Judo vs Jiu Jitsu: Differentiating These Hand-to-Hand Combat Methods

Judo vs Jiu Jitsu: Differentiating These Hand-to-Hand Combat Methods

Many people are familiar with the concept of martial arts, but few of us understand the complexities and distinctions between the many types. Most people typically picture a room full of serious people in uniforms and belts, hitting blocks and making vaguely threatening noises. However each form of martial arts is characterized by unique movements and philosophies. One particular distinction of martial arts that many people fail to understand is Judo vs Jiu Jitsu.

These two sports have the same origin; in fact Judo is simply an offshoot of Jiu Jitsu that has developed into its own form. They both focus on using specialized techniques to defeat larger opponents, but they do so in slightly different ways. Judo is slightly more versatile, focusing on both ground techniques and feet movements, while Jiu Jitsu is primarily centered on ground fighting.

Judo vs Jiu Jitsu: The History

The history of Judo and Jiu Jitsu is complex and multicultural, spanning across a variety of cultures and purposes. Jiu Jitsu originated with Buddhist monks in India in its most basic form, but its more developed form has more direct roots in Japan, as Jiu-Jitsu was the combative art of the Japanese Samurai.

These warriors typically fought on horseback, but they developed the art of Jiu Jitsu to ensure that they were able to protect themselves on foot. This was a necessary development, as a warrior never knows when he might be disarmed or when his horse might be under attack.

Samurai warriors wore heavy armor to protect themselves from the weapons of their enemies, so the art of Jiu Jitsu was created with this physical restriction in mind. The basic movements of Jiu-Jitsu involve throwing, strangles and joint-locks, along with striking. Samurai were able to effectively use these movements despite the heavy, restrictive armor they typically wore to battle. When learning Jiu Jitsu, one can see how these origins shaped its movements and style.

Jiu Jitsu developed into a few distinct styles, or "ryu," by the mid-1800s. Each style has its own unique techniques and moves, but they all use the basic movements of hand to hand combat such as strikes, grappling, and disarms. One famous form of Jiu Jitsu is Judo, which is highly distinct from most other forms and has become one of the most practiced sports worldwide. A highly skilled practitioner of Jiu Jitsu, Jigoro Kano, developed this form based on "randori," which focuses on resisting skilled opponents.

The Gracies

In 1914, a highly skilled Jiu Jitsu fighter, Mitsuo Maedo, emigrated to Brazil along with a politician named George Gracie. To repay Gracie for helping him emigrate, Maeda agreed to instruct his son in the art of Jiu Jitsu. Carlos then taught his brothers Jiu Jitsu, which led them to eventually open the first Jiu Jitsu academy in Brazil. This was a pivotal moment for the art of Jiu Jitsu, as this was its first major introduction to Brazil and eventually the rest of South America.

The Gracies family and their protegees further developed their style through brutal combats that had essentially no rules, displaying their skills in public matches and on the streets. They worked to perfect the art of submission ground fighting, in which a man of smaller size can overtake and defend against a larger combatant.

Using the streets of Brazil as their arena, these Jiu Jitsu warriors refined their art while increasing the visibility and popularity of their skill. Those looking for a way to overcome their statue and feel empowered gravitated toward Jui Jitsu, finding it to be the perfect outlet.

In the 1970's, Rolls Gracie, known as the father of modern-day Jiu Jitsu, further developed the art by adding movements from wrestling into his repertoire. He also created a rule and point system to more accurately score competitions, making the sport more objective and easier to judge. Although the entire Gracie family is famous for their skill, Gracie is renowned as the best fighter of the family.

From Brazil to North America

In the early 1990's, Rorion Gracie decided to move to Los Angeles with the hope of bringing his family's fighting techniques to North America. He created an event called The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, to provide an arena for different martial arts to be practiced against each other.

This was an important decision for the history of Jiu Jitsu, as it caused the art to become more widely known around the world. The first competition was in 1993, and Rorian's younger brother Royce won the competition using the highly specialized movements his family had developed.

This success put Jui Jitsu on the map, showcasing worldwide the amazing techniques that allowed Royce to defeat so many larger opponents. In modern times, Jiu Jitsu is the fastest growing martial art in the world, and there are currently thousands of academies worldwide. From its humble, familial beginnings, it is now widely popular and has its own organization called the International Brazilian Jui-Jitsu Foundation. It has maintained its original values and movements but is also constantly developing new strategies and nuances.

