu-Jitsu practitioners need to learn. It enables them to not only maintain composure during fights but also stay attentive throughout.
  • Breaking the balance: This is done using various techniques, including takedowns and sweeps; this will help you dominate your opponent on the ground.
  • Advanced chokes: Many people like this technique because it can cause serious damage in just a few seconds, making it an effective self-defense move.
  • Bridging and shrimping: These are common in wrestling and Judo. The goal is to get back up on your feet when you’re flat or defend yourself from an attack by going underneath a person’s body with their legs. Therefore, this move will help you escape the opponent’s grip.
  • Grips: The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner should know how to use different grips. For example, the collar grip (also called a rear-naked choke) allows you to control your opponent from behind; this technique can be used in self-defense.
  • Passing the guard: This technique is used to avoid being taken down by your opponent. It involves passing your legs through their legs, so you can control them and start attacking from a dominant position.
  • Armbars: This technique allows the practitioner to control their opponent’s arm and stop them from moving.

Judo Techniques

  • Throws: These are executed from a standing position with opponents thrown to yield yuko or waza-ari points. The main idea here is not really about overtaking your opponent but rather throwing them for scoring purposes.
  • Grappling: This is a technique used to control your opponent on the ground. The idea here is to immobilize them and stop their movement from any direction so you can attack when they’re down.
  • Pins: This move involves holding an opponent’s shoulders or hips, with one arm in front of them and the other behind. Doing that ensures that they can’t move and will allow you to execute various other moves like an arm-lock or choke.
  • Locks: This technique is used to control your opponent’s body with one hand while the other goes around their neck, wrist, or knee.
  • Takedowns: Judokas may use these if they find themselves on their back during a fight. However, this technique is not recommended. It leaves your opponent close to you, making them counterattack quickly or turn the tables around to take control of you instead.

take down type of martial art - judo

Training

The level of difficulty in training Judo and BJJ students receive is another critical difference between the two. Most people who have practiced both maintain that Judo is more demanding and harder on the body.

Here are some of the factors that make Judo training much more difficult:

  • You can’t tap out when you’re midair and about to crash to the ground.
  • You have to beat several competitors within your rank to advance.
  • Judo doesn’t allow you to switch to No-Gi to reduce gripping trauma on your hands.

Competition Rules

In Judo, matches are contested on a mat in front of a referee who calls out the score. The winner is decided when one fighter scores an Ippon (full point) or by throwing their opponent off balance enough that they can’t recover before touching the ground with any part but the soles of their feet – this is called Waza-ari (half point).

Earning two Waza-ari’s makes you the automatic winner.

On the other hand, BJJ matches are contested on a mat in front of an impartial referee. The winner is decided when one fighter taps out or someone can’t continue because of injury (time-outs and submission), or by scoring more points than your opponent when time runs out.

Terminology

In BJJ, the term used for a throw is “Irimi Nage,” which means ‘Entering Throw.’

On the other hand, Judo uses terms such as Uchi Mata (inner thigh sweep) and Osoto Gari (major outer reap). Other examples include Harai Goshi (sweeping hip throw) and Kata Guruma (shoulder wheel).

Transitioning Between Styles

Generally, transitioning from Judo to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is easier than the other way round. Notably, you learn most BJJ concepts in Judo. Also, BJJ is easier on the body – you’re not getting thrown as often as in Judo.

Judo also helps you gain skills like back and turtle attacks, stand-up dominance, pins, and pressure passing, which you can apply in BJJ.

Ground Fighting

One of the major moves in Judo is to go for a firm grip on your opponent’s clothing and then drag them down with you.

On the other hand, BJJ ground-fighting focuses heavily on training both offense and defense techniques like evading your opponent’s chokes or arm locks. You also get to learn how to defend yourself from punches or kicks while also trying to submit your opponents using various chokeholds and joint locks.

Here’s a 5-minute video that explains the differences between Judo and BJJ groundwork:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ3dtX5MNzQ

 

Submissions

Judo submissions are achieved by going for a pin. This means that you have to keep your opponent in the same position on their back with one arm crossed over the other or perpendicular so they can’t move.

