What is the Difference Between Judo and BJJ?

Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be categorized as “grappling” martial arts.  On a very simplistic level, it is possible to categorize martial arts into either grappling or striking arts, or some combination of both.  Judo and BJJ both focus far more heavily on close range combat- close enough to grab and throw or roll around with one’s opponent.

So… what’s the difference between these two martial arts?  What makes judo and BJJ so different, and how are the two arts similar?

Both arts have far more similarities than differences.  They both encompass taking the fight to the ground.  Both include pinning techniques and submissions from both the top and bottom.  The differences arise far more from the respective rules of the sports of each art.

Here are some key differences, largely based on what the sports dictate for each art.

The ways to win a match in judo are as follows:

  • Throwing your opponent to his or her back, with force
  • Pinning your opponent for a pre-set period of time (25 seconds = ippon, or complete victory in Japanese)
  • Submission (armlock or choke)

There are also penalties and referee’s decisions, but the above three are typically stated as the goals in sport judo, in order of the frequency by which matches are won.

In sport BJJ, the ways to win are:

  • Submission
  • Points

Once again, there is the possibility of the referee deciding a winner, or a disqualification, but few competitors train to win in such a manner.  There are also “advantages” (tie-breakers) which often decide the winner in BJJ, but they are typically based on the previously listed criteria.

Just for fun, here’s a video of our judo instructor, Kevin Santi, throwing me around like a rag doll:

But if you can win by submission in judo, why not focus more energy on the ground game?  A typical judo club or program will focus about 75% on the feet (some far less than this).  Why?

The answer is simple, and once again dictated by the rules of the sport.  In judo, you have about 15 seconds on the ground to make something happen, or the match will restart on the feet.  Contrast this with sport BJJ, where the fight essentially begins on the ground.

In order to understand what is different about judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it is important to understand the differences in the sport applications.  If your main goal is to throw someone to the ground, you can bet that you’re going to spend the lion’s share of your training time developing a sophisticated, high percentage approach to doing just that.  On the other hand, if your main goal is the submission on the ground, it is reasonable to assume that most of one’s time and energy would be spent researching what happens on the ground.

This is precisely what has happened over the last century or so.  Sport judo has developed into an incredibly sophisticated, subtle, effective throwing art, with some relatively basic ground techniques.  Sport BJJ, on the other hand, has moved away from its sophisticated focus on the throws, in the interest on developing what happens on the ground.  As a result, we have two unique martial arts, with incredibly complex throws on the feet in judo, and equally complicated ground techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


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