Jiu Jitsu vs. Judo: Which Martial Art Is Better for You?

Two men doing judo

Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are two different martial arts that have a lot of similarities. So it’s understandable if you’re confused about which of them you want to study.

Today we’re going to discuss all of the basics of each sport, and hopefully, by the end of this piece, you will know which one is better for you.

Judo vs. BJJ: Which martial art is better for you? Both Judo and Jiu Jitsu are great for your mind and body. They are both excellent forms of self-defense. To put it most simplistically, you should train in Judo if you want to improve your stand-up throwing game. And you should train in BJJ if you’re going to improve your ground game.

Before we get to all the differences between Judo and BJJ, let’s go through some of the basics of each sport.

What Is Judo?

Judo means “the way of gentleness.”

Judo is a dynamic form of Japanese martial arts that requires great mental discipline and physical strength and agility. It is one of the most practiced sports in the world. Judo uses both standing and ground techniques.

Judo involves using leverage and holds to submit an opponent.

It helps you to use your opponent’s momentum and strength against them. The main techniques in Judo are throws, joint locks, and pins.

With Judo, you will spend about 80-90 percent of your time working on throws.

Judo originates from a martial art designed to hurt or even kill opponents on the battlefield. But over the years, Judo has modified the techniques to make the sport safer to practice.

Judo involves two people who try to use the forces of movement, power, and balance to subdue each other. The fundamentals of Judo are simple and basic. However, to master the techniques used in the sport takes considerable time, energy, and effort. Judo involves rigorous mental and physical training.

This video will teach you more about the basics of Judo.

The Judo Moral Code

Kanō Jigorō
Kanō Jigorō

Judo’s founder, Kanō Jigorō, created a moral code for the sport. The set of ethics he believed in became essential in the development of athletes both when they’re on and off the mat.

Kano’s moral code involves eight things:

  • Courtesy
  • Courage
  • Friendship
  • Honesty
  • Honor
  • Modesty
  • Respect
  • Self-Control

Judo Techniques

There are three main categories of Judo moves:

  • Throwing 
  • Grappling 
  • Striking  

When you compare Judo to BJJ, Judo is the king in the standing phase of the fight. There are some effective takedowns in Jiu Jitsu, but they don’t compare to the explosive moves in Judo when the Judokas are on their feet.

Judokas practice taking someone down at will. There are a variety of different ways to do this, ranging from very simple to highly complex. There are seemingly endless types of throws covered by Judo.

It takes just one big throw to end a match. 

This video highlights some of the incredible match-ending throws in Judo.

Judo Basic Terminology

Both Judo and BJJ have their own terminology. Athletes that practice Judo are called “judoka,” and the uniforms they wear are called “judogi” or “gi.”

Another common term in Judo is “Kodokan.” This phrase means “a school for studying the way.” The term can refer to the temple where they first practiced Judo, or it can refer to a style of Judo.

Read here to learn more about Judo terminology.

What Is BJJ?

BJJ stands for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s a combat sport, martial art, and a self-defense system. And it focuses on grappling, especially on the ground. BJJ is based on the Ne-Waza (ground fighting) fundamentals from Judo. But through practices, experimentations, and adaptation, BJJ became its own sport.

Today BJJ is considered the most effective martial art on the planet.

The idea behind BJJ is that through the use of leverage and proper technique, a smaller, weaker person can fight with and defeat a bigger partner. This is done by taking the fight to the ground.

Today Jiu Jitsu is a staple for many MMA fighters, and it is credited for bringing attention to the importance of leverage in ground fighting.

Learn more about the basics of Jiu Jitsu by watching this video.

Basic Jiu Jitsu Techniques

If you want to improve your BJJ skills, there are a few basic movements that you need to learn. These five movements are at the core of BJJ training, and they are building blocks for more advanced techniques.

Bridging and Shrimping

Bridging and shrimping are two basic moves used to connect all of the techniques together. You should spend ample time working on these two skills. Both of them come with a seemingly endless list of variations. That means that there’s always more to work on.

This video will show you how to bridge and shrimp.


Another essential part of BJJ training is gripping. The more you practice gripping, the stronger your grip will be. The idea with the grip is to hold your partner tight enough that they can’t escape.

In BJJ training, you will learn precisely where to grip too. For maximum leverage, the best places to grip are the elbows, lapel, wrists, and sleeves. It’s also essential that you learn the correct timing for your grips.