Judo vs Jiu Jitsu: A Comparison

When comparing Judo vs Jiu Jitsu, it can be tempting to lump them into the same category, especially if you're not familiar with the intricacies of martial arts. However, upon closer inspection, the comparison of Judo vs Jiu Jitsu highlights many distinctions. The two basic forms of martial arts are grappling or striking, but many martial arts are a mixture of the two. Both Judo and Jiu Jitsu are focused on grappling, since they are meant for close combat in which fighters can grasp, throw or roll around with one's combatant.

When comparing Judo vs Jiu Jitsu, one finds that they have more in common than not, as they are both centered on bringing an opponent to the ground, which incorporates submissions and pinning moves. The key differences are mostly related to the point and rule system rather than the actual fighting techniques.

Winning in Judo vs Jiu Jitsu

One way to win a Judo match is to pin your combatant for a pre-determined period of time, typically in the ballpark of 25 seconds. Another way to take the victory is to throw one's opponent directly onto his or her back, full force. The third option for winning is to achieve submission, which involves an armlock or choke. While there are also more detailed penalties and nuances based on the referee, these are the basic ways to win a judo match.

In Jiu Jitsu, however, there are fewer options for winning a match. One way to come away with a victory is to achieve submission, which is still considered an armlock or choke as in Judo. However, one cannot win by throwing one's opponent or pinning one's opponent down for a set period of time.

Along with submission, a Jiu Jitsu fighter can win by gaining a certain amount of points based on criteria. There is also the possibility of the referee determining a winner, but most fighters focus more on working toward the more objective option of using the preset point rules.

Training in Judo vs Jiu Jitsu

Along with rules for winning a match, Judo vs Jiu Jitsu can be compared by how much fighters focus on ground fighting. In a Judo match, opponents have fifteen seconds of ground time to use a move or the match will begin again on the feet, which is very different from Jiu Jitsu, as Jiu Jitsu essentially begins on the ground.

Because a Judo match restarts so quickly, most Judo training programs focus about 75% on the feet to ensure that fighters are effective in a variety of situations. Many people have the misconception that Judo is solely focused on techniques that occur on the ground, but most training programs are truly a mixture.

Because the criteria for winning is so different in Judo vs Jiu Jitsu, the training techniques vary widely as well. Judo fighters typically focus much of their time and energy on perfecting the ability to throw an opponent on his or her back, since this is a surefire way to win. Jiu Jitsu, on the other hand, focuses much more on developing ground techniques. Judo fighting is more of a combination of ground and feet techniques, while Jiu Jitsu is almost solely focused on learning how to effectively bring one's opponent to submission.

Judo training has developed into a very detailed, subtle combination of techniques that allow fighters to effectively throw much larger men on their backs. It also consists of basic ground techniques; but throwing is a very important component. Jiu Jitsu, in contrast, has focused minimally on throws and puts most energy into defeating opponents with grappling techniques on the ground.

Many experts believe this to be the most important difference between the two, a seemingly small difference that nevertheless causes drastically distinct movements to occur in each sport.

Which One Should You Practice?

Taking all of this information into account, it can be difficult to decide which sport to practice for someone becoming acquainted with the two types. In reality, if you're interested in Judo and Jiu Jitsu, you will probably find both sports to be enjoyable and challenging in similar ways, so there is no wrong answer.

However, there are a few aspects to take into account if you find yourself torn in your decision and too busy to learn both sports. One reason that practitioners choose to pursue Jiu Jitsu is because they hate the thought of being thrown onto their backs. The training mats are often very thin, and being thrown onto your back can be both scary and painful, which is a strong deterrent for those considering Judo.

On the other hand, Judo is characterized by a mix of ground and standing techniques, so those who want to learn a wider variety of techniques are better off learning it in comparison to Jiu Jitsu. This could potentially be more helpful in a broader range of situations, as those skilled in fighting on the ground and on their feet will be able to defend themselves in any position. If a new student is truly at a loss while attempting to decide between the two, he or she should attempt a few classes of each to make a fully informed decision.


Both Judo and Jiu Jitsu are known to strengthen the minds and bodies of their practitioners, improving confidence and precision. Both give students an ability to problem solve, think and act quickly in crisis, and overcome adversity. They also help people to learn their limits and physical abilities, strengthening the connection between body and mind. Whether you choose to pursue Jiu Jitsu or Judo, you can be sure that learning your chosen martial art will provide intangible benefits to your mental state and overall life.

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