Judo and jiu-jitsu are both popular Japanese fighting styles that put a lot of focus into the groundwork. However, there are some distinct differences between these two styles that can make a big difference in a mixed martial arts match. It’s also a good idea for people considering both martial arts to look at them side by side before deciding which art to pursue.
Below you’ll find a guide to the differences and similarities between judo and jiu-jitsu. You’ll also get some tips for getting started with each fighting style. Read on to learn more about judo and jiu-jitsu and which one is the better fit for you.
Table of Contents
The History of Judo vs. The History of Jiu-Jitsu
Both judo and jiu-jitsu originated on the island nation of Japan. However, jiu-jitsu is significantly older than judo and is the mother fighting style that judo evolved from. Jiu-jitsu, also known as jujutsu or “the gentle art”, was an unarmed fighting technique that was originally taught to the elite samurai warrior caste to use in case they were separated from their weapon.
The Rise of Judo From Jiu-Jitsu
When the samurai class was eliminated during the Meiji Restoration of the late 1800s, the martial arts schools of the time period were also cast into disregard. At this time, many jiu-jitsu dojos ended up closing. But one martial artist who wanted to save the technique, Jigoro Kano Shihan, rebranded it as “Kodokan Judo” at the martial arts school he opened in 1882. (Source: Kodokan Judo Institute)
This new school of martial arts in Japan focused on takedown moves and economy of movement, making it a popular hand-to-hand style for stopping a fight in its tracks. This emphasis on quick, efficient takedowns made it popular with the Japanese military and police, who quickly adopted it as part of their standardized martial arts training.
Are There Still Jiu-Jitsu Schools?
Even though Judo evolved out of Jiu-Jitsu, that doesn’t mean that Jiu-Jitsu went extinct as a fighting style. If anything, Jiu-Jitsu is more popular than ever.
This fighting style has only continued to evolve as it spread outside of Japan. Within Japan, sparring at jiu-jitsu schools became a popular way for warriors to challenge each other to duels peacefully under a government that no longer allowed armed civilians.
Japanese old-style jiu-jitsu is not the most popular form of the martial art that is currently practiced abroad. That honor goes to Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial arts style that is relatively new but has still gained enormous popularity over the 20th century, both in exclusive BJJ dojos and in mixed martial arts studios.
Japanese Jiu-Jitsu vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Japanese jiu-jitsu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are similar in that they’re both grappling-heavy styles that focus on taking down potentially larger and stronger opponents, but there are also some differences between the two styles of jiu-jitsu. Here are a few of them (Source: Way of Martial Arts):
- Japanese jiu-jitsu focuses more on strikes. Both of these styles of jiu-jitsu focus on getting an opponent down on the ground as quickly as possible, but there are more chokeholds, strangleholds, hand strikes, and other hand techniques used in Japanese jiu-jitsu to force an opponent down.
- Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more effective for competition. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more popular than Japanese old-style jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts, and it’s typically easier to find a Brazilian jiu-jitsu studio or dojo than it is to find one that specializes in Japanese jiu-jitsu.
- Japanese jiu-jitsu is better for self-defense. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a popular competitive sport, but Japanese jiu-jitsu is more versatile and has more hand-to-hand techniques that are useful in a real-life fighting scenario. Japanese jiu-jitsu is better for self-defense, but any form of jiu-jitsu is going to be an effective self-defense style.
- Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu use different forms of protection. Brazilian jiu-jitsu gis, or fighting robes, tend to be thicker to protect the martial artists while they’re rolling around on the ground. Japanese jiu-jitsu artists may use a groin guard to protect against low blows, while Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists typically wear mouthguards.
- Japanese jiu-jitsu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu training are different. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very sparring-heavy and lessons can last up to an hour and a half of straight sparring between students. Japanese jiu-jitsu has multiple areas of focus other than one-on-one sparring, including break-fall techniques and strikes.
Japanese jiu-jitsu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are both exciting fighting styles, but you may find it easier to find instructors in one style over another. Check around to see what martial arts studios are available before committing yourself to a single dojo.
How Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Are Similar
Since judo is a school of martial arts training that came out of jiu-jitsu, there are many ways in which these two fighting styles are similar. Here are a few of the biggest similarities between judo and jiu-jitsu:
- Judo and jiu-jitsu are grappling styles. Similar to wrestling, this means that a majority of the techniques in this fighting style focus on subduing your opponent on the ground in a fight rather than fighting them standing up. Grappling styles feature several chokeholds and other holds that are used to force an opponent into submission.
- Both styles teach how to escape a hold. Once your enemy gets you on the ground, mounts you, and pins you down, it’s very easy to lose a fight from this point on. Judo and jiu-jitsu teach you how to remove yourself from a pinned ground position and regain the upper hand on your opponent.
- Both styles offer students a variety of general benefits. From improved physical health to a more effective mind-body connection, learning any martial art can be beneficial for your mind, body, and spirit. Either judo or jiu-jitsu will help you achieve this level of physical, mental, and emotional discipline.
