Judo vs Jiu Jitsu | 2023

Throughout the past 20 years many people have been introduced to the beautiful yet brutal world of combat sports. Traditionally boxing has been the giant in combat sports.

From the Rumble in the Jungle between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali to the legendary Mike Tyson boxing has captivated the eyes of millions of people since the invention of the television.

More recently, however, there is a new giant in the world of combat sports. Mixed martial arts has been on the rise as the new epitome of combat sports. The UFC has been a major component in its rise to popularity.

Celebrities and everyday people alike have been captivated by the skill of MMA fighters and the suddenness of the sport. MMA fighters are now considered elite athletes with massive followings, but this has not always been the case.

This article will trace the routes of mixed martial arts and specifically explore Judo vs Jiu Jitsu. It will explore their storied history, rules and basic concepts of the sports, and a comparison of the two.

First, let's look at some of the factors that led to the massive explosion of combat sports.

two men grappling on floor doing Jiu Jitsu

The Rise of Combat Sports

You cannot talk about the increasing popularity of combat sports without talking about the UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship based out of Las Vegas; Nevada is the largest MMA promotion company the world has ever seen.

The UFC’s magic lies in its fighters. Fighters from all training background and all countries unite under the UFC with one thing in common, they are the best fighters in the world.

Not only has the UFC showcased MMA as an exciting and rewarding sport, but it also opened doors for massive viewership and sports betting opportunities.

Another reason for the rise in combat sports is the universality of combat sports. Combat sports hold a storied history in almost any country you can go to. Unlike a sport like football, which is only played professionally in the United States, MMA can be understood and enjoyed by anyone anywhere.

The increasing popularity of combat sports has opened doors for jiu jitsu, judo, and other martial artists to gain fame and wealth from participating. This is inspiring young generations of fighters to pursue their dreams with big goals in mind.

Lastly, but arguably one of the most important reasons, is the rise of elite female fighters. Female and male fighters both participate in the UFC and other promotion companies.

What is Judo?

Judo is a dynamic combat sport that utilizes both physical and mental awareness and capability. The takenouchi-ryu martial art system was founded in Japan in 1532. This is considered to be the beginning of Japan’s jiu jitsu forms.

Japan’s history of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat sports is storied and largely originates from the training of Japanese soldiers and samurais for hundreds of years. Judo in modern terms derives from Japan’s jiu jitsu forms and was founded by Kano Jigoro Shihan. In 1964 judo became an Olympic sport.

Kano Jigoro Shihan developed judo as a method of teaching martial arts without the risk of badly injuring or killing your opponent, although many of the techniques were originally designed to do so.

Judo was designed so that students could practice and apply these fighting techniques safely. To do this judo does not involve kicking, punching, or striking of any kind, does not put pressure on joints to throw an opponent, and involves no equipment or weapons.

The basics of judo involve two individuals who use the forces of balance, power, and movement to subdue their opponent. From a standing position, this will involve techniques that allow you to move and throw opponents onto their backs.

On the ground, judo involves techniques such as various chokeholds, submissions, and joint locks in an attempt to pin your opponent to the ground and control them.

Although Judo and the basic rules of it seem simple, that is where the complexity lies. Mastery of the most basic judo techniques is often a process that takes a huge amount of time and commitment including training of both the mind and the body.

Judo is designed as a combat sport that is safe to practice and compete in. The word judo is derived from the Japanese language. The first Japanese character ‘ju’ stands for “gentle”, the second Japanese character in the word ‘do’ stands for “the way”.

By this you can infer that judo stands for the way of gentleness, although that description can be deceiving. Judo is a highly physically demanding sport to participate in.

Judo utilizes an individual's agility, speed, flexibility, strength, and balance and continuous judo training will allow a person to strengthen these attributes. In terms of mental workload, judo trains individuals to improve their reaction time, coordination, and overall self-confidence.

Judo students must rigorously train their mind and body in unison to produce the skills they desire. The ability to master any skill is one that is important for success in many different walks of life. Judo pushes its students to strive for mastery as well as to constantly improve their basic skills throughout their judo career.

Another important aspect to note about judo is the use of a uniform or judogi in competition. Individuals competing against each other in judo will grip the opponents uniform in order to gain the leverage needed to control, adjust, or takedown an opponent.

Some typical rules of judo include:

  • Intentionally harming an opponent is banned
  • One cannot punch or kick their opponent
  • You cannot touch the opponent’s face
  • Attacking the joints other than elbows is not allowed
  • Head dives are not permitted
  • Neither opponent can wear any hard object during competition

What is Jiu Jitsu?

Jiu jitsu originates from Japan and was developed for use on the field of battle by Japanese samurai, but its most famous roots lie in South America. In the early 1900s Japanese diplomat Mitsuyo Maeda began disseminating the martial art in South America and created what is now known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ.

Although Mitsuyo Maeda is credited with bringing the martial art form to South America, the Brazilian Gracie family brought what is now considered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu into prominence. When Mitsuyo Maeda traveled to Brazil as part of a Japanese immigration colony in 1914, he met a prominent businessman in Brazil.

This businessman was Gastao Gracie who helped Maeda establish himself in the new colony. In return, Maeda offered to teach Japanese jiu-jitsu to Carlos Gracie, Gastoa’s eldest son. Carlos eventually passed his knowledge of Japanese jiu-jitsu to his brothers.

