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Brazilian JJ Compared to Judo

I don’t want to start a pointless “which discipline is better” discussion, but I’m curious as to thoughts about comparisons between these two. I’m planning to take up one or the other once dojos open back up. From a distance, they both look similar; my understanding is that judo is more focused on take-downs, and that BJJ is more focused on grappling once both are on the ground. Can those with experience weigh in on other comparisons? Again, I’m not looking for which is “better” since I know it’s impossible to answer that question; I’m just interested in perspectives about the differences between the two, such as differing emphases, areas that might be prominent in one discipline but completely missing from the other, which is more time and energy consuming, etc. Thanks!

It really depends on the school and their focus. A competion focused BJJ OR Judo school is going to be different from one focused on self-defense or one for just a hobby. Judo can look like slamming a dude into pavement or pretending you are a turtle to save points in a comp, and both are Judo, just like how BJJ can look like getting a dominant position and locking in a nasty submission or flopping on your butt and scooting after a dude.

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I’ve trained both but only at clubs that are geared towards competition.

Both arts are usually trained in a way that optimizes win conditions. In judo you can win a match immediately by throwing someone flat on their back so many judoka train to win that way. Furthermore, judo has a lot of rules dictating the flow of the match, so any fighting on the ground can be stopped by a ref and the match would be restarted standing. So many judoka don’t train groundfighting seriously. In bjj you can only win by points when the time runs out, or win by submission before the time runs out. Winning by submission is ideal because even if your opponent has an insurmountable point lead, you could still defeat them by submission.

Both arts allow the same kinds of techniques, i.e. throws and submissions. Judo is generally more restricted, currently disallowing leg takedowns, leglocks, wristlocks, some shoulder joint locks (i.e. omoplata). In theory compression locks should be allowed but I’ve never seen anyone in judo teach them. To my knowledge, any legal choke in bjj is also legal in judo.

Curriculums can vary from club to club. Most bjj classes I’ve been follow the basic format of warm-up > drill takedowns, sweeps, guard passes, etc. > lesson that involves some starting position and develops a branching decision process to attack based on what your opponent does > spar. I haven’t trained at a Gracie Barra affiliate club before but I’m told they follow a very specific format / curriculum.

All the judo clubs I’ve trained at have focused on standing and throwing, like 80% of all class time. The club that I currently train at is also a bjj club, so anyone in judo that wants more practice on the ground just goes to bjj classes.


I’ve also trained both. And competed in both (at a VERY amature level)

The BJJ I trained was 99% on the ground and the take downs where sloppy and usefulness. In BJJ you both want to go to ground so the emphasis on where you land - not getting your opo down there. I feel that if any of my old training partners went to take down out side of the class - there would be issues.
In BJJ things where much more exact. No room of error. It was more of a science.

Judo - where I trained we had an ex masters (over 50/60) world champion, his son the ex European champion, all Irish champion, several British champions and then a whole host of other champions littered about. We had Olympic and Commonwealth medal holders drop in to take part in training. It was completion only. Including 30min minimum on the floor at each session. In fact the Tuesday session was 90% ground work. And the lads were good. Not great but good. And getting better. In the judo competition I took part in there were lots of BJJ guys that took art in order to get some experience. And most did not fair very well (partly due to ipon from pin). The throws as expected where excellent. Its always a bit fun to throw a person.

However there are also Judo clubs that do not compete. And these are very fluffy, non-contact sort of places. As I said - the club I was went to was ALL competition. In the year I was there all but 1 of the adults took part in a tournament.

If I were to advise you:
A good BJJ club will get you to 100% of your potential on the ground, and 5% on your feet.
A good judo club will get you 75% of your potential on the ground and 100% on your feet.


I think this is probably a decent assessment, but I think you’re over-rating Judo newaza and it is my opinion that the BJJ training distribution you speak of is a hallmark of a BAD BJJ club.

The general truth of this is a sad state of affairs for BJJ as a combative art.

@nealdog Despair not. The first question I’d ask you is “what do you want out of martial arts training?”

My experiences are not extensive, but I’ve gotten a good taste of a decent spectrum of Judo and BJJ. The first thing to remember is that both are sports and Judo is almost strictly trained as a sport, from what I understand. That means you’re taking into account the rule set of the competition as you train, just like any other sport. You don’t practice your kickboxing footwork to train for baseball, and you don’t practice parts of grappling and fighting that aren’t part of the sport in Judo. Similarly, you probably won’t spend much time training on holding mount or knee on belly to cook your opponent with pressure in a Judo class. That concept is part of violence 101, in my opinion, but it doesn’t show up in sport so why bother training it?

