What’s the Difference Between Judo and Jiu Jitsu?

To the untrained eye, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo may seem identical.  They are both, after all, grappling arts.  But what makes them different?  And which form of combat is the best for self defense?  Read on to find out.

What’s the Difference Between Judo and Jiu Jitsu?

The primary difference between BJJ and judo are as follows:

  • Judo focuses more on throwing techniques rather than ground work 
  • Brazilian jiu jitsu focuses more on groundwork with less throwing or takedown techniques

However, the differences run deeper than that.  Let’s look into some more of the differences between BJJ and judo beyond style. 

We will take a more detailed look at each art form and what makes them unique and independent of each other.

The History of Judo 

The origins of both BJJ and judo can be found in traditional Japanese jujitsu (or jujutsu).  It is tightly linked with the Samurai, and jujutsu roughly translates to “gentle art”, and its purpose was to train Samurai warriors to fight without weapons.   

Since the Samurai wore armor, jujutsu was throw-focused, and it also included locks and throwing gouges, which were effective against armored opponents.

This traditional Japanese martial art was repopularized by Jigoro Kano, who developed his own style of jujutsu by studying former Samurais.  He opened a martial arts school in 1882 known as Kodokan Judo. 

He used this name rather than jujutsu in order to distinguish his style of teaching from the more traditional form of martial art.

Jigoro Kano utilized a scientific method to maximize the efficiency of the body’s movements. 

This is where judo comes from.  Kano ended up being exceptionally influential in spreading this new style of martial arts.  

The History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 

Despite the fact that Jigoro Kano travelled extensively, it was a judo practitioner called Mitsuyo Maeda who took judo to Brazil. 

He started an academy in Brazil in 1914, where he met Gastao Gracie.

Gracie introduced his son, Carlos to judo, and in time, Carlos began training with his brothers Oswaldo, Helio, and Jorge. 

After some time, the Gracie brothers began to shift their focus to the ground fighting part of judo, that was called newaza. 

This is what gave way to the invention of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  

What Makes BJJ and Judo Different?

What Makes BJJ and Judo Different?

The reason why BJJ and judo are so similar is because they come from the same origin.  Thus, they are intertwined fundamentally.

Some of the biggest differences lie in the techniques, the rules, the grading systems, and the gear.  Let’s discuss this in more detail.


Some techniques involved in BJJ and judo are similar, such as throws, chokes, and joint locks. 

The main differences in terms of techniques lie in the way that they are executed, and the type of stress that these techniques place on the body.

Judo is more throw-focused, while BJJ is more submission-focused.  The main strategy in the sport of judo is throwing the opponent in order to win. 

In judo, athletes can get a tight grip on the opponent, and they can trip or throw them off balance.  There is some ground fighting in judo, but this is by no means the main focus.  

In judo, if the fighters end up on the ground, they have 30 seconds to grapple on the ground and try to either pin or submit their opponent.  After this, the round restarts back on their feet. 

BJJ, on the other hand, focuses almost entirely on the ground work, so the main techniques involve submissions and escapes.

In tournaments, rounds start on the competitors’ feet, but the vast majority of the fight occurs on the ground.

The goal of BJJ is to control and dominate the opponent while defending oneself.  


The rule set of each sport differ from each other significantly.  Judo rules typically focus on the fight on food, whereas BJJ’s rules focus on ground work.

In judo, a fighter can win by “ippon” which means throwing the opponent with force, so they land on their back, submitting your opponent, or pinning them down for 20 seconds.

The fighters can also score points through a system named waza-ari.  To score points, one must throw their opponent or pin them down temporarily.  

The types of grips in judo are regulated.  For example, a competitor cannot grab their opponent’s legs while standing. 

In BJJ, on the other hand, the main goal of a match is to win by submitting your opponent. 

There is, however, a point system.  These points are awarded accordingly:

  • 2 points for a takedown
  • 2 points for a sweep
  • 3 points for passing guard 
  • 4 points for back control
  • 2 points for getting a knee mount position
  • 4 points for full mount control 

If there does not end up being a submission, victory is awarded based on points scored. Compared to judo, BJJ involves far more varied submission techniques.  

Belts and Grading Systems

The grading system differs between the two art forms also.  In fact, the belt system for judo varies depending on geographical location.

Typically, there are 7 belts in total that can be awarded in judo.  These are white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black. 

Although similar, the belt progression of BJJ is different and consists of fewer belts. 

BJJ belts go from white to blue, purple, brown, and then black.  Interestingly, there are age requirements for each of the belts in BJJ. 

It takes a lot longer to become a black belt in BJJ than in judo, because of the slow progression and age requirements. 


Although they share the same origin in traditional Japanese martial arts, judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu are very different forms of art. 

As illustrated in this article, they are both grappling arts, yet the main focus of each is fundamentally different. 

BJJ focuses almost exclusively on ground work, whereas the primary focus of judo is on throwing.

Christopher Anderson
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