- Both styles use fighting robes and a belted ranking system. Like many martial arts, judo and jiu-jitsu students are ranked on their level of progression in the sport according to colored belts that easily distinguish them from each other in the ring.
Since judo and jiu-jitsu are similar in many ways, there isn’t a lot of pressure to choose one over the other. The benefits you receive from pursuing either martial art are pretty equivalent. It all depends on your personal fighting style and preferences for study.
How Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Are Different
While judo and jiu-jitsu are similar in many ways, they also have some distinct differences that set them apart from each other. Here are a few of the ways that judo and jiu-jitsu differ from each other:
- Jiu-jitsu is a much older sport. Jiu-jitsu (or jujutsu) is a Japanese umbrella term that references many different grappling fighting styles that have existed in Japan over the centuries. As an offshoot of jiu-jitsu, judo is a newer fighting style that incorporates many features of jiu-jitsu.
- In Judo, you can win with a throw. In jiu-jitsu, you can’t. In competition, judo puts as much focus on takedowns from a standing position as it does on the ground holds. In a judo match, you can win without ever going to the mat.
- Judo is scored on several different moves. Jiu-jitsu is mainly scored on submissions and holds. Since judo incorporates more standing combat, fighters can be scored in competition on several standing techniques such as throws and pins. Jiu-jitsu focuses more on chokes and ground holds. (Source: Absolute MMA)
- Judo matches tend to be faster. Since judo focuses on taking down an opponent as quickly as possible, a judo match can be over in a matter of seconds. Jiu-jitsu matches tend to run a little bit longer since both opponents end up grappling on the mat.
Even though judo and jiu-jitsu are slightly different, they’re still essentially the same style of unarmed fighting. If you can learn judo, you can learn jiu-jitsu and vice versa. In fact, many martial artists study both techniques in order to broaden their repertoire of techniques.
What Is the Biggest Difference Between Judo and Jiu-Jitsu?
The biggest difference between judo and jiu-jitsu is in the philosophy that drives the two fighting styles. Jiu-jitsu was originally conceived as a martial art designed to take the place of weapons in a culture that had removed them from daily life. But judo was designed to better society and overall has a more holistic philosophy.
- The philosophy of jiu-jitsu: Jiu-jitsu has a philosophy that revolves around using an opponent’s strength against them in battle. This is in contrast to fighting styles that teach a more offensive strategy in combat. Jiu-jitsu also teaches the pillars of patience, efficiency, and control in the ring. (Source: Melbourne Jiu-Jitsu)
- The philosophy of judo: Even though judo is a fighting style that focuses on self-defense, it emphasizes non-harm and teaches fighters to take down their opponent without causing them permanent harm. It also places a strong emphasis on the welfare and betterment of society at large. (Source: Hanabi Judo)
If you want to pursue a martial art that is more focused on actual combat, jiu-jitsu is the fighting style to look at. If you’re looking for a martial art that you can incorporate into your life to be a more well-rounded and compassionate person, judo is probably the way to go for you.
Is Judo or Jiu-Jitsu Better for Self-Defense?
Deciding between judo or jiu-jitsu as the better self-defense fighting style is a tough call. Arguably, both of these styles are better options for self-defense over showier martial arts styles such as taekwondo, which focus more on form for competitive sparring.
In contrast, jiu-jitsu is designed to come out when street fighting turns dirty, and judo is practically designed to stop the fight before it even starts.
If you’re looking to pursue one martial art for self-defense, either judo or jiu-jitsu should work. However, jiu-jitsu is arguably a better fighting technique for fighting people on the ground, while judo is better for fighting people from a standing position.
At the end of the day, the more effective martial art is the one that is being wielded by a master practitioner. So whichever discipline you ultimately choose to go with, you should plan to achieve the highest mastery possible to have the best odds in a real fight.
Is Jiu-Jitsu More Effective Than Judo?
Enthusiasts for jiu-jitsu and judo will both tell you that their chosen fighting style is the most effective, but the reality is that it all depends on the person fighting. An advanced judo fighter can usually take down a novice jiu-jitsu student easily, and vice versa.
Jiu-jitsu is more effective than judo when it comes to defensive moves and preventing damage. While judo focuses more on getting your opponent to the ground, jiu-jitsu puts equal emphasis on preventing your opponent from hurting you in the process.
This means there are more counterstrikes and other defensive techniques in jiu-jitsu compared to judo. If your main goal in self-defense is to prevent yourself from getting hurt, this makes jiu-jitsu slightly more effective defense.
However, the emphasis on speed in judo makes a good argument for judo being more effective. By taking down your enemy as quickly as possible with a judo throw, you don’t leave them time to inflict any damage in the first place.
Judo vs. Jiu-Jitsu in Mixed Martial Arts
Both judo and jiu-jitsu are fighting styles that are incorporated into mixed martial arts (MMA). MMA uses a wide range of throws, strikes, kicks, and submission holds to beat your opponent in the ring.
Jiu-jitsu is undoubtedly more popular as a secondary fighting style in MMA, especially the Brazilian style of jiu-jitsu. Almost all MMA instructors have a repertoire of ground techniques that are derived from jiu-jitsu influences. MMA fighters who specialize in standing techniques and judo takedowns are few and far between.