On the other hand, BJJ relies heavily on finishing matches via moves like joint locks and chokeholds.

Guard

The BJJ guard is where you control your opponent by wrapping both legs around them so they can’t easily move.

However, in Judo, there’s no equivalent of a guard. When somebody gets thrown, it’s often impossible for their opponents to stay on top without grabbing their limbs or clothing.

best judo gi

Attire

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo are both martial arts that depend on throwing an opponent to the ground. BJJ and Judo Gis, which are martial arts uniforms, are designed to cater to the dynamic needs of Judokas and Jujitsukas.

Judo Attire

For durability, Judo uniforms tend to have reinforced stitching at key spots and a thicker collar than Jiu-Jitsu to withstand grabbing techniques like chokes and throws.

Since Judo emphasizes throwing techniques and clinch fighting, its outfit is made of heavy cotton. This allows for old-fashioned throws such as the “Kata guruma” or “Yoko/ Tomoe Nage.”

The Judo Gi is also adorned with straps on top of straps, reflecting its emphasis on throws.

Jiu-jitsu Attire

By contrast, Jiu-jitsu emphasizes ground fighting, joint locks, chokeholds, and other tactics like throws. For this reason, it has very little, if any, focus on clothing that would facilitate standing throws.

Instead, it usually consists of cotton or lightweight, durable material like Thai silk or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Korean uniforms. Except for a belt, they are not strapped up like Judo clothes.

That said, if you’re training for BJJ more casually, you can wear a Judo Gi. However, that might put you at a disadvantage in sparring because it allows for more submissions that use your uniform against you.

The Judogi top is traditionally long and has wide sleeves. In contrast, the Jiu-Jitsu top is generally tighter to the body, with shorter sleeves.

They also come in different colors, weights, and weaves, which means athletes can personalize their uniforms. Some gyms will have rules about what colors and patches are allowed for each type of gi, while others are more lenient.

Gi vs. No-Gi

Closely related to attire is the practice of No-Gi in BJJ. Specifically, this means that Jujitsukas must only rely on natural grips of the wrists, neck, head, and ankles.

These natural grips are more difficult because they involve touching skin, unlike Judo, where you can grab clothing without any problem whatsoever.

As a result, it’s much easier for Jujitsukas to use different techniques like armbars or leg locks that would otherwise be difficult if there was a lot of fabric between them.

BJJ vs. Judo: Which Should You Learn First?

You should learn Judo first if you’re into more intense and demanding sports. Although Judo is harder on the body, transitioning from it to BJJ is easy since some of the moves are common in both sports. However, it’s best to start with BJJ if you’re looking for a less physically demanding challenge.

The sport to learn first depends primarily on your goal.

Besides, suppose you want to take part in tournaments. In that case, it would help first to learn Judo because it’s endorsed by the International Olympic Committee and will allow you to compete on a global scale.

Here’s a YouTube video explaining how to adopt Judo for BJJ:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAamZ1VRREA

 

However, suppose you’re looking for an alternative form of self-defense or are keen to study something new while also competing at MMA events like UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). In that case, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu may be more suitable for you.

Is Cross-Training Judo and BJJ a Good Idea?

Cross-training Judo and BJJ is a good idea for beginners. Cross-training diversifies training and helps develop multiple skills with crossover applications, and offers more nuances in their implementation than if the student just focused on one sport. However, doing so comes with greater commitment.

It is probably a wise idea for people with little experience in combat sports to find one martial art they enjoy to advance quickly.

However, suppose you have found something you love about two different styles of fighting. In that case, combining the practices to get both aspects might not be such a bad idea.

Mixing Judo and BJJ would allow for techniques from each martial arts style, enabling you to understand the weaknesses and strengths on both sides. This can enable you to strike a balance and become a better martial artist.

As long as training is focused and intensely competitive, mixing these two arts can prove beneficial for any novice or experienced practitioner with an intermediate background in either discipline.