Passing the Guard

Arguably the most challenging thing to master in BJJ is passing the guard. You can get past your opponent’s guard with the standing guard pass, or you can do it from your knees.

This video will show you five ways that you can pass the full guard.

Proper Breathing

Learning how to breathe correctly in BJJ is an essential skill that you must master.

Once you understand how to breathe on the mat, it will be much easier to have smooth transitions and movements when you roll. If you don’t use proper breathing, your technique will become sloppy.

Proper breathing will also help to keep you relaxed while rolling and drilling. You’re a lot less likely to drift off into negative thought patterns when you’re concentrating on your breathing.


Usually, one of the first complicated moves you will learn in BJJ is armbars. You can use this move from many different positions.

Once you learn how to do an armbar correctly, other movements will become much more comfortable.

This short video will teach you more about how to do an armbar.

The Benefits of Jiu Jitsu

Some of the benefits of BJJ include:

  • Jiu Jitsu is one of the most useful, real-life fighting systems in the world
  • If striking doesn’t work, BJJ will be your next best line of defense
  • Anyone can do Jiu Jitsu
  • BJJ sharpens the mind
  • It’s a killer workout
  • It’s an excellent base for MMA
  • Jiu Jitsu builds character
  • It promotes continual self-improvement
  • You can apply the lessons you learn in Jiu Jitsu to your daily life

The History of Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The history of Judo and Jiu Jitsu are very closely related. They both have roots in Ju-Jitsu. Ju-Jitsu was created in Japan by Samurais as a form of unarmed combat. It was then passed down through the centuries.

One student of Ju-Jitsu was a man named Kanō Jigorō. Jigorō believed that Ju-Jitsu was the fighting form for gangsters and undesirables. So he set out to improve the image of the art to make it more palatable to the public. He created what we now know as Judo.

Once Judo was established, Jigorō wanted to export it around the world. So he used one of his students, Mitsuyo Maeda, to help him accomplish this task.

Mitsuyo Maeda

Eventually, in the 1910s, Maeda made his way to Brazil, where he performed demonstrations of the art. A young Carlos Gracie caught one of those demonstrations.

Gracie Jiu Jitsu

Carlos and Helio Gracie

Carlos learned Judo and then taught his younger siblings the martial art. Carlos’ brother Helio had a hard time at first because he was smaller and weaker than his brothers. So he decided to focus on the ground game of Judo.

Helio wanted to create a new art form where a weaker fighter could beat a stronger, more powerful opponent by using leverage.

Helio quickly realized that if he could get his opponent onto the ground, the strength advantage disappeared. This is how Gracie Jiu Jitsu was created, which is known today as the most recognizable branch of BJJ.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu evolved from Judo thanks to Gracie. His participation in free fighting events all over the world led to the development of the rules for BJJ. Gracie divided BJJ into three main categories:

  • Self-defense
  • Free fighting competition
  • Sport grappling

Is the Uniform the Same for Judo and Jiu Jitsu?

While the uniforms may look similar, Judo practitioners wear a Judo gi, and BJJ players wear a Jiu Jitsu gi. During regular everyday training, either gi can be used for either sport. However, tournaments and competitions have strict rules about the uniform’s cut, weight, and length.

In most competitions, BJJ contestants can wear either a Judo or Jiu Jitsu uniform. The rules regarding uniforms are not as strict with Jiu Jitsu as it is with Judo. But even with the more relaxed rules, many BJJ practitioners prefer to wear the Jiu Jitsu gi because it’s lighter weight. It can also protect them against some of the common grabs, chokes, and techniques.

BJJ uniforms usually have narrower and shorter sleeves. This is helpful to counter many sleeve or arm grabs. The Jiu Jitsu gi itself generally fits tighter than a Judo uniform. And it has a shorter skirt.

Is a Judo Black Belt the Same as a BJJ Black Belt?

While there are similarities between a Judo black belt and a BJJ black belt, they are not equal.

There really is no perfect way to compare these two belt ranks. Jiu Jitsu and Judo establish their rankings differently. Because the rank progression and competency requirements are different in each sport, it is difficult to make comparisons.

It’s much easier to compare an athlete’s individual skill level.

Generally speaking, a Judo black belt should have the ground game skills of at least a BJJ blue belt.

Now, if the Judo black belt has studied the ground game thoroughly, then their belt level could be higher. On the other hand, if the Judo black belt has worked mainly on standing techniques, then their overall skill level will probably be closer to a BJJ white belt.

Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Advantages

  • A range and depth of ground technique
  • Ground grip fighting
  • Patience
  • Endurance

Judo Black Belt Advantages

  • Executing throws
  • Standing grip fighting
  • Speed and explosiveness
  • A grit and grind mindset

The Basic Differences Between Judo and BJJ

Now let’s discuss some of the most fundamental differences between Judo and BJJ. The most significant difference between them is that Judo ends on the ground, and Jiu Jitsu starts on the ground.


First, let’s take a look at Judo.

More Throws

Judo focuses on throws. And you have to be sure that your throws are forceful enough to land your opponent flat on their back.

If your opponent doesn’t fall hard enough, you will only be awarded partial points. However, if you do the throw correctly with enough speed and force, you will be awarded the ippon, and the match ends. 

Less Ground Game

You are allowed to perform submissions like chokes and armlocks in Judo, but grabbing legs is not permitted. You won’t spend much time on the ground in Judo. Ground fighting in Judo typically only lasts less than 30 seconds.

You can win in Judo by pinning your opponent to the ground for more than 25 seconds. If you fail to pin your opponent for the full 25 seconds, you will only be awarded partial points. 

In the most general terms, Judo focuses on the stand-up part of the fight. It’s also extremely aggressive and fast-paced, even more so than BJJ. Judo requires more speed and explosiveness.


Now let’s look at BJJ.

Throws Are Not As Important

In BJJ, takedowns and throws are much less critical. The reason for this is that in BJJ, the fight isn’t over after a takedown.

After you hit the floor, you can use many different techniques from wrestling and Judo. 

More Ground Game

If you want to finish the fight in BJJ, then you have to go for submissions. You can submit your opponent in many different ways, like leg locks, arm locks, and chokes. You can also win points if you are dominant in your positions.

Another difference between Judo and Jiu Jitsu is that in BJJ, you don’t win simply by pinning your partner for 25 seconds. In BJJ, if you hold the same position for too long, it can be considered stalling.

It’s rare that a BJJ player actively works for a takedown. Instead, BJJ players can’t wait to get to the ground. It’s the exact opposite in Judo, where the players want to avoid the floor.

Because BJJ primarily takes place on the ground, it is a much slower-paced sport. In BJJ, there’s plenty of time to think about what you’re doing. While Judo tends to have a lot of quick stop and start action, Jiu Jitsu is much more flowing.

This short video will show you more about the primary differences between Judo and BJJ.

Rule Differences Between Judo and Jiu Jitsu

One of the essential differences between Judo and BJJ can be found in the rules.

The most significant difference between the two sports is that Judo focuses more on the standing phase of the fight. Judo concentrates on tripping and throwing your opponent to the ground.

BJJ, on the other hand, features more of a ground attack. In Jiu Jitsu, the central part of the fight is submitting your opponent on the ground.

The Rules of Judo

The main objective in Judo is to throw your opponent to the ground. When you do it successfully, it is known as ippon, which is one full point. If you score an ippon, you win the match automatically.

The three ways you can score an ippon include:

  1. Forcefully throwing your opponent down on their back
  2. Holding or pinning your opponent for 25 seconds
  3. Submission by strangulation or armlock

You can also score half points in Judo too, called Waza-Ari. These are awarded for less dominant throws and weaker trips. Another way to score a Waza-Ari is to hold your opponent down for 10 seconds.

Judo matches typically last for four minutes. Each match will begin at the center of the mat in the standing position. The bout starts after the competitors tag hands and bow.

By the end of the time limit, if no ippon has been awarded, then whoever has scored the most Waza-Aris wins the match.

This video will explain the Judo rules in more detail.

The Rules of BJJ

The primary objective in BJJ is submitting your opponent. The secondary goal is to score more points before the time expires. You can score points in BJJ by sweeping your opponent, passing your opponent’s guard, or getting into a more dominant position.

The two ways to win in BJJ are to either submit your opponent or to win with points.

The scoring system in BJJ is based on how well you can improve your dominance in any position.

The BJJ scoring system breaks down like this:

  • 2 points for throws and takedowns
  • 2 points for sweeps
  • 3 points for passing the guard
  • 2 points for knee mounts
  • 4 points for back mounts
  • 4 points for a full mount

BJJ matches can last anywhere from four minutes to ten minutes. The time depends on which tournament you join and your belt class.

A BJJ match begins the same way you start a Judo match, with both players standing in the center of the mat. You will score two points for a throw, trip, or takedown. But unlike in Judo, the match doesn’t end there.

Practitioners will continue to score points throughout the bout. The idea is to outscore your opponent by getting into more dominant positions or by submitting them.

If the time expires without anyone submitting, then the competitor with the highest score wins. If the match ends in a tie, then the referee will look at how many penalties and advantages each player has to call the winner.

This video will show you a detailed breakdown of the rules of BJJ.

Are There Strategic Differences Between Judo and BJJ?

Yes, there are definitely strategic differences between Judo and BJJ.

Judo is focused more on grabbing and throwing from a standing position. And BJJ concentrates more on the ground strategy.

Strategy of Judo

The primary approach in Judo is to grab your opponent. Once you grab them, you try to destabilize them. Then you throw them to the ground.

The throwing moves are the same in Judo and BJJ. The difference is that in Judo, the match ends and you win after you successfully throw your opponent to the ground.

But Judo isn’t just about throwing. There is also a ground game in Judo. If a player is unable to use solid technique to throw their partner to the ground, then the race is on for submission.

If the play is sloppy, then the referee may stand the players up again.

The most crucial strategy is the standup portion of the fight, but players will also need to execute some ground game techniques like armbars and chokes.

Strategy of Jiu Jitsu

The primary goal in BJJ is to submit your opponent.

You can do this by performing highly-advanced techniques designed to subdue your opponent. As we’ve discussed, a BJJ match begins with two players standing up, but the objective is to get to the ground.

Most of the action in BJJ happens on the ground. It’s not that the stand-up portion isn’t important. It is. It’s just not as important as the groundwork in BJJ.

In BJJ, hitting the ground is just the beginning. The floor is where you can show your skills and techniques. The ground game ends with submission.

Judo vs. BJJ: Which Is Safer?

Both Judo and BJJ are generally safe for adults and children.

If everyone follows the rules and instructions, then the two sports are not too dangerous. But having said that, there is some risk of injury in all martial arts.

For safety, certain styles and techniques are restricted from class and competition.

Both Judo and BJJ have a list of banned techniques that are still taught in classes under close supervision. The students learn the moves this way without risking injury.

Between the two sports, there is a lower risk of injury in BJJ than in Judo.

Being thrown repeatedly to the ground in Judo can take a toll on anybody. And sometimes it can result in serious injury.

However, injuries are rare, and most classes go on just fine without incident.

The Benefits of Cross-training

Now that you understand the differences between Judo and BJJ, that leads us back to the question at hand, which of them is better?

The answer to that is clearly subjective. If you normally fight BJJ, you may have minimal stand-up experience. If that’s the case, then you will be easily beaten by an experienced Judoka.

On the other hand, Judokas don’t usually focus much on the ground attack, so they will likely lose a BJJ match. It’s the BJJ player’s game once the fight hits the mat.

When it comes to physical fitness, there are many different workouts you can do, including CrossFit, weightlifting, spinning, boxing, rowing, and running. But not to be left off that list are also Judo and BJJ.

Both of these martial arts are excellent workouts. The difference between them and any other exercise you could do is that Judo and BJJ also teach self-defense.

There Are Benefits to Both

It’s not really about which sport is better. Instead, you should be asking if there are benefits to training in both martial arts.

The answer is a resounding, yes! The benefits of cross-training in both Judo and BJJ is that it will make you better at both sports. The two different styles of training actually complement each other.

Learning to improve your Judo skills will help with the stand-up portion of your BJJ fight. Training in Judo will also enhance your grips and will help you to throw your partner to the ground easier.

When you control this aspect of the match, you control the momentum. That means that you may end up in a dominant position or even a submission position.

Judo practitioners who learn from BJJ experts will learn many techniques. Because Judo doesn’t focus too much on groundwork, you will have the advantage there.

For all of these reasons, we believe that your best bet is to cross-train in both Judo and BJJ.

The Bottom Line

Both Judo and BJJ are excellent forms of martial arts for your mind and body. They are both useful for self-defense. Deciding which sport is right for you depends on what you want to get out of the martial arts.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu got its roots in Judo, and Judo got its roots from Japanese Jiu Jitsu. But even with their connections, they are two very different martial arts. They’re different, but they’re mutually beneficial at the end of the day. You can become the ultimate grappler if you practice both of them.

Train hard and be safe!

Check out BJJ compared to other martial art at our BJJ vs. Everybody Section


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