jiu jitsu vs judo

Judo vs Jiu Jitsu: The Differences Explained

Table of Contents


Judo and Jiu Jitsu are often mentioned together, and although they overlap in some techniques, they are distinct martial arts with unique philosophies, techniques, and rules. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of these two arts, answering questions like which is better for self-defense, and can you learn both?

Historical Background

The Birth of Judo

Judo’s roots can be traced back to traditional Japanese Jujutsu, a martial art developed for the Samurai warriors. However, the modern form of Judo was founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882. Kano was a young man captivated by martial arts, particularly Jujutsu. He studied under former Samurai and realized that the art needed to be adapted for broader acceptance, especially considering the changing political landscape in Japan at the time.

Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo

Kodokan Judo

Kano opened his martial art school called “Kodokan Judo,” aiming to distinguish his teachings from traditional Japanese Jujutsu. He adopted a scientific approach, focusing on maximum efficiency in human movement. This led to the development of a martial art that emphasized throws, pins, and joint locks, but in a way that could be practiced safely as a sport.

Global Recognition

Judo gained rapid popularity and was adopted by various institutions, including the navy and police. Kano’s influence reached international levels when he was invited as the first Asian representative to the Olympic Committee in 1909. By 1964, Judo had become an Olympic sport, debuting at the Tokyo games.

The Journey of Jiu Jitsu: From Samurai to the Gracie Family

Traditional Japanese Jujutsu

Like Judo, Jiu Jitsu also originated from traditional Japanese Jujutsu. This art was developed to train Samurai warriors in unarmed combat, focusing on throws, gouges, and locks effective against armored opponents.

The Meiji Restoration

The Meiji Restoration in 1870 ended the feudal system in Japan, leading to the decline of Samurai and traditional martial art schools. This period set the stage for the evolution of Jujutsu into Judo and, eventually, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Mitsuyo Maeda and the Gracie Family

Mitsuyo Maeda, a disciple of Jigoro Kano, brought Judo to Brazil in 1914. He met Gastao Gracie and introduced his son, Carlos Gracie, to the art. Carlos, along with his brothers Jorge, Helio, and Oswaldo, began training and soon started focusing on the ground fighting aspect of Judo known as “Newaza.” This led to the development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an art that emphasizes ground combat.

The Rise of BJJ

Over the years, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gained immense popularity, especially in the realm of mixed martial arts. The art has evolved to focus primarily on ground techniques, including various submissions and positional controls. The sport of BJJ has grown hugely over the past 20 years, to the point that you can find a BJJ school in almost every town and city in most parts of the world.

Robson & Carlson Gracie

BJJ’s Influence on MMA and the Rise of the UFC

The Gracie Revolution

The influence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) cannot be overstated. The Gracie family, particularly Royce Gracie, played a pivotal role in putting BJJ on the global map through their participation in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Royce Gracie’s victories in the first UFC events showcased the effectiveness of BJJ against various other martial arts, effectively revolutionizing the perception of ground fighting in combat sports.

Royce Gracie at the first UFC in 1993

A New Paradigm in Combat Sports

Before the advent of the UFC, the effectiveness of different martial arts was largely a matter of speculation. The UFC served as a proving ground where various fighting styles could be pitted against each other in a no-holds-barred environment. BJJ’s success in these early competitions demonstrated the art’s practicality and versatility, leading to a surge in its popularity and a shift in the training regimens of MMA fighters.

The modern fight game and BJJ popularity

In the modern MMA game it’s almost unthinkable for an MMA fighter to enter the cage without some level of proficiency in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The art’s techniques for takedowns, ground control, and submissions are considered fundamental skills for any serious competitor.

The effectiveness of BJJ in the UFC has not only elevated the art itself but has also contributed to the meteoric rise of MMA as a mainstream sport. The technical and strategic depth that BJJ brings to MMA has made the sport more engaging and accessible to fans, further boosting its popularity.

Core Philosophies

Judo emphasizes the concept of “gentle art,” focusing on throws, armlocks, and chokes. Jiu Jitsu, on the other hand, is more versatile, covering a range of techniques from standing to ground combat.

judo from olympics
Judo in the 2016 Summer Olympics
(Source: Wikicommons)

Techniques and Focus Areas

Judo: The Art of Throwing and Pinning

Standing Techniques

  • Throws: Judo places a heavy emphasis on various types of throws such as hip throws, hand throws, and leg throws. These techniques aim to unbalance the opponent and execute a controlled throw.
  • Grip Fighting: Known as “Kumi Kata,” grip fighting is crucial in Judo for establishing control before executing a throw.

Ground Techniques

  • Pins: Also known as “Osaekomi-waza,” these are techniques to hold down an opponent on their back.
  • Joint Locks: “Kansetsu-waza” are techniques that target the opponent’s joints, although these are limited in scope compared to Jiu Jitsu.
  • Chokes: “Shime-waza” are choking techniques applied to the neck area to submit the opponent.


  • Groundwork in Judo is limited to a certain time frame, usually around 30 seconds, after which the referee will stand both competitors up.

Jiu Jitsu: The Comprehensive Ground Game

Standing Techniques

  • Takedowns: While not as emphasized as in Judo, Jiu Jitsu does include various takedowns adapted from wrestling and Judo.
  • Clinch Work: The clinch is used to set up takedowns and control the opponent in a standing position.

Ground Techniques

  • Positional Control: Includes techniques to control dominant positions like the mount, back control, and side control.
  • Submissions: A wide variety of submissions are taught, including armlocks, leg locks, and chokes.
  • Guard Game: The guard is a unique aspect of Jiu Jitsu, where a practitioner can fight effectively from their back using various guard positions like closed guard, open guard, and half guard.


  • Jiu Jitsu is versatile in its approach to both standing and ground combat, although it leans heavily towards ground techniques.
BJJ Half Guard Position (Source:flickr)

Scoring Systems and Rules


  • Ippon: Instant win through a perfect throw, pin for 20 seconds, or submission.
  • Waza-ari: Points for less-than-perfect throws or pins for 10-19 seconds.
  • More in depth Judo ruleset explanation here.

Jiu Jitsu

  • Points are awarded for takedowns, sweeps, passing the guard, and achieving dominant positions.
  • Matches can also end via submission.
  • More in depth IBJJF ruleset explanation here.

Effectiveness in Real-World Scenarios

Both Judo and Jiu Jitsu are effective for self-defense and sport. Judo and Jiu Jitsu techniques are often used by law enforcement, while BJJ has proven its effectiveness in mixed martial arts competitions.

Police in NJ training Jiu Jitsu (Source: nj.com)

Can You Learn Both?

Yes, since both Judo and Jiu Jitsu share common ancestors, you can learn them simultaneously. However, mastering both would require a full-time training schedule. If your goal is self-defense, BJJ is the better choice. If you aim for Olympic participation, then Judo is your go-to.


While Judo and Jiu Jitsu share a common lineage and some techniques, they are distinct martial arts with their own sets of rules, philosophies, and areas of focus. Whether you’re interested in self-defense, sport, or both, understanding the differences between these two arts can help you make an informed decision on which to study or just try as a hobby.

See More

Ready to go train? To help prepare you, check out our guide on the difference between the Judo and BJJ Gi (or Kimono)


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