Top 10 Differences Between BJJ and Judo

After 30 years of doing anything – or anyone – continuously, one might find themselves at a crossroads, perhaps feeling that change is in order.  Some call this a mid-life crisis and as a result may get married, divorced, re-married, divorced again, commit a crime spree or just buy a white sports car.  At 45 years of age, I’d done most of the above.

But my case was different.  The crisis I was experiencing was a ‘Martial Arts Mid Life Crisis.’  Yes, 30 years of doing any martial art – Judo in this case – can do that to you. 

So I strayed and left my first martial art love for something new – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). 

Why BJJ?  I suppose the seed had been planted back in 1993 after witnessing my first UFC.  Watching Royce Gracie choke and armlock his way to victory using techniques familiar to and practiced by Judoka everywhere, but with funky names like the Kimura, Guard and Triangle Choke. 

Other reasons for choosing BJJ were to test my Judo skills against this fairly new art – 95% of which takes place on the ground – and to better learn how to fight off my back.

So, I joined a BJJ Club.  What follows are some first hand observations and noted differences between these 2 related, yet different, martial arts:

1. Lineage: Judo was developed in Japan by Jigoro Kano in the late 1800’s, a variation of Jujitsu.    As its namesake implies, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) was developed and modified in Brazil by the Gracie brothers after having being taught Judo.
2. Uniform: Judoka wear heavy weave Gi’s (kimonos) tied by a belt and with no undergarments (save underwear – hopefully); BJJ practitioners tend to wear a single weave and much lighter Gi that is tied by a belt.  They also tend to wear funky form fitting and shiny undergarments called rash guards that can be worn under the Gi.  For lack of a better term, they’re cool. Furthermore, BJJ practitioners adorn and accessorize their Gi’s with color-coordinated patches and logos, usually representing clubs, affiliations and/or both.  Lastly, BJJ can be practised with a Gi or no Gi; a big plus for those interested in MMA and Self-Defense.
3. Fighting Styles: Traditional Judo clubs focus on throws and takedowns which are scored accordingly in shiai (tournaments).  For example, a perfect throw, one that demonstrates control, power and impetus can score a perfect point, the equivalent of a knockout punch.  A perfect throw (Ippon) is the ultimate goal of most Judoka.  One can also win on the ground via a submission (choke, arm lock) and/or hold down.  Most Judo Clubs will focus 70-80 percent (or more) of their training on throws with the balance on ground work.  Conversely, BJJ practitioners spend about 80-90 percent (or more) on the ground.  Throws and takedowns are secondary and are scored as such.  The ultimate goal in BJJ competition is a submission.
4. Tempo: For advanced BJJ competitors – blue to black belt – matches can run from 6 to 10 minutes with the majority of the contest taking placing on the ground/grappling.  The average Judo match – for advanced and beginners – runs 5 minutes, with the majority of the contest taking place standing up.  Unlike BJJ, if a Judo contest does go to the ground, fighters are given very little time to work a hold down or submission and if there is no immediate progression, fighters are quickly brought back to the standing position.  As well, a lull in action from either fighter results in penalties. As a result of shorter matches and penalties for inactivity, Judo fights tend to be faster paced and more frenetic. BJJ fights tend to have a slower tempo as fighters work on the ground to gain position, control and eventually, submissions.  Extended durations may also result in a slower and more deliberate pace during BJJ matches, in large part to conserve energy and to set an opponent up for a submission.
5. Terminology: Steeped in Japanese tradition, Judo throws and techniques have Japanese origins and names.  For example, the fireman’s carry (a common wrestling takedown) is known as ‘kata-guruma’ in Judo.  Another common wrestling takedown – the double leg takedown – is known as ‘morote-gari’ in Judo. The rear naked choke is known as ‘hadaka jime.’  BJJ, on the other hand, has exotic and descriptive names that roll off the tongue and pique the imagination.  For example, ‘peruvian neck tie,’ ‘omoplata,’ ‘nonoplata,’ ‘gogoplata’ and more. Other techniques have been anglicized and named so that the average person can easily visualize them, even those with no martial arts background.  For example, the ‘guillotine choke,’ ‘clock choke,’ ‘collar choke,’ ‘spin around armbar,’ ‘guard to arm lock no gi.’ These terms, for lack of a better term, just sound cool. 
