In martial arts, especially when focusing on grappling techniques, the debate of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often comes up. It’s a common misconception to regard them as identical, but they actually differ a lot from each other.

I tried both Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and found them both interesting in their own way. Here is what I learned:

Jiu-Jitsu Vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (JJJ)
OriginEvolved from Judo in BrazilOriginated in Japan among the Samurai
FocusGround fighting and grapplingIncludes strikes, throws, joint locks, and disarming techniques
TechniquesJoint locks, chokes, submissions, grapplingStrikes, throws, joint manipulations, disarming techniques, and some ground fighting
StrikingDoes not include strikingIncorporates various striking techniques
Martial Art InfluenceInfluenced by Judo and the teachings of Mitsuyo MaedaOne of the oldest Japanese martial arts, influenced many other martial arts including Judo
Belt SystemWhite, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black, with variations like Red BeltVaries by school, but usually has a colored belt system similar to other traditional martial arts
Popularity in Modern MMAWidely used and recognized in MMA competitionsLess commonly seen in modern MMA
Self-defense ApplicationEmphasizes real-world applicability, especially in ground scenariosLess emphasis on sparring, and more on kata and pre-arranged forms
TrainingSparring is a major componentLess emphasis on sparring and more on kata and pre-arranged forms
Traditional vs. ModernModern adaptation of Judo with a focus on ground combatTraditional martial art with historical roots in the samurai class
Influential FiguresCarlos Gracie, Royce Gracie, Mitsuyo MaedaSamurai, various ancient masters
Comparison Table: Japanese Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

What Are The Differences Between BJJ And Japanese Jiu-Jitsu?  

1. The History and Origins

When talking about martial arts, it’s kind of like talking about your family tree. The roots run deep, and sometimes, branches split and form something new. And that’s what happened with Jujutsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (Jujutsu)

This martial art traces its roots back to the samurai warriors in Japan. Traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu, or jujutsu, was primarily developed as a form of self-defense in warfare. It is one of the oldest Japanese martial arts.

The samurai needed a way to defend themselves without weapons if they were disarmed on the battlefield. That’s why Japanese jiu-jitsu involves a lot of techniques, including joint locks, joint manipulation, and striking techniques.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

The history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is kind of cool. It all started when Mitsuyo Maeda, a Judo expert, moved to Brazil. Carlos Gracie, a Brazilian, got hooked on this martial art and started training under Maeda.

But, as with any artist, Carlos, along with his brother Royce Gracie, started putting their own spin on things. They focused more on ground fighting and grappling. The result? Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as we know it today.

A key difference between the two? Traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu has a broader range of techniques. Brazilian jiu-jitsu, on the other hand, is all about ground game. If you’ve ever watched a BJJ match, you’ll see a lot of grappling, chokeholds, and joint locks. It’s not just about strength but using your opponents’ momentum against them.

In essence, while Japanese Jiu-Jitsu prepared warriors for the battlefield, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu equipped its practitioners for one-on-one combat, making the most of ground fighting techniques.

2. The Purpose & Philosophy

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Back in the day, samurai warriors needed to be ready for anything. So, Japanese jiu-jitsu was born out of the need to protect oneself, especially when their weapons were knocked out of their hands. This martial art isn’t just about fending off attacks; it’s also about going on the offensive when needed.

In modern jiu-jitsu schools, they kept this tradition alive. Students learn how to handle and disarm opponents – although, these days, they typically practice with wooden ones.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

The goal in BJJ is a bit different. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it’s about protecting yourself by controlling your opponent. Think of it as a way to hit the pause button in a fight. You’re learning how to control the situation and make sure you’re safe without causing a lot of harm.

So, unlike its Japanese counterpart, you won’t find BJJ students practicing how to disarm a sword-wielding opponent. BJJ focuses on the ground game, grappling, and makes sure you’ve got the upper hand without the need for weapons or striking techniques.

So, in a nutshell? Japanese jiu-jitsu is all about self-defense, both from attacks and armed opponents. BJJ, meanwhile, is more about controlling and neutralizing the threat, especially when things get up close and on the ground.

