BJJ Vs Sumo: A Detailed Comparison

BJJ Vs Sumo A Detailed Comparison

Sumo is the oldest sport. It even dates before BJJ. In the start, it was considered a religious ritual, but later when it got recognition it was made Japan’s national sport. Some people view Sumo as a ridiculous sport but that is not true. It has ancient Japanese traditional roots in it.

BJJ on the other hand talks about skills and mind games. A BJJ practitioner has to think before applying his technique. He has to act swiftly and respond to his opponent’s technique. BJJ is about grip strength, joint locks, and submission techniques.

1. What is BJJ?

BJJ is a grappling centered combat sport. It focuses on submissions and takedowns. And as a result, a fighter can dominate over his opponent. These are self-defense techniques that are really helpful in real-life situations. BJJ involves techniques that are used to control a bigger opponent.

BJJ is not only a sport, it is rather a way of living. It teaches you that your body is a sacred place and you must take care of it. It includes strength conditioning exercises that induce strength and coordination in the practitioner's body. For that purpose, you need to have a nutritious diet that nourishes your body with important nutrients.

Weight and physical bulkiness does not matter in BJJ. It focuses on techniques and their efficient execution.

2. What is Sumo?

Sumo is one of the oldest combat sports. It means “striking one another”. Sumo is a type of Japanese wrestling. There are not many techniques involved in Sumo. Instead, the center of attention is weight in Sumo. The winning factor in Sumo accounts for the greater body mass of the wrestler. The term used for wrestlers is “rikishi”.

The only thing that matters in Sumo is to get your opponent out of the ring or touch his body part other than feet on the ground. That is why there aren’t many skills and techniques involved in Sumo wrestling.

3. Sumo Vs BJJ

In 2004, a fight was held between BJJ Champion Royce Gracie and Sumo Champion Chad Akebono. It was an MMA match. The weight difference between the two champions was 120 kg. Royce Gracie submitted Chad Akebono via Omoplata submission. The fight only lasted for 2 minutes and 13 seconds.

It clearly shows that BJJ is better than sumo wrestling because having a great weight is not the scale for measuring victory.

4. Origin

Origin of BJJ Origin of Sumo
BJJ primarily originated in Japan. Sumo originated in the ancient times in Japan.
It all started when Conde Kama reached Brazil in 1915. It originated to amuse the Shinto deities.
A Brazilian scholar and politician, Gustavo Gracie, helped Conde Kama to form a Japanese immigration society in Brazil. Shinto deities, also called “Kami”, were considered sacred spirits and treated like gods.
In return, Kama taught Jiu-Jitsu’s secret techniques to Gustavo’s son, Carlos Gracie. The Japanese developed Sumo to please Kami. As the Japanese legend goes, Kamis were responsible for the happy and peaceful life of the Japanese.
Mitsuyo Maeda is also credited for the development of BJJ. He learned gentle art from Jigoro Kano in 1987 and taught it to Gracies. So in order to live a happy life, it was necessary for the Japanese to make Kami happy.
Gracies spent their lives in the development and propagation of BJJ. Sumo approximately started in the Heian Period. (794-1192)
  It was made a professional sport in the Edo Period. (1603-1868)

5. BJJ - Uniform

5.1. BJJ Gi

Gi is the traditional attire for BJJ. As gentle art originated from Japan, Gi is a Japanese term. It means uniform. Some BJJ practitioners wear it over a rashguard and some just wear it directly over their skin. It is composed of cotton. Its length is not greater than the practitioner's thighs.

5.2. BJJ Belt

Belt is used to hold the Gi in its place. It is also used to signify the rank of the practitioner.

Belt Rank
White Belt  1st BJJ Adult Rank
Blue belt  2nd BJJ Adult Rank
Purple belt  3rd BJJ Adult Rank
Brown belt  4th BJJ Adult Rank
Black belt  5th BJJ Adult Rank
Red/Black belt/Coral Belt  7th-Degree BJJ Coral Belt
Red/White belt/Coral Belt  8th-Degree BJJ Coral Belt
Red Belt  9th and 10th-Degree BJJ Red Belt

6. Sumo - Uniform

The uniform in Sumo only consists of only “mawashi”. It is a loincloth that sumo wrestlers wear during fighting.

6.1. Mawashi

Mawashi is a loincloth that sumo wrestlers wear during fighting. It is composed of silk and comes in different colors. Sumo wrestlers wrap it around their waist and then secure it via a large knot at their back. It is 9 m in length and 0.6 m in width.

Mawashi can be worn in a loose or tight manner. If a rikishi (wrestler) wears mawashi loosely, it becomes difficult for his opponent to throw him out of the ring. But if the rikishi wants to play offensively, he prefers pushing techniques.

6.2. Kesho-Mawashi

Kesho-mawashi is worn by Sumo wrestlers in the high divisions. It is worn during the ring-entering ceremony by elite Sumo wrestlers. Kesho-mawashi consists of a large apron that goes from rikishi’s waist to his legs.

6.3. Sagari

Odd number of silk fronds or strands called sagari are worn in front of the mawashi. They are always in odd numbers and mostly lie between 13 to 25 silk fronds. The apron/belt is highly decorated. It is not part of fighting gear rather it just represents the wrestlers in the higher divisions. They are attached to the front of the mawashi.

7. BJJ - Types

There are two types of BJJ: Gi, and No-Gi BJJ.

7.1. Gi BJJ

Gi BJJ consists of the traditional attire, Gi, that is worn during the match. A belt is also worn to hold the Gi as well as for the presentation of the fighter's rank. It differs from No-Gi BJJ because of some techniques and their execution. Most grips are part of Gi BJJ.

7.2. No-Gi BJJ

No-Gi BJJ consists of only rashguards and spats. It has a whole different set of techniques such as the lockdown, rubber guard, truck, etc. In No-GiI BJJ, a technique called “twister” was developed which is significantly called the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. This term was coined by Eddie Bravo.

8. Sumo - Types

There are 6 divisions of professional Sumo also called Ozumo in Japanese. The Japan Sumo Association is responsible for the 6 ranked divisions in Sumo. According to their win and loss in sumo matches, sumo wrestlers are promoted and demoted to the 6 ranked divisions.

8.1. Makuuchi

Makuuchi means “inside the curtain”. It is the highest-ranked division. There are approximately 42 wrestlers present in this division. Wrestlers present in this division are also called champions or title holders. In Japanese, champions are called sanyaku. Sumo wrestlers in this division get a monthly salary along with other benefits.

Sanyakus consist of:

  • Ozeki
  • Yokozuna
  • Komusubi
  • Sekiwake

8.2. Juryo

It is the 2nd highest ranked division in sumo wrestling. The number of sumo wrestlers present in this division is almost 28. Juryo is called Jumaime in the official sumo tournament.  Sumo wrestlers in this division also get similar benefits as makuuchi sumo wrestlers get. If any makuuchi sumo wrestler can not compete in the tournament, Juryo wrestlers compete in that tournament. It is one to maintain the integrity of the tournament.

8.3. Makushita

Makushita is the 3rd highest-ranked division. It means “below the curtain”. It consists of 120 sumo wrestlers. If a wrestler reaches makushita, he is already considered a professional sumo wrestler. It is the toughest division. Because young sumo wrestlers are competing in it so that they can be promoted to the Juryo division. Sumo wrestlers who have been demoted from the Juryo division to Makushita, are also competing in this division.

That is why it becomes difficult for young sumo wrestlers to compete in Makushita. Sumo wrestlers present in Makushita and other low divisions have to perform the chores of the stable. Stable can be called the gym for sumo.

8.4. Sandanme

It is the 4th highest-ranked division. It comprises 180 sumo wrestlers. Sandanme sumo wrestlers compete in 7 fights that are mostly organized every day. Sumo wrestlers of this division are allowed to wear mawashi of good quality fabric. They are not given salaries but allowances are granted to them.

Wrestlers are allowed to wear coats and geta in winter. Geta is the traditional footwear worn by sumo wrestlers, mostly the elite ones.

8.5. Jonidan

Jonidan is the 5th division. There is no exact number of sumo wrestlers in this division. Mostly there are 200-2560 wrestlers in this division. In terms of the number of wrestlers, Jonidan is the largest division. Wrestlers in this division are not allowed to wear either coats or getas.

8.6. Jonokuchi

Jonokuchi is the lowest division in sumo wrestling. It consists of 40 to 90 wrestlers. Wrestlers become eligible for this division by competing in Maezumo. It is a tournament organized to get wrestlers who are eligible for the Jonokuchi division. If a sumo wrestler fights efficiently in a Maezumo tournament, it can be the start of his excellent Sumo wrestling career.

9. BJJ - Scoring System

Although belts are used in BJJ to rank the practitioners, scores are used to make the practitioners stand out in a tournament.

Technique Points
Guard Pass  3 points
Knee on Belly  2 points
Mount  4 points
Sweeps  2 points
Takedowns  2 points
Back Control  4 points

10. Sumo - Ranking System

Ranks are awarded to sumo wrestlers on the basis of their divisions, depending on the respective divisions of the sumo fighters. There is no scoring system in sumo. The only thing that matters is that wrestlers have to throw their opponent out of the ring or touch any body part on the ground other than feet.

The only objective in sumo wrestling is just to throw your opponent out of the ring. That is why weight matters to a greater degree in sumo.

11. BJJ - Rules

  • Once the fighter steps on the mat, he/she can not leave the fight.
  • No hair-pulling or kicking is allowed in BJJ.
  • If the match is tied then the decision of the referee is considered final.
  • Neck cranks and spine locks are not allowed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  • If the fighter leaves the mat to get out his opponent’s submission, he can be disqualified by the referee.
  • Throws like, flying scissors and suplexes are not allowed in BJJ.
  • Fighters should behave in a respectable manner at all times.
  • Slamming is not allowed in BJJ.
  • Knee reaping and heel hooks are illegal for lower belts.

12. Sumo - Rules

  • Hair pulling, striking ears, choking, punching, and attacking the groin are not allowed.
  • The whole point of sumo wrestling is to throw your opponent out of the ring. As soon as it is done, the wrestler in the ring wins the fight.
  • You can either push your opponent out of the ring, grab the opponent’s mawashi and force them out of the ring or you can force him to the ground.
  • The ring must be 15 feet wide and filled with clay.
  • Before the advent of the fight, wrestlers couch their fists on the ground.
  • Using any illegal move, also called Kinjite, results in the loss of a fight by the sumo wrestler.

13. BJJ - Submission Techniques

Submission/Techniques Way of Execution
Arm Triangle Choke The fighter is in the mount position.
The fighter’s hand is below his opponent’s head and his other free hand is under the opponent's arm.
The fighter keeps moving his other hand to the point that the opponent’s hand is stuck with the fighter’s head.
The fighter then locks his both hands and applies the pressure, the opponent eventually taps out.
Armbar The fighter is in the ground position.
His legs are locked around his opponent’s waist.
The fighter grabs his opponent’s hand and puts his other hand around the opponent’s neck and locks his hands.
He then applies pressure on the neck and arm of the opponent. Eventually, the opponent taps out.
Closed Guard To apply a closed guard, the practitioner is on the ground with his legs locked around the back of his opponent.
The practitioner on the ground position is arguably considered in an advantageous position, he can move freely and restricts the opponent’s movements.
The fighter grabs the opponent by his collar and sleeve and then pulls him down.
The fighter can also grab the opponent by his pants and collar.
Open Guard It is an advantageous position as your feet are positioned on your opponent’s thighs.
In this way, you can grab a hold of the opponent's leg and sleeve.
You must establish 3 points of contact with your opponent.
Firstly, you put your one foot on the opponent’s thighs.
Secondly, lock your other leg with one of the opponent's legs.
For the last part, go for the sleeve grip and that’s how you can finish the open guard.
Or you can also  use your one leg to trip your opponent while holding his leg.
Half Guard Lying on the ground, you must not let your opponent grab your head or else he can apply submission immediately.
You must move to the side to grab your opponent’s belt while he is forcing his weight on you.
With the help of your legs, turn your opponent to the other side.
Before turning his back to the ground, grab his Gi with your other hand. In this way, he can not escape the position as he is constricted between your both hands.
Turtle The fighter's back is exposed during the fight.
The fighter rolls up to a defensive position where his neck and limbs are close.
After which the fighter applies pressure and the opponent submits.

13.1. Turtle Position

It is a complex position in which a player can either be on the top or at the bottom of a rival, making the breathing process hard. It is a dangerous position because a rival can put his whole weight on the player taking control in his hands.

13.2. Arm Triangle Choke

Arm Triangle choke is one of the deadliest blood chokes in BJJ. Once locked, it is difficult for any practitioner to escape it. The opponent taps quickly or else it can become dangerous for him. It has many variations. It can be applied from either Kata Gatame or the Darce Choke and even from the Anaconda Choke.

13.3. Armbar

Armbar is a grappling submission move that extends the opponent’s arm and brings it into tight control.

13.4. Closed Guard

Closed guard is one of the easiest guards and it is taught to BJJ beginners. With the passage of time, a practitioner becomes so skilled and fluid in closed guard movement that he even learns all the variations.

13.5. Half Guard

Half guard is a ground grappling technique. It is applied when your opponent is lying on the floor to gain the dominant position.

13.6. Open Guard

Open guard in BJJ means that the fighter’s ankles are not crossed around his opponent's back.

14. Sumo - Techniques

Technique Execution
Yori Kiri Front Force-Out
Oshi Dashi Push-Out
Uwate Nage Outside Belt-Throw
Tsuri Dashi Lift-Out
Hiki Taoshi Hand Pull