BJJ vs. Judo: Pros and Cons

Depending on your level of athleticism, you might find that Judo is more challenging as it is harder on the body. However, each of these martial arts has its benefits and drawbacks.

BJJ Pros

  • Teaches discipline: BJJ teaches the fundamentals of respect, self-control, and honor. These are skills you can apply in various aspects of life.
  • Helps you lose weight: The constant sparring in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires a lot of cardiovascular activity, leading to increased metabolism and subsequent weight loss.
  • Helps you develop functional strength: BJJ improves core muscles and improves your balance, coordination, and posture. These are all things that can help prevent injuries in the future.
  • You learn how to defend yourself: Learning BJJ offers an opportunity to learn the basics of self-defense.
  • Provides a sense of accomplishment: With BJJ, there is always another belt to earn and a new challenge around the corner.
  • You join a supportive community of like-minded people who share common interests with you: BJJ is a sport that requires teamwork.
  • Improves mental well-being: When you train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, your brain releases a hormone called endorphins. These hormones help to relieve stress and improve moods.

BJJ Cons

  • Can be expensive: BJJ requires a lot of gear which can add up over time—uniforms, mouthpieces, Gis to wear during sparring sessions. You also have to pay for lessons and cover tournament fees.
  • Sparring can be uncomfortable: The intense sparring sessions in BJJ are not always comfortable, but they’re a necessary part of the training process. This helps you get accustomed to fighting through discomfort and being hit or taken down during competition.
  • Requires instructors and training partners to be effective: BJJ, like any other martial art, does not work unless you train with someone who knows the moves. It can be challenging to find a high-quality teacher or training partner in some parts of the world for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Requires a lot of time and dedication: BJJ is not for those looking to learn how to fight to be violent or hurt others. The sport takes a long time before it pays off, but the benefits can last forever.
  • Forbids punches or weapons during sparring: You will not be learning how to defend yourself against someone trying to hurt you with their fists or a weapon. This means you can’t rely on this sport’s techniques to disarm an opponent, such as a burglar. However, you can easily defend yourself when attacked by an unarmed opponent.

Judo Pros

  • Improves athleticism and speed: The constant throwing, rolling, and arm grabs involved in Judo are great for improving reflexes and building muscle.
  • Teaches you how to defend yourself: Like in BJJ, the user will learn how to protect themselves against an opponent trying to hurt them with their fists or weapons. Besides, Judo offers a lot of opportunities for the user to learn throws and takedowns. This is helpful if you are in a self-defense scenario where someone tries to shove or push you over.
  • Improves fitness level: The constant throws and takedowns in Judo are great for building up muscle, especially your core.
  • Teaches discipline: Like BJJ, Judo teaches the basics of respect, self-control, and honor. You can apply these skills to other areas of your life besides just martial arts.

Judo Cons

  • Requires an instructor and training partners to be effective: Like any other martial art, Judo does not work unless the practitioner trains with someone who knows how to use it.
  • Requires a lot of time and dedication: Some of the benefits from Judo will only be seen after years of training, so this is something that requires patience and commitment from the practitioner.
  • Forbids punches or weapons during sparring: The lack of strikes in Judo often means that the practitioner will not be learning how to defend themselves against someone trying to hurt them with their fists or a weapon.

Tips On Getting Started With Judo and BJJ

For a lot of people, the thought of getting on the mat for Judo or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is terrifying. It’s understandable!

You don’t know what to expect, and you’re not sure how it will make you feel. Well, here are some tips that can help ease your mind, so you get started with either Judo or BJJ:

Learn the Basics

It would help to learn some of the basics before taking a lesson with an instructor or on your own, so it’s not as challenging and overwhelming as you start.

You’ll want to know about grips, throws, pins, submissions (called “chokes”), escapes, sweeps, takedowns, and so on.

Prepare Yourself Psychologically

Use some time to psych yourself up before you get started.

You’re not going to be able to relax all the way if you know what’s coming. However, you can make adjusting a little less intense by thinking about the positive aspects in advance, like how great of an opportunity this will be for you to improve your physical fitness and learn some new skills.