However, judo is an underrated fighting style when used in an MMA context. The explosive throws that a judo master is capable of can stun an opponent in the ring long enough to finish them off with any number of ground techniques, which are taught in judo as well as jiu-jitsu.
Judo vs. Jiu-Jitsu in the Olympics
A major difference between judo and jiu-jitsu is that judo is a recognized Olympic sport and jiu-jitsu is not, despite the fact that jiu-jitsu is actually an older form of martial arts. Judo was introduced as a men’s sport in the Olympics in 1964. The women’s version of Olympic judo was added in 1992. (Source: Olympics)
Why Is Jiu-Jitsu Not in the Olympics?
The reasons why jiu-jitsu is not a part of the Olympics while judo is are complicated. These are just a few of them (Source: Gracie Raleigh):
- Lack of global popularity: While jiu-jitsu is the older of the two fighting styles, it doesn’t have as much appeal to popular culture as judo does, especially since judo has been an Olympic sport since the mid-20th century.
- Too similar to judo: Even though the philosophy and techniques in judo and jiu-jitsu are slightly different, in a competitive match they are considered too similar as a spectator sport to justify both fighting styles.
- No governing committee: A major roadblock to jiu-jitsu becoming a recognized Olympic sport is that there is no overarching global governing committee for the sport of jiu-jitsu. The original old-style Japanese jiu-jitsu was itself just a collection of different indigenous grappling techniques, and each Brazilian jiu-jitsu dojo is slightly different.
Even though jiu-jitsu isn’t an official Olympic sport, that doesn’t mean students who are interested in competition should only focus on judo. There are several national and international judo competitions that martial artists can participate in if they’re ambitious to climb the ranks.
How to Choose Between Judo and Jiu-Jitsu
If you are trying to choose between practicing judo and jiu-jitsu and you can only choose one, there are a few ways that you can help narrow down your search and make a final decision between the two disciplines. Here are a few tips for making your choice between judo and jiu-jitsu as your primary fighting style:
- Attend some classes. Hands-down the best way to decide whether you prefer judo or jiu-jitsu is to sit in on a few classes for each fighting style and see how you like the techniques that are being demonstrated. It’s also a good idea to attend multiple dojos per style if they’re available so you can see a range of different instructors for a good fit.
- Figure out why you’re taking martial arts. Are you interested in pursuing the top ranks in competitive sparring or do you just want a solid foundation for self-defense in case you ever get caught in a fight? Knowing how you intend to use your martial art is a good step toward figuring out the best school for your lifestyle.
- Read some online reviews. If you have a large number of dojos to choose from, be sure to check out any reviews online associated with the business. Take highly positive and negative reviews with a grain of salt, but multiple poor reviews complaining about the same issues can serve as a red flag to warn you away from bad dojos.
- Look at your budget. Between the two styles, judo tends to be slightly cheaper while teaching many of the same basic ground techniques as jiu-jitsu. This means that if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, judo is probably a better option for you. However, you can also get good discounts for either school if you search around a little.
Keep in mind that you’re hopefully going to sign up with a dojo that you’ll be attending for years, so you want to choose carefully. Don’t jump on the first instructor you like or the first dojo you see. Otherwise, you might suffer from buyer’s remorse later after the month-to-month contract is already signed.
Can You Learn Judo and Jiu-Jitsu at the Same Time?
If you still can’t choose between judo and jiu-jitsu, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to study both of these martial arts at once. It is possible, but with a few caveats. Here are some of the things you’ll need to consider if you’re thinking about studying judo and jiu-jitsu at once:
- See if you can study both styles at the same dojo. Joining up with an MMA dojo may give you access to instructors that are black belts in both judo and jiu-jitsu, so you don’t have to go back and forth between two different schools to get the moves you need.
- Let your instructor(s) know what’s up. If you’re taking judo and jiu-jitsu from two different instructors, you should let them know that you’re double-training in multiple fighting styles. This can allow your instructor to watch your form for bad habits that may become ingrained from stances in the other discipline.
- Make sure that your body can handle it. Judo and jiu-jitsu are very physically demanding sports, and training for both at the same time can leave you feeling exhausted and burnt out on martial arts altogether. Get plenty of sleep to keep yourself energized, watch your diet, and be sure to stretch well before and after each session.
Training in judo and jiu-jitsu at the same time can be challenging for both your body and your wallet. However, for dedicated MMA students, there’s no better way to gain mastery over your opponent on both the ground and in standing conflicts.
If you can’t afford to train in both styles at once or you simply don’t have the time and energy to achieve it, don’t forget that you can always study one martial art before taking on another. This will help you solidify your martial arts training and ensure that you’re proficient in your primary style before you try to incorporate techniques from another one.
Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Are Both Effective Styles
No matter which fighting style you ultimately decide to go with, a comparison between Judo and Jiu-jitsu shows that each of these fighting styles has a ton to offer prospective students.
Whether you want to start jiu-jitsu for self-defense or you want to get involved in serious judo competitions, you’ll know you’re learning skills you can apply in a real fight.