6. Belt Gradings: Judoka begin at white belt and from there, progress to yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and eventually black belt.  At each level, students are required to know a certain number of throws, hold downs, chokes, and arm locks to advance.  For black belt, it is necessary to perform ‘kata’ which are also known as forms.  Prior to being eligible for a black belt and performing ‘kata,’ a Judoka must first  compete and accumulate a certain amount of  points by entering tournaments and winning fights.  Depending on how they win and the rank of the person(s) they beat, they are awarded points.  The process is very formal. An enthusiastic Judoka that practices 3-4 times per week and that competes should be able to attain their first degree black belt within 4-5 years.  Like Judo, BJJ uses a belt grading system, but that is where the similarity ends.  BJJ practitioners start as white belts and progress to blue, purple, brown and black belt.  After attaining each belt, stripes may also be awarded to signify progress and levels of competence.  Rather than forms, belt gradings are informal and conservative in nature: belts are awarded at the instructor’s discretion and seem to be heavily influenced by attendance, progress and time spent on the mat.  That said, a BJJ practitioner may remain at the same belt level for years at a time.  An enthusiastic and avid BJJ practitioner should be able to attain their black belt within 8-9 years.  An exceptional student, perhaps sooner.
7. Honorifics: Seniority and respect play a large role in Judo.  Senior students and/or instructors are referred to as ‘Sempai’ and are the equivalent of mentors while ‘Kohai’ are the equivalent of  trainees.  In Judo, the term ‘Sensei’ is usually reserved for 3rd degree black belts and up, but may be used by colored belts when addressing any black belt.  The term is used in reference to those that have achieved a certain level of mastery and maturity.  In BJJ, the equivalent of Sensei is Professor and is only used when addressing black belts.   The term ‘professor’ has a scholarly overtone and again, is one that the average person can easily identify with. 
8. Profit vs Non-Profit: As a rule, Judo Clubs are run as non-profit and can often be found in community center’s and/or rented out spaces.  It’s rare to find a Judo Club as a standalone storefront/entity.  Unlike Judo, BJJ is for profit and charges accordingly; charging what Judo clubs ought to be charging.
9. Conduct: Judo tends to be formal in its on-the-mat interactions.  For example, it is proper etiquette to bow before entering and after leaving the dojo mat area.  It is also proper etiquette to bow to your partner before and after a randori (freestyle practice or sparring) and/or ne-waza (ground work/grappling) practice session.  BJJ clubs are less formal and as a rule, emphasize camaraderie more so than formality.  For example, prior to and following a practice session (rolling), participants will shake or slap hands.  Should one partner submit the other during a rolling session, they will break and shake or slap hands.  At the end of the BJJ class, everyone is acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts with hand shakes, hand slaps and partial hugs.
Note: this is the behavior demonstrated at the BJJ club that yours truly belongs to and, as a result, can not be verified as common practice among all BJJ clubs.
10. Perception: Although an Olympic sport, practiced world-wide and over 100 years old, Judo has an image problem.  In general, the Judo community has no idea how to market itself.  Rather than embracing a resurgence in Martial Arts vis-a-vis MMA and the UFC, Judo seems to have turned a blind eye to the opportunity, preferring to suffer in silence.   Sadly, if Judo were an animal, it would be on the endangered species list.  On the other hand, BJJ is flourishing. It is marketed as a form of self-defense and a staple to any serious mixed-martial artists game.  No doubt helped in large part by the UFC, Royce Gracie’s MMA legacy and the continued success of BJJ practitioners in mixed martial arts.

In essence, both Judo and BJJ are great sports/martial arts and forms of self-defense that have a lot to offer both purists and mixed martial artists alike.  Now, if Judo can learn from the BJJ brain trust, it just may have a fighting chance of surviving the coming decades.  In the meantime, I’ve temporarily traded in my Judo black belt for a BJJ white belt and am enjoying every minute of it.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) – Toronto, Acton, Ajax, Aurora, Barrie, Belleville, Bolton, Bowmanville, Bradford, Brampton, Brantford, Brockville, Burlington, Cambridge, Chatham, Cornwall, Elliot Lake, Etobicoke, Georgetown, Guelph, Halton, Hamilton, Kanata, Kingston, Kitchener, Lindsay, Leamington, Listowel, London, Markham, Midland, Milton, Mississauga,  Newmarket, Niagara Falls, North Bay, North York, Oakville, Orangeville, Orillia, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Peel Region, Peterborough, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Sarnia, Scarborough, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Thomas, St. Catharines, Stratford, Sudbury, Thornhill, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Toronto, Trenton, Vaughan, Waterloo, Welland, Windsor, Woodbridge, Woodstock, York, York Region Ontario Canada