In this regard, I recommend that you read Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition By Bruce Lee and M. Uheyara from Amazon.com. This book is ideal for any beginner martial artist. It teaches you how to improve training awareness and develop swift movements crucial to all martial arts.

Don’t Be Afraid

When you first start with any of these martial arts, remember that every expert has been in your shoes before, so there’s no need to be afraid or embarrassed.

Chances are you’ll find plenty of people who are more than willing to help guide the way for you.

grappling type of martial art - BJJ jiu jitsu

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Better for Self-Defense: Judo or Jiu-Jitsu

Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are equally suitable for self-defense. Notably, Judo is excellent for stand-up grappling techniques due to its throwing moves. At the same time, Jiu-Jitsu has better groundwork techniques with submissions from the back mount position. 

Further, these martial arts have different philosophies; in Jiu-Jitsu, your opponent may be weaker or bigger than you, so you play aggressively. Conversely, in Judo, your opponent may be stronger than you, so it’s crucial to have an active defense, like pulling their arm or leg to get them off balance.

Is Judo a Waste of Time?

Judo is not a waste of time. This sport teaches people self-defense, helps improve focusing ability, enhances muscle strength, and instills discipline. Besides, Judokas develop a greater sense of balance and coordination with practice, improving mental power.

Therefore, it is worth it to learn Judo and experience all of these benefits firsthand.

Which Is Safer, Judo or BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is safer than Judo. Notably, BJJ has a lower incidence proportion – the total number of Judo practitioners injured per year outnumbers those injured in BJJ due to training. Specifically, the incidence rates are 1.1% for Judo and 0.92% for BJJ.

How Dangerous Is Judo?

Judo can be very safe as long as it is taught and supervised with care. But there are still some risks associated with Judo, as every sport does have some inherent dangers.

Judo has been practiced for over a century now in many countries under increasingly regulated international standards. So the number of injuries or deaths due to improper teaching and supervision is going down rather than up.

Several safeguards have been put into place to protect Judokas from severe injuries.

For example, kicking, punching, attacking other joints besides the elbows, touching an opponent’s face, or intentionally injuring them, are banned in Judo. Any Judoka who attempts these moves gets disqualified, and the opponent is declared the winner.

Besides, practicing these moves can get one permanently banned from the sport.

Potential Injuries In Judo

However, that doesn’t mean the sport is entirely risk-free: injuries are always a possibility when you’re throwing people around.

Some of the common injuries in Judo include:

  • Sprains
  • Fractures (often from falls)
  • Muscle injury
  • Head trauma with loss of consciousness.
  • Sutured wounds

How Dangerous Is Jiu-Jitsu?

Jiu-jitsu is generally safer than other martial arts since it doesn’t rely on punches and kicks. A punch can knock out teeth, break the nose, or even fracture the skull. These types of moves are not allowed in the sport, making it less risky than others.

BJJ is a martial art that focuses on grappling and throwing techniques rather than strikes to defeat an opponent. It teaches self-defense, grappling, submissions, and ground fighting.

It is generally safer than other martial arts since, in most cases, your opponent will only have arm or leg leverage. This makes it difficult for them to hit you (or do anything but wrestle on the ground).

You are instead encouraged to escape from their hold and mount an attack of your own.

Potential Injuries In Jiu-Jitsu

Though there is always a risk in any form of physical combat, many other forms of martial arts require getting close enough for punches or kicks to end up on top position with arm/leg advantages over your foe – putting all parties at risk of being hit.

The common injuries in BJJ include:

  • Ligament sprains
  • Elbow dislocation
  • Shoulder dislocation

Final Thoughts

BJJ is a great martial art to learn, especially if you’re looking for something more dynamic that will challenge your body and mind in different ways. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes are designed to help students of all levels get started with ground fighting techniques for self-defense or sports competition.

Similarly, Judo is a great martial art to learn, especially if you’re looking for something more traditional. Judokas develop greater balance and coordination with practice, aspects that improve mental ability. Either way, both sports are worth it because they teach discipline and self-defense.

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