3. Key Techniques in Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu  

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Japanese jiu-jitsu is one of the oldest martial arts out there, and its techniques are pretty diverse. Here’s what you’d see in a typical class:

  • Striking Techniques: While BJJ doesn’t really dive into this, Japanese jiu-jitsu does. Here you see punches, kicks, and even elbow strikes.
  • Joint Locks and Manipulation: This is where you control your opponent by targeting their joints. It can be an arm, wrist, or even an ankle.
  • Disarming Techniques: Students learn how to disarm opponents, especially if they have a weapon.
  • Throws and Grappling: Yes, just like BJJ, Japanese jiu-jitsu also has throws and some ground fighting, but the focus isn’t as intense.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

  • Ground Fighting: BJJ focuses heavily on techniques that take the fight to the ground and keep it there. Once you’re down, it’s all about positioning, control, and submissions.
  • Chokes: Whether with the hands or using the BJJ Gi (that’s the uniform), choking is a key component of BJJ. The goal? Get your opponent to tap out.
  • Joint Locks: Similar to its Japanese counterpart, BJJ also uses joint locks, especially on the arm (like the armbar) and legs.
  • Sparring: Known as “rolling” in BJJ circles, it’s a way to practice techniques in a live setting. BJJ practitioners spar a lot, testing and refining their skills.

Where They Meet

Now you might think these two martial arts are worlds apart. But they share some core ideas:

  1. Self-Defense: Both prioritize self-defense techniques. While Japanese jiu-jitsu might deal with armed opponents more, both arts teach you how to handle threats effectively.
  2. Joint Manipulation: Here’s a clear overlap. Whether you’re in a BJJ class or diving into Japanese jiu-jitsu, you’re going to learn how to control opponents using their joints.
  3. Grappling: Yes, BJJ may have a bigger focus on it, but grappling is still an essential part of both.

So, when you pit Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in terms of techniques, each has its specialties and shine in their own domains. But at their core, both are about effective self-defense, control, and mastering your opponent’s movement.

4. The Belt System in Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu  

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

This martial art originates from the samurai era in Japan. Interestingly, unlike BJJ, the belt system in traditional Japanese Jujutsu wasn’t always a thing. Over time, influenced by judo, some Japanese martial arts, including Japanese Jujutsu, adopted a belt system.

It can vary between traditional schools, but it often includes a variety of colors that a practitioner progresses through before achieving the black belt. This progression in Japanese jiu-jitsu vs Brazilian jiu-jitsu reveals a key difference between the two.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Here belts start from white and progress to blue, purple, brown, and black. Each belt, except for the black belt, can earn up to four stripes. A BJJ practitioner must earn all stripes before moving on to the next belt.

Getting a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a significant milestone; some even call it one of the oldest goals in this martial art. Traditional BJJ schools, under the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, for instance, have specific criteria for each belt promotion.

What’s the difference in terms of progression? In BJJ vs Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a more serious approach. That’s not to say Japanese Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t offer a thorough belt system. Still, its progression might vary more from one school to another, influenced by the judo belt system and other traditional Japanese martial art practices.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Differences and similarities in their belt system do exist. One key similarity is the achievment of the black belt. Whether you’re in a BJJ or a Japanese jiu jitsu dojo, achieving a black belt is a testament to years of dedication, learning, and application.

However, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there’s also the elusive red belt, reserved for a select few who have dedicated a lifetime to the martial art. However, in my experience, the belts in JJJ are easier to give than in BJJ.

In BJJ, getting to the black belt can take 10-12 years; in JJJ, you can reach the highest level in less time. This speaks for BJJ, as they emphasize not giving BJJ belts too quickly and only if they deserve it. 

5. Competition Rules

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu 

This martial is deeply rooted in self-defense. In Japanese jiu-jitsu vs Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, the former gives the nod to its traditional martial arts background, allowing a broader spectrum of moves. Strikes, joint manipulation, and throws, which might be restricted in other martial art arenas, are all allowed in Japanese jiu-jitsu competitions.

So, you could be watching a match and see techniques that emphasize the Japanese martial arts self-defense techniques, including those that take the fight to the ground or involve disarming techniques.

BJJ competitions

This martial art, known for its ground fighting and grappling, makes sure that the matches are both challenging and safe for the participants. While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Japanese jiu-jitsu share some similarities, like chokes and certain joint locks, many moves you’d see in a Japanese jiu-jitsu match are a no-go in BJJ tournaments.

Bjj doesn’t include striking, for instance. This is because BJJ focuses more on techniques like joint locks and chokes rather than strikes or throws that could be harmful. But keep in mind that the competition rules slightly vary depending on the BJJ tournament you are visiting.

So, when asking, “What’s the difference between the two in terms of competition rules?” it boils down to the martial arts core philosophy and emphasis. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is rooted in self-defense, stemming from samurai and Japanese military traditions.

In contrast, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, influenced by the Gracie family and figures like Carlos and Royce Gracie, leans more towards ground combat and controlled submissions.

In summary, when comparing the rules of jiu jitsu vs Brazilian jiu jitsu in competitions, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu has a broader range of allowed techniques due to its self-defense focus, while BJJ competitions limit certain moves.