Judo can also be a kata (i.e. forms only, no opponent) sport. I know one person who is a black belt in judo, runs a small judo club, but is unable to actually throw people. She can, in theory, teach you to throw people, just don’t ask her to demonstrate it in live training. She’s done well in kata competition and is seemingly getting everything she wants out of the activity, so good for her.

There’s no kata-only BJJ that I’m aware of, but there are many, if not most, schools that focus on sport competition. This is where you probably should train if sport competition is your goal. You will not wast time learning stuff that kicks ass in real life but is not a good training investment for a sport competitor.

If you’re interested in learning how to whoop ass with your bare hands as expediently as possible, seek out a BJJ school that trains and drills on their feet, in addition to the ground. In my opinion what happens while you’re still on your feet is usually the most important part of any violent encounter, and if you’re good enough on your feet you won’t need to commit to the ground.

I’m lucky enough to have found a BJJ circle led by a guy who was a Judo black belt before he was a BJJ white belt. Starting rolls from anywhere but your feet is frowned upon unless it is a mat space or injury management issue. I train under one of his students, who is not a Judo black belt but can throw me like one, and is good enough on his feet to give judo purists problems. They’ve polished up their wrestling there too. A good indication your BJJ school is serious about controlling an encounter on the feet is how much time they spend on the feet. Do you have warm-up drills like shots across the mat, sprawls across the mat, judo footwork, etc? Do you train throws seriously and in the correct context of where they show up in a struggle and where they lead to when the throw is done? What about when the throw bombs out?

Another thing to remember is that Judo is a sport practiced in the gi. For nearly everyone except people who go to the beach to start fights, training in a gi is valuable for self defense. A good BJJ school is going to help you win those fights you start on the beach with throws and takedowns that do not require gi grips to work. Think more along the lines of wrestling takedowns.

In the gi, high level Judo guys can light you up in a way that’s really similar to high level strikers. You think you’re hanging in there until badonk-dadada-dang-whoosh, you’re going over and slamming into the mat and/or seeing stars. Why?

Because you’re a sucker and you just got set up. Train harder, next time.


It would be easier to compare Judo to BJJ 20 or more years ago. BJJ is no longer one thing. It used to be about self-defense first. Takedowns and clinching were essential skills. Helio Gracie sent his kids to train with Judo instructors. Carlson Gracie, in the 50s and 60s, trained with boxers. Rolls Gracie brought an American wrestler to Brazil to train his students. The Americana armlock is named after him. The triangle choke became a part of BJJ after one of Rolls students saw it in a Judo book. The Ezequiel choke (sode guruma jime) is named after a Brazilian Olympic judoka who used it against BJJ players he went to train with at Carlson’s gym in the late 80s.

The point being, BJJ was about efficiency and effectiveness and not just specific techniques under extremely controlled conditions (i.e., competition BJJ). So when Ezequiel Paraguessu started choking out some of the best BJJ practitioners in the world, they didn’t say it was a Judo move so they shouldn’t learn it; they saw it worked and that was all that mattered.

Competition BJJ is not about what works or what is effective but what works under very specific conditions. So just as Judo stopped emphasizing ground work, when it was originally supposed to be 50/50, competition BJJ has stopped emphasizing takedowns.

In a BJJ school that still trains self-defense, you will see clinching, striking (standing and on the ground) and takedowns as well as defense to all of those things.

In this period in the history of BJJ it is no longer about a comprehensive approach based upon self-defense. The Carlson Gracie team could compete in a BJJ comp one week, a no gi event the next week and then a Vale Tudo fight then next. In between who know how many fights some of them got into at the beach or at at a club.

Now, many schools are either sport oriented or self-defense oriented. I would argue that a school that is serious about self-defense but doesn’t reject sport BJJ since the sport aspect is the best way to develop the gross motor skills and essential movement patterns, as well as timing and sensitivity necessary, all while under pressure and with resistance, to master the art, is the best school to train at.

I should add that there is a difference between sport training and competition training. Sport training is a safe way to practice BJJ but still develop skills with resisting opponents of various skill levels and sizes. Competition training is like sport training that takes into account the rules and conditions of the competition (for example time limit, weight classes) and the various ways to win. You have some schools that are so entrenched in competition that training limits itself to what is allowed in competition (so maybe some leglocks are forbidden). Sport training just takes out striking and obviously things like biting and eye gouging.

