Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BJJ and judo...basically the same thing?

Most people who I come in casual contact with don't know that I train jiu jitsu. Yes, everyone who knows me well knows that I'm absolutely obsessed with it. But if you work at my elementary school or live on my street, you probably think I am a pretty regular lady. I walk my dogs, pay my taxes, go to work, and come across as pretty normal much of the time. All in all, I think I'm pretty easy to get along with.

But, every once in a while someone takes a closer look (This often happens on a hot day, when I am wearing some kind of sleeveless top). I do something after work, they assess. And then the questioning starts.

Take last week, for example. A teacher at my school took a good look at my shoulders and asked "Are you a swimmer?" I told her yes, I grew up swimming, but don't get in the water much anymore. "Oh," she said, still not satisfied. "Then what do you DO?"

I explain that I do Brazilian jiu jitsu. But that often leads to the followup questions.

- What is that?
- Like, UFC?

- Is that like Judo?

The last question is hardest for me to answer, because the answer depends so much on one's perspective. To the untrained eye, yes, judo and jiu jitsu are pretty much the same. At the tournament level, both sports involve take-downs, ground grappling, submissions, and pins/positional dominance. In fact, one of the new students at my BJJ school was just talking about watching judo in the Olympics and commented on how similar it looked to BJJ. And I agree - they look pretty similar.

The thing is, when you train for a while, you start to realize how different the sports are. And to lump them together diminishes the uniqueness and complexity of both martial arts. I am a fair weather friend  when it comes to judo, training it only when I am 100% healthy and when it doesn't conflict with my jiu jitsu. But I have a lot of respect for judo and know that it can be valuable cross training tool if I put enough time in.  Likewise, I know of judo folk who have taken to jiu jitsu to improve their ground game.

While many of the basic techniques of BJJ and judo are similar, the tournament scoring systems dictate the releative importance of take-downs and groundwork. And this is where the two martial arts are inversely related. I have heard it said that BJJ is 90% groundwork, 10% take-downs. Judo, on the other hand, is 10% ground work, 90% take-downs.

Some might argue these percentages, but jiu jitsu matches are often won without any take-downs at all. Conversely, judo matches are often won without any groundwork. I would not say that these percentages are 100% true across the board - different schools and individuals have different strengths and emphases. But this is what I observe to be a general trend.

I consulted a friend of mine, who trains both BJJ and judo, and asked him to describe the difference between the sports. "The big difference between Judo and BJJ is that Judo players, because they can instantly win a match with an ippon throw, focus on standing throwing, and BJJ players win with submissions, so they tend to focus on submissions from the ground," he explained. "Ultimately people get better at what they practice."

So that's the gist of it. There are other differences too. So, to break  it down for all the untrained eyes out there:

BJJ vs Judo

So there you have it. Brazilian jit jitsu is probably more like judo than any other marital art, but their emphases are fundamentally different. This is why I believe cross training between the two can be valuable, as long as it is not done at the expense of training one's primary sport.

Happy training!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Awesome article, but people, when please will you stop calling Judo throws "takedowns"? There are no "takedowns" in Judo, Judo throws are made in order to incapacitate an offender by throwing him onto the ground mostly. And IF he is still not finished, you can proceed to submit him. BJJ is different, there it's really takedowns that you have. Bring him to the ground in order to submit him there.

  2. Hello Madam,
    I am a 21 year old girl and want to take up a martial art primarily for self-defence and also to build stamina, strength and for fitness. There are two options in my area .. judo and taekwondo-karate. Which would you suggest I begin with (considering I have no prior experience in any martial art)?

  3. You make it looks like jodo has no groundwork, in fact almost every ground technique in bjj is learned in judo too. Not the same about bjjs takedowns that actually consists in put your body over the oponents body or pull his legs. poor. * I am brazilian