6. Uniform: BJJ Gi vs Traditional Attire

Let’s break down the attire in the world of jiu jitsu vs Brazilian jiu jitsu. The BJJ Gi is what BJJ students typically wear when they’re grappling on the mats. Why? Because it’s specifically crafted to endure all that tugging, pulling, and intense ground fighting that Bjj focuses on. When you step into BJJ schools, you’ll often spot this unique uniform.

On the flip side, in many traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu schools, the dress code might take you back to judo. That’s right, the attire in these traditional schools often mirrors the judo uniform. While it’s close in design to the BJJ Gi, it holds onto traditional Japanese martial arts aesthetics and might vary slightly in fit and feel.

But the martial art scene is evolving. Now, we’ve got no-gi jiu-jitsu and combat jiu jitsu gaining traction globally. The difference is that BJJ doesn’t require that traditional BJJ Gi anymore. Instead, enthusiasts can train wearing rash guards, making them more flexible.

So, whether you’re into the traditional BJJ Gi, or the modern, adaptable no-gi approach, there’s something for every martial art lover out there!

Is BJJ or JJJ Better For Street Fights?

Based on my personal experience in both BJJ and JJJ, I can confidently weigh in on the jiu jitsu vs Brazilian jiu jitsu debate, especially in self-defense and real-life street situations.

I trained in both martial arts, and I genuinely find BJJ more effective for real-world scenarios. JJJ does have its strengths, but it tends to focus on moves that, while looking impressive, might not hold up against an experienced striker on the streets.

The fancy moves and disarming techniques might have their place in choreographed movie scenes but don’t work on the streets.

They don’t always translate to practical, effective self-defense techniques. Moreover, the idea of disarming someone, especially when firearms or knives are involved, is not just unrealistic but potentially life-threatening.

In situations with weapons, the most efficient self-defense method isn’t a joint lock or choke—it’s to RUN AWAY. Seriously, don’t try to disarm somebody, just run.

BJJ, on the other hand, shines as a self-defense martial art. It doesn’t provoke aggression. As long as no one physically grabs or attacks you, there’s no need to engage. Just leave. But, if that line is crossed, Brazilian jiu-jitsu equips you with all the tools you need.

From takedowns, and control methods, to submissions, it covers a broad spectrum of techniques to keep you safe. The essence of BJJ is controlling, not causing harm, which is perfect for self-defense scenarios where you want to neutralize a threat without severely injuring someone.

So, while JJJ has its place and can work in some situations, it’s not as universally effective. This is evident when we see the popularity of BJJ in MMA tournaments, where fighters often rely on its techniques, proving its effectiveness. In self-defense and street situations, Brazilian jiu-jitsu truly stands out.

Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Final Summary

Throughout my journey in martial arts, the debate of jiu jitsu vs Japanese jiu jitsu came up often.

While traditional Japanese Jujutsu has a wide range of striking techniques, BJJ doesn’t include striking at all. Instead, BJJ focuses primarily on ground fighting and grappling, with the philosophy of taking the fight to the ground.

When I spar in BJJ, I’m constantly reminded of the fights’ practicality, where every joint lock and choke is a testimony to its efficacy in real-life situations. The belt system, which has grown from the vision of pioneers like Carlos and Royce Gracie, speaks volumes of one’s skills, from the white belt to the prestigious black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The key difference lies in their applicability to self-defense situations. While Japanese Jujutsu is grand and traditional, BJJ is a testament to practicality. Its evolution, driven by the Gracie family and later propelled by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, has cemented its reputation in self-defense techniques.

The popularity of BJJ in modern mixed martial arts is undeniable, making it clear that for self-defense and street scenarios, BJJ could arguably be the better option.

Though BJJ and Japanese Jujutsu have techniques in common, the variety of techniques and the focus on ground fighting in BJJ stands out. One can’t overlook the fact that BJJ schools worldwide are growing rapidly, a testament to the modern martial artist’s preference. Jujutsu training is enriching and rooted in tradition, but when it comes to real-life applicability, BJJ offers more direct solutions.

In conclusion, both Japanese Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are two separate martial arts, each with its own strengths. However, if I had to recommend a martial art for practicality, efficiency, and adaptability to real-world situations, it would be BJJ. This isn’t a dismissal of the richness of traditional martial arts but a perspective rooted in my experiences.

I’d encourage exploring both for those wondering, “What’s the difference?” or seeking to learn about Japanese and Brazilian techniques. Yet, in the face of immediate threats or situations requiring effective self-defense techniques, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with its focus on grappling, joint locks, and submissions, truly stands out.

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