The youngest of the infamous Gracie brothers was Helio Gracie who was defined for much of his early life as a weak and frail child. After moving in with his brother Carlos, Helio watched his brother’s teachings and at 16 Helio began teaching and training in jiu jitsu.

Helio, however, struggled to find the physical prowess to overpower his opponents, so he developed a new version of jiu jitsu that accommodated his weak body and focused on using leverage and timing over strength and speed.

This version of jiu jitsu is taught in most BJJ gyms and has gained traction as the most important fighting style to learn to compete in mixed martial arts at a high level.

The Gracie family holds such prominence in mixed martial arts that Helio’s son, Rorion Gracie, went on to create the UFC to identify the best martial art style for real hand to hand combat. Royce Gracie, Rorion’s younger brother, won the first ever UFC event in 1993.

Much like judo, jiu jitsu is a grappling-based martial art with the goal of controlling an opponent in a manner that forces submission. Control is generally easier to accomplish on the ground rather than standing, so much of the techniques in BJJ are centered around the art of taking an opponent to the ground.

Once an opponent is to the ground, BJJ fighters will look to accomplish dominant positions where the opponent is rendered harmless. The main theme of the sport, derived from the great Helio Gracie, is to overcome an opponent of greater size, aggression, and strength with lesser size and strength but greater technique.

Jiu jitsu has widely been considered a physical chess match because opponents continuously strive to maintain a dominant position while preventing their opponent from doing the same. This involves a depth of knowledge on weight control and how to respond to various positions from an opponent.

Some common rules in BJJ competitions are:

  • No slamming your opponent
  • No stalling unless you are in full mount or the back
  • Time limit to tie your belt
  • Cannot leave the mat to escape a submission
  • Countering a sweep is not a throw
  • Side control is not worth any points
  • Neck cranks are not allowed
  • Not all throws are legal (flying scissor throw, Supplex resulting in head trauma)
  • Tournament rules change based on age and skill level

two men competing in Jiu Jitsu on floor

Differences Between Judo and Jiu Jitsu

The main difference between judo and jiu jitsu is not found in their origins but in their evolution. Judo was created in Japan as a means of teaching martial arts to students without the risk of serious injury. Modern jiu jitsu, however, was created by the Gracie family to improve the fighting capability of martial artists.

Judo focuses mainly on takedowns and throws from a standing position. Although one aspect of judo is focused on ground techniques, termed na waza in Japanese, jiu jitsu’s main focus is to utilize takedowns to control an opponent on the ground.

The competitive aspect of both martial arts also varies greatly. Judo competitions are standardized across the world by the International Judo Federation. Jiu jitsu can have differing rules from tournament to tournament based on the organization promoting the competitions.

For example, some BJJ competitions are submission-only, and some have different weight classes. The goal of a judo bout is to score a point (ippon) or two half points (waza-aris) to win. In jiu jitsu a competitor can win by points or a submission which awards the submitting fighter an instant win.

Another key difference between judo and jiu jitsu outside of the competitive aspect is the rules for belt progression. Judo and BJJ do have similarities when it come to addressing progression in the martial art, the differences occur in the color and progression of higher ranked belts.

Similarities Between Judo and Jiu Jitsu

Both martial art forms are derived from traditional Japanese martial arts that were utilized for hundreds of years in battle. Judo’s focus throughout its evolution has been to highlight the mental and physical prowess needed to master certain skills and techniques.

Jiu jitsu focused on proving that a smaller and weaker opponent could win in hand-to-hand combat against someone bigger by utilizing the proper weight distribution, timing, and techniques needed to control an opponent.

Judo derives from the full form martial art jiu jitsu, but both martial arts emphasize throwing or taking an opponent to the ground and fighting for control. Both martial art forms have techniques for both standing combat and ground combat.

Although it is more common to see beginner fighters train BJJ or jump right into full mixed martial arts training, many of the techniques utilized in both judo and jiu jitsu are shared across the sports. Competitors borrow aspects of each other’s strengths to aid them in their own competitions.

Both judo and jiu jitsu utilize a gi as a competition uniform. Judo has much stricter specifications for what is allowed in a tournament than BJJ because judo techniques utilize hand holds on an opponent's gi.

 For this reason, the size, length and thickness on a Judo uniform, also known as a Judogi, must be uniform to provide both fighters with an equal throwing capability.

Overall, diving into the world of martial arts in any capacity will only help in strengthening an individual's body and mind. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s popularity has been on the rise with the explosion of professional MMA competitions leading to a plethora of jiu jitsu gyms all across the country and world.

Jiu jitsu is widely considered to be the best martial art form to begin training if you have aspirations of fighting in mixed martial arts. If you are not looking for competitions and are just looking to improve as a person, judo offers a martial art form with less risk of serious injury but the same level of physical demand.

As more celebrities, wealthy CEOs, and normal people alike begin discovering their potential through mixed martial arts and are discovering the differences and similarities of Judo vs Jiu Jitsu, the only question for you remains, “What are you waiting for?”

About the Author

founder of flow hold wearing hat

This article was written by Noah Oliver, Founder of Flow Hold.

You can learn more about him here.