11 Responses to “Top 10 Differences Between BJJ and Judo”

  1. […] Top 10 Differences Between BJJ and Judo by Martial Arts Club Blog […]

  2. admin says:

    Only if the martial arts schools segregate them 😉

  3. Mike says:

    You are leaving out one HUGE difference.
    Judo, being an Olympic sport is governed strictly and therefore you are guaranteed a certain level of knowledge from an instructor. Not a direct comparison of the arts… just the governing bodies. A judo club in Ontario cannot issue a black belt, instead a panel for Ontario will do so. This means if you have a black belt… you’ve earned it. With bjj and many other martial arts (again not an art comparison) you do not have that governing body and the arts and qualifications have been watered down over the years. Not that there aren’t good instructors out there… but they are few and far between but most will always say their instructor is great. But those people don’t know because they haven’t had a great instructor. The average parent or hobbyist probably doesn’t have the education or experience to judge if the instructor is the real deal or not. Trophy’s do NOT show qualifications in a non Olympic governed sport because any club can hold a “National tournament” which may only show one opponent.
    I would recommend if you don’t have that education or experience to put your child into Judo. Remember the techniques are the same only the training exercises may differ.

  4. Darius says:

    Excellent post. I thought all of your points were valid, fair, and cleanly articulated.

  5. admin says:

    Thank you for your comment!