The moral of the story is that BJJ has become more specific and polarized so it’s hard to compare it to Judo as if BJJ were one thing. You have schools that specialize in competition and schools that go the opposite way and focus on self-defense. And, within competition oriented schools you have specialists who emphasize a certain guard position, for example. BJJ was not supposed to be about being married to a certain position or move but about using what works at a given moment. But again, self-defense is not based on being in a controlled environment with set rules and a referee, in other words, there is a high degree of predictability in a competition vs a felonious assault.

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This cannot be emphasized enough. Transition from Judo to BJJ is usually an one way street.

A judoka with some BJJ training will be less at a disadvantage than on the ground that a BJJers with some judo training. Sure, you’ll be at a disadvantage but it won’t be a massive mismatch.

Sure, as a judoka you’ll be finished on the ground by higher BJJ belts, but a BJJ practicioner with some judo training will still get thrown in judo competitions by judo green belts.

And has been called ude garami for five decades before that. I’m sorry, as a judo bb (and a BJJ practicioner) I always get annoyed that Brazilians invented new names for already existing judo techniques.


I think you’ve gotten a lot of good perspectives already, but I’d like to add one more obvious thing.

Just show up and try a class at all of the viable options for you.

IF you are game to spar and they allow it on day 1, train with a senior student or instructor. It will be very clear when you’re dealing with a wizard both on your feet and on the ground, assuming you have no extensive training background you aren’t telling us about, like college wrestling. Even if you are very large and strong, a normal-sized healthy adult brown or black belt should be making you feel helpless in virtually any situation. If you can hold them down, it is a bad sign, IMO.

Of course, nobody owes you an ass-whooping either, so they may just be playing with you somehow. Letting you work, evaluating you, coming off an injury, who knows? Or they may not be very good. It is hard to know unless you see or feel it being demonstrated, which is why I like to train in a circle where everyone at the front can lead from the front.

There are no questions about ability. None. This is very clear when they put hands on you. IMO it matters little if they are a black belt in this or that if they can dominate an encounter in all phases.

Renzo Gracie and John Danaher’s book Mastering Jiu Jitsu includes the Japanese names for newaza. I’m not sure if everyone in his lineage does that, but Renzo is my BJJ great-great grand daddy and we learn a lot of the Japanese names too. The story of the term Americana is often told in the class when it is taught, and we’re reminded that it is so simple an American can do it.


It’s likely that Indians were doing that move before the Japanese. The ancient Greeks as well.

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I am more than fairly certain they found two Neanderthal skeletons wherein one had trapped the other in a textbook gogoplata.

Thanks. I’m actually looking for something that is practical for self-defense. I’m actually non-violent in my philosophical orientation to the world; starting trouble is the last thing you’ll see me do. So what I’m looking for is something to end violence quickly if someone leaves me no choice; not street fighting as a sport, but something that gives me the best chance of disabling or dazing my attacker long enough to get away, or, if that’s not feasible, controlling him until help can arrive. To be clear, I’m not saying that I’m looking for a non-violent discipline; I am peaceful, but if someone insists on being violent with me, all bets are off, and as far as I’m concerned they get what they get, and the blame for it is on them. I hope this clarifies what I’m looking for. Thanks again.

That’s my jam too. To be clear, what I train is still BJJ. We roll on the ground, A LOT. Almost all of us compete. Ground work is important, and when someone is a real handful, it is also how you reliably stop them without beating the ever-loving hell out of them. There’s a lot of other benefits to taking a fight all the way to the “end”, especially when you don’t have timers. That’s a whole other rabbit hole though.

Nobody dispute’s the effectiveness of an elbow to the face or a perfectly-timed hip-toss to slam someone violently into the pavement, but there is something to be said for ending a fight without anyone being hurt. You’re going to need some BJJ for that, and if the BJJ around you doesn’t produce people who are proficient with stand-up, train wrestling, Judo or a combination thereof. Boxing or Muay Thai doesn’t hurt, either.

When it comes to self-defense, there is stuff that works, and everything else. There’s stuff you can train at a high intensity safely, and stuff you can’t. You want to know when you’ve got good head-butt opportunities, for example, but it isn’t something you’re going to do full-force in training. Otherwise you’re sparring with an agreed-upon rule set, not unlike other forms of sparring.

Buyer beware with BJJ. Every school will probably tell you they teach self-defense. This is true, insomuch as banging around will make you better off than you were before. Curriculum may vary wildly, as can ability.

Good luck, and report back after the pandemic!

Those guys were just ripping off the more traditional methods that had existed long before them.


Really good thread, I love reading these.

