What many people miss about jiu-jitsu is that there are two variations called Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (jujutsu). Are these two forms of jiu-jitsu similar? What is the main difference between BJJ and Japanese jiu-jitsu?
BJJ focuses more on positional and submission grappling. Most action occurs on the ground, where athletes battle for a position and try to submit each other with chokes and joint locks. It consists of various Judo and wrestling throws and takedowns, positions on the ground, and chokes and joints.
Japanese jiu-jitsu differs significantly from BJJ as it is a more versatile system that adds striking techniques on top of grappling and ground fighting. In contrast with BJJ, it focuses more on powerful throws and joint locks, and there is almost no competition as the entire emphasis is on self-defense.
Keep reading this article to learn more about how BJJ and jujutsu differ and find out which is better.
What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)?
BJJ is a grappling-based martial art that has origins in Judo. Back in the 1920s, the famous judoka, Matsuo Maeda, came to Brazil with a mission to spread the art of Judo in South America. His loyal students, brothers Carlos and Helio Gracie, would later use Judo as a base to create their own unique styles of fighting.
Their main idea was to create a system that would allow a physically small person to defeat a bigger and stronger attacker. They moved the emphasis of Judo from throws and pins to ground fighting and submission grappling.
Though BJJ has been around for a long time, it became globally popular with the rise of modern MMA, where it plays a key role.
What is Japanese jiu-jitsu?
Japanese jiu-jitsu is also known as “jujitsu,” with origins going back to 780 AD. It was designed and used by the Samurai warriors against armed or armored attackers. Though it also includes striking, the emphasis remains on the throws and fighting on the ground. Each move is designed to cause as much pain and damage as possible and even kill the attacker.
Jujutsu remains one of the most influential systems and a precursor to many martial arts such as:
- Brazilian jiu-jitsu
- Krav Maga
What Are the Main Differences Between Brazilian and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu?
Though similar in certain aspects, notably when it comes to throws, chokes, and joint locks, these two differ significantly in many other elements. Here is a detailed look at all the differences between Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu:
In the early days, BJJ stood for the best self-defense system on the planet. It remained the only system that allowed a physically small person to beat a stronger attacker for a long time. But over the years, the emphasis has moved toward competition and rules. As a result, training methods in most schools prepare you to follow strict rules, not how to fight in real life. Students rarely do any self-defense drills or advanced simulations.
Japanese jiu-jitsu differs significantly in this aspect as the entire focus is on self-defense. It is about preparing you for real combat and most scenarios you may face in real life. Apart from regular striking and grappling training, students do a lot of self-defense drills. They simulate real attacks, learn how to deal with basic weapons, and escape trouble in the most efficient way possible. Of course, there is competition, but it is far less important than in BJJ.
Objectives and Strategies
The main objective in BJJ is to quickly close the distance, secure a strong grip, and take the fight to the ground. Once the fight hits the ground, the key is to move in a dominant position from which you can apply dozens of different chokes and joint locks. People also call BJJ a “gentle art” or “human chess match” due to the importance of strategy and numerous variables.
Jujutsu athletes are more aggressive in their approach. The main goal is to eliminate the threat in the fastest and most efficient way possible. The initial task is to take down the opponent. Then, on the ground, the key is to finish them with one of many bone-breaking joint locks or choke them out.
Through it focuses “only” on grappling, BJJ is a complex martial art. It includes infinite variations and ways to gain an advantage or finish the fight. The key is to learn how to mix the following techniques and elements:
- Learn how to secure a strong grip on the feet
- Throw the opponent with judo trips, throws, and sweeps
- Apply powerful takedowns from wrestling
- Secure a dominant position (back mount, side control, full mount)
- Joint locks (kimura, armbar, knee bar, Americana)
- Chokes (D’arce, rear-naked choke, guillotine, bulldog)
Japanese jiu-jitsu shares a lot in common with BJJ techniques. This is notably true when it comes to throws and some types of chokes and joint locks. However, jujutsu is more about aggressive throws, joint manipulation, and strangulations. It also teaches you how to strike with kicks, punches, knees, and elbows.
In modern times, BJJ is one of the most popular martial arts and is still growing.
Japanese jiu-jitsu is also very popular, but it is not as accessible. The rapid rise of BJJ has suppressed jujutsu in some way in the global market.
BJJ has changed a lot over the years, and there are many different styles you can train in:
- Gi – is the most popular style of BJJ where students have to wear a Gi uniform. It differs from the traditional (Gracie Jitsu) because it is more oriented toward competition rather than the self-defense aspect.
- Gracie jiu-jitsu – is the original style of BJJ and focuses entirely on self-defense. There are no tournaments or competitions where students can test their skills, competing under the rules. It is all about preparing you for real combat and different situations you may face on the streets. However, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and traditional training are not as popular in modern times.
- No-Gi – as its name suggests, no-gi is a style where students do not wear a Gi uniform in training or competition. They train and compete wearing only a rash guard or a T-shirt and shorts. Due to the lack of Gi, the action in No-gi is much faster, emphasizing position control and submission wrestling.
Jujutsu has two styles:
- Traditional jujutsu – is a style that emphasizes self-defense training.
- Sport Jiu Jitsu (SJJ) – a competitive sport that prioritizes performances in a sport/tournament setting.
Belt Ranking System
The color belt ranking system in BJJ comes from Judo. It consists of eight different color belts, each with four stripes indicating the skill level within a belt. Each student must demonstrate a particular skill and proficiency level to progress from one belt to the other.
- White (beginner)Blue
- Red and black belt
- Red and white belt
- Red belt
The Japanese belt ranking system has more similarities with the karate belt order. However, remember that the number of belts and promotional criteria vary between schools.
In some schools, the beginner belt is white, while students start from a red belt in others. To progress through the ranks, each student has to demonstrate a high level of technique for that specific level. They also must be familiar with Japanese terminology and even understand the anatomy of the human body. The ranking is divided into 6 different Kyu ranks and 12 different dan ranks (black belts).
- White (or red in some schools) (6th Kyu)
- Yellow (5th Kyu)
- Orange (4th Kyu)
- Green (3rd Kyu)
- Blue (2nd Kyu)
- Brown (1st Kyu)
- Black (1st dan “Shodan”)
BJJ vs. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu: Pros and Cons
Here is a detailed look at the pros and cons of BJJ and jujutsu:
Here is a detailed look at the pros and cons of Japanese jiu-jitsu:
BJJ vs. Jujutsu – Rules of Competition
Competition is far more important in BJJ than in jujutsu. The Brazilian style includes a strong competition community and many high-profile tournaments. Here is a look at both BJJ and jujutsu rules:
BJJ Rules (IBJJF)
- Objective: establish positional control and submit the opponent
- Match duration (adults): The match’s length depends on the competitor’s belt level and age. White belts (5 minutes), blue belts (6 minutes), purple belts (7 minutes), brown belts (8 minutes), and black belts (10 minutes)
- Points: Takedown (2 points), sweep (2 points), knee on belly position (2 points), guard pass (3 points), mount and back mount (4 points), back control (4 points)
- How you can win: submission, stoppage, disqualification, referee decision, score, loss of consciousness
No-Gi BJJ Rules (ADCC)
- Match duration (World Championship): qualifying rounds (10 minutes), finals, absolute finals, and superfight (20 minutes)
- Points: knee on belly position (2 points), takedown (2 points), sweeps (2 points), guard pass (3 points), back mount with hooks (3 points), clean takedown (4 points), clean sweep (4 points)
- How you can win: submission, points, referee decision, disqualification
Japanese Jujutsu Rules (Sport Jiu Jitsu):
- Techniques: Grappling and light contact striking with kicks and punches
- Legal strikes: Punches and kicks to the upper and lower body areas. Striking the facial area is reserved only for adults, and as far as leg kicks are concerned, only the ones to the thigh are allowed.
- Match duration: each match includes 2 rounds, each being 2 minutes long. Once the fight goes to the ground, competitors have 30 seconds of grappling time to set up a submission before the referee stands them back up. In some organizations, black belt matches last 90 seconds (30 seconds of grappling time), while junior matches last 60 seconds (15s of grappling time).
- Levels of competition: Kyu belts (under the black belt), Juniors (under 16), black belts
- Points: Clean technique to the body (1 point), kick to the head (2 points), a half throw (2 points), full throw (3 points), submission by referee intervention (4 points).
Brazilian vs Japanese Jiu-Jitsu: Which One Is Better for MMA?
Still, the skills you develop in jujutsu and BJJ are the core of many crucial techniques in modern cage fighting.
Both these arts work well in MMA – Here’s why:
Matches well against other styles, especially striking
The reason is simple; it is much easier for a grappler to defend against strikes than the other way around. BJJ and Japanese jiu-jitsu is all about leverage, technique, balance, and coordination of the moves, and you can’t use sheer force to defend. As a result, developing a strong defense takes many years of practice. On the other side, learning how to block strikes and counter these attacks with grappling takes much less time.
Longer learning curve – is one of the key reasons why grapplers tend to rise faster in MMA than strikers. Upon switching to MMA, grapplers and strikers need to expand their weapon arsenal to cover all the elements of the sport. On average, it takes around 2 years for a grappler to develop a solid striking game or even less for some talented students. But on the other side, it takes at least five years for a striker to learn how to wrestle and defend against jiu-jitsu attacks on the ground.
Here, we really can’t decide what’s better. On the one hand, BJJ fits better within the rules of the sport and has an edge in positional grappling and submission. But on the other, Japanese jiu Jitsu is more versatile as it covers both striking and grappling.
Brazilian vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu – Which One is Better for Fitness?
Both of these martial arts share similar fitness benefits. Both styles activate and improve the same muscle groups. So regardless of which style you choose, you can expect to improve:
- Strength – training in jiu-jitsu is one of the best ways to build functional fitness. Battling for grip, throwing each other on the ground, and fighting for a position improves every single muscle group in your body.
- Endurance – Rolling on the ground with a partner similar to your physical size or bigger is as exhausting. Keeping your heart rate elevated for a certain period will boost your aerobic endurance despite being demanding.
- Balance and coordination – BJJ is one of the rare activities where you have to synchronize the upper and lower body movements and constantly use both sides of your body (bilateral movements). In the long run, this will improve your balance and help coordinate your movement much better.
- Flexibility – Jiu-Jitsu training makes you flexible and improves your range of motion. You need to work hard on opening up your hips and become flexible if you are serious about your training. Students can’t expect to perform well and execute techniques correctly without flexibility.
Brazilian vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu – Costs of Training
The costs of training are roughly the same. Here is a look at how much you need to spend to train in either both BJJ or Jujutsu. Remember, the exact figure depends on many factors, such as location.
Month/Annual Gym Fees
BJJ classes cost around $180 per month, and this price includes an unlimited number of classes. Membership or affiliate fees will cost you between $50 and $100. You may get a discount if you agree to sign a 12-month contract, but this varies between gyms. Some gyms also include yoga classes in the price.
Jujutsu classes, on the other side, are much cheaper and will cost you around $100 per month.
The Gi and Other Training Equipment
BJJ is much cheaper if you train in a no-gi style where you don’t need a uniform. But if you go for a gi style, you’ll spend between $100 (budget) and $200 (top-tier) for a uniform.
Jujutsu is more expensive. Besides the Gi, you’ll likely need gloves and basic weapons like a plastic knife and short/long staff, which may set you back about $300.
Seminars and Competitions
BJJ and jujutsu seminars cost between $50 and $200, and you may expect to pay the same price for some high-quality instructional videos.
Additionally, if you want to test your skills in competition, you will need to spend between $80 and $100 to enter the tournament.
BJJ vs. Jujutsu – Who Would Win in a Fight?
On paper, the concept of jujutsu is more in line with street fighting, and people trained in this style have the edge over BJJ athletes. But in reality, there are also so many street fighting scenarios where athletes trained in BJJ have the advantage. Winning depends on the individual set of skills rather than the style itself.
On one side, jujutsu is more oriented toward freestyle combat and street fighting. It trains you to strike, grapple, fight on the ground, and be explosive and aggressive in your approach. This gives you a significant advantage over BJJ fighters who prefer to be more strategic and patient in their approach and don’t know how to defend against strikes. However, the biggest downside of jujutsu is the lack of frequent sparring.
Here is where BJJ has an edge, as each class includes at least 30 minutes of sparring, which means that athletes trained in this style have superior reflexes and automatic reactions. This style is also more advanced when it comes to positions and ways of attacking, which might be a decisive factor against jujutsu.
BJJ or Jujutsu for Self-Defense?
Jujutsu is a much better option when it comes to self-defense. It is more versatile than BJJ and covers more scenarios you may face on the streets. The entire focus is on self-defense training and various attacking methods, which teach you about real combat’s physical and mental aspects.
BJJ is not a bad option by any means, and if you like it, you won’t make a mistake choosing it over the Japanese version. The only downside is the fact that modern practice does not put as much emphasis on self-defense. Still, you develop all the techniques, reflexes, and instincts in real combat.
Our verdict: Japanese jiu-jitsu is better for self-defense.
Brazilian vs. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu – Which One Is Harder to Learn?
Jujutsu and BJJ are among the hardest martial arts you can train in, much harder than most other styles. Which one is harder is based on many factors such as:
Number of Techniques
Both martial arts emphasize the same aspect: grappling and ground fighting. However, Japanese jiu-jitsu also includes striking, which increases the number of overall techniques.
Time to Earn a Black Belt
Earning a black belt in BJJ is challenging and is often a lifelong journey for most people. On average, it takes between 10 and 15 years of consistent training for a student with average talent to reach a black belt rank. Of course, some people may achieve this in less time, while others might need more. Achieving the same rank in jujutsu takes half the time, around 5 years on average.
Safer to Train In
BJJ injury rate stands at 9.2 injuries per 1000 exposures, which makes it safer than most other martial arts, including jujutsu. The main reason is quite simple: there is no striking. Full contact sparring, where students exchange hard punches and kicks, is the most common cause of joint, facial, and brain injuries in martial arts.
Brazilian or Japanese Jiu-Jitsu: Which One Is Better for You?
The better style depends on what you want to achieve with martial art training. The good thing is that you won’t make a mistake choosing any of the two since these styles complement one another to some degree. You can always switch from one to the other whenever you want to.
BJJ has a slight edge because it is more accessible. You will have a much easier time finding a good school with high-quality instructors no matter where you live.
Next, it is a much better option if you want to test your skills and challenge yourself in competition. There are plenty of low/mid/high-level tournaments where you can compete against people your size, age, and skill level.
Lastly, BJJ should be your choice if you want to switch to MMA at some point.
On the other side, if you want to enroll in martial arts to learn self-defense, then jujutsu should be your choice.