  6. Iwannabea... says:

    Awesome side-by-side. Thanks. Really helpful.
    I still want to know the main differences in techniques, as in, are there any techniques in BJJ that are uniquely BJJ? Sounds to me like the manner of training, marketing, and the emphasis are the the dividing factors (e.g., BJJ places more ne-waza than nage-waza, randori vs kata, etc) and less formality. Are there any BJJ techniques that are uniquely BJJ? Gogoplata is Kagato-Jime and Omoplata is Ashi-garami/sankaku-garami/ude-garami ,etc, etc.
    “BJJ can be practiced with a Gi or no Gi” You can do the same with Judo, informally. But to say that BJJ have always taught no Gi techniques – that is only a recent phenomenon when practitioners evolved to fight opponents that didn’t wear the Gi. Unfortunately, it sounds like Judo is not receptive to this because it wasn’t part of the curriculum before Kano died. I think had this been an issue when Kano was alive, being that he is very responsive to innovation, he would’ve included a no-Gi curriculum and differentiated between the focus on the Martial Art and the sport. Unfortunately, during Kano’s time, the Martial Art (being associated with war and killing) was losing its appeal and he had to re-package it as a sport to compete with boxing, fencing, and wrestling, and other popular Western sport at that time. As can be seen in his insistence with Kosen Judo practitioners to do more throwing than grappling. Unlike BJJ whose founders are still alive and can approve of recent changes to the curriculum (gogoplata, kimura, no-Gi, etc), Kodokan and Kosen Judo do not have that same flexibility any longer. And because the disciples are so set on tradition and keeping Kano’s “legacy” and the rules of the sport, it is close to impossible to add modifications to Judo. It is like telling the WBF that boxing is ineffective against real fighting and they should add grappling to be more effective. The focus has been on the rules of the game, instead of the effectiveness of The Way. Unfortunately, “The Way” became “The Game.”
    Speaking of Kosen Judo, will this then be a more equivalent or appropriate comparison of BJJ? I think yes and no. Yes because of its focus on submission grappling. No because just like the other Judo, they are still set on traditions and katas. Prove during randori and competitions that you deserve the next grade level (color belt), not because you memorized a move. That is why black belts in Judo are beaten by blue belts in BJJ. Some Judokas receive their blackbelts because they memorized the terminology and the katas – wooptidoo. Mike (in the above post) states that “if you have a black belt… you’ve earned it. With bjj … you do not have that governing body and … have been watered down.” I say this: I see more and more low ranking BJJ defeat black belt Judokas. So in BJJ, to quote Joe Rogan: “A black belt in BJJ is a black belt in BJJ.”
    So going back to my original question: Are there any original BJJ moves??? If not, sounds to me like Kodokan Judo or the main governing bodies (I don’t know since I am not a Judoka – I’m just a wannabe) need to decide to draw a line between “The Sport” and “The Way” in order to retrieve their dominance. Yes, dominance! Kano’s jujutsu dominated Gracies’ jiu-jitsu before the decision to re-focus on throwing, points, and sport Judo (note Maeda and Kimura). If all of BJJ’s moves are the same as Judo but are more effective, the Judo gods just need to reformat the training to focus on defeating the enemy, and not tripping the enemy. They can still keep the throwing contests, but they should also have competitions to test ALL of the skills of the Judokas by emphasizing victory by submissions or knock-outs. They should practice and incorporate no-Gi training. They should eliminate the requirement for memorizing Japanese terminology in favor of native vernacular (“shin choke” vs “Kagato-jime”, “fireman’s throw” vs “morote-gari” etc.). Katas should be eliminated as a requirement for promotion (knowledge of katas can be demonstrated through actual randori or shiai – katas can be preserved through books and videos, and maybe a requirement for higher dan grades). Atemi-waza should be introduced early (not exclusively to 3rd Dans and above) and incorporated in every technique, including defense from strikes while attempting Judo techniques. Victory against the opponent should be taught first, not last.
    If I was a Judo Nth Dan, and have a voice in Judo decision-making, I would definitely endeavor to incorporate the avove-stated adjustments and apply these changes to my school. But I’m sure the conservatives would say no and I would end up being called a heretic and be forced to start my own school much like Kano ended up doing when he incorporated some of his own changes to the curriculum.
    Anyway, sounds to me like BJJ founders simply eliminated the useless and harnessed the useful. Sounds like they wanted to apply the “Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort”, which funny enough, was Jigoro Kano’s motto. Well, at least the BJJ founders listened to Kano’s philosophy.
    In the end, the BJJ founders will slowly die-off, and the disciples will be stuck to the curriculum and the traditions introduced by the founders, and they will in-turn become purists who will not be receptive to change (“But…that’s not how the masters did it”). Then, another group of people will find that submission grappling alone is not the answer, and that throwing someone to the ground (not the mat) has higher merit than previously thought, and that boxing-style strikes are more effective than karate chops, and that kicks are really effective and leg flexibility pays off, and they will put it all together to create a more superior martial art, and call it — OBAMArtial Art!

  7. Ivan says:

    My biggest problem with BJJ is that it become SO commercial that it simply not affordable anymore. Don’t know what is the situation in other countries and Brazil but here in UK it simple got out of hand.

  8. admin says:

    I agree. In general, Judo clubs tend to be non-profit and quite affordable; many of which are run in Community Centers.
    Bjj Clubs are for-profit and tend to be more business-like in their approach – they’re brilliant marketers.

  9. Roly says:

    Yes, judo is beautiful and throwing is beautiful.
    Judo has kuzushi!
    And when you thorw someone, you have the dominant position.
    However, judoka can benefit from training in BJJ to hone their newaza skills, and BJJers could do with training in judo to polish their throwing skills.

  10. Randori – the Philosophy and the Practice…


  11. Mike says:

    Iwannabea… why would judo need to change or adjust to be more “effective”?
    Keep in mind in basic karate strikes to the groin are a common technique, BUT they are clearly not allowed in contests… does that mean it is NOT karate? Judo has many techniques that are not used in competitions for the safety of those participating. All of the BJJ techniques are judo techniques, just not necessarily used in contest. These systems although they are fighting techniques are also sports, really why would Judo-an olympic sport known through out the world need to change? The only reasons it would need to change would be to take advantage of a media hype for a financial gain. Judo IS a sport… they don’t want to be MMA.
    As for stating many BJJ are beating Judo players.. I could easily say the opposite. Keep in mind that Joe Rogan is speaking about very reputable fighters, not the average BJJ school down the street. There are good instructors out there but without the governing body to enforce a structure then it’s rolling the dice for most people who are looking for training.

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