Most of the answers you have received already are awesome and cover it all. I’ll just add my 2c for interest, as someone who trains mostly Judo now, some BJJ, and some mixed striking experience over the years. I train at a club that also offers BJJ classes and we have a number of players that are black belts in Judo and also in BJJ.

  • I have held my own with BJJ guys brown belt and below under BJJ rules, depending on the guy. Still get tapped though. I would credit this to my Judo newaza.

  • I have yet to see a primarily BJJ guy do anything except get dominated by a Judo guy who is orange/green belt or above under Judo rules.

  • BJJ guys often don’t have that ‘feel’ for balance, or good positions on the feet. They stand in bad places, put their feet in bad places. If you have to fight someone for real, on the feet is where you’ll likely be. Judo guys usually do enough newaza to know where not to be on the ground, but a good BJJ player will put you there anyway.

  • For self defence implications - big throws hurt on mats, and would break bones/concuss/kill you on concrete. Anyone who has planted somebody with an O Soto Gari knows what I mean. However like BJJ there is control - you have the ability to control both the force of the throw, and the fall of your opponent.

  • At my Judo Club, we have a roughly 50/50 focus on newaza and tachiwaza. Lots of our competitors win with waza-ari (half point) throws with smooth transitions to submissions or pins.This is both awesome and unusual for a Judo club, but has helped me learning BJJ.

  • There is a crazy amount of BJJ black magic that catches me unawares, often. The guys that only train BJJ naturally pick that up far quicker than I.

  • I’d say Judo is riskier. Guys get ACL injuries, bad ankle injuries, concussions are rare but they happen. BJJ for me is much more low impact.

  • Both Judo and BJJ have taught me some bad habits that make it much easier for someone to strike me. I still spar occasionally with old Muay Thai friends and I notice it a lot.

  • As above, the friends I have who train MMA are much better at mixing grappling and striking than I am, as you’d expect. I imagine this would have implications in a real event.

Here’s a thread I made about a year ago when I was trying to decide what martial art to pursue:

Most of the guys in this thread also replied to that. I should say a belated thanks to @loppar, I did return to Judo primarily after his advice in the end. Have been loving it. Good advice mate.

Just some ramblings.



Thank’s man, I really appreciate it!

I’m inclined to agree with this. There is a tremendous amount of variation in BJJ training; it is easy to get into stereotypes. Some BJJ schools - even if they are not competition-focused - teach takedowns and self-defense as part of the regular curriculum. We start almost every class with one or the other, and do takedown-only training every few weeks (away from tournament prep time to minimize injury).

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I’m gonna second this. O soto gari is one of the staple throws / trips in judo. Its taught 1st belt and if learnt along with ouchi gari well will cover 90% of forward facing attacks.

The issue is: even a bad BJJ schol will teach you enough to drag a person to the ground and tear them open.
A bad judo school will teach you nothing.

I’ve done MMA and held belts / grades in kick boxing, Wing Chun, bjj and judo. I’ve also had my fair share of “unpleseentness” having worked in bars and been a silly boy in the past. Sport Judo, as in guys that make you feel power less as they wipe the ceiling with your feet is where I’d hang my hat.
However if you find a BJJ school that takes throws or takes downs seriously - golden.

Thanks for raising this issue in this discussion. I’m one of those who earns a living through analytical skills (I’m a lawyer, a civil litigator), and if I lose that, my family and I would be in big trouble; there isn’t much of a market for punch-drunk lawyers. I’ve looked at boxing as a way to complement the grappling skills from Judo or BJJ, but I will be wary of sparring that involves repeated head shots.

You are the guy I was looking to avoid more than any when I bounced. The local cops gave me way, way more leeway than I ever took with violence. Not to say that they are corrupt or bad cops, they aren’t, they just wouldn’t have batted an eye had I put some local drunk jerk that everyone knows is a jerk in the hospital and “lost” the security tape.

I’m very proud to have never done that. I’ve banged a few guys up with throws, takedowns, and a few chokes, but nobody had life-altering injuries because they were drunk and dumb enough to want to fight the bouncer on any of my shifts. Just getting someone into a clinch, a rear clinch, up against a wall or putting them on their butt was usually enough to get the wheels turning towards a decision to walk out freely.

Part of achieving that is just being the biggest and strongest guy in the bar most nights. By the time I had a few years of jiu jitsu under my belt I felt more like a principal stopping the Jr. High boys from fighting in gym class, if the boys were grown men trying to punch you in the face.

The bar suffered no preventable losses due to my actions, I never had to go to court or jail and my area lawyers will have to find someone else to sue if they’re going to upgrade their ski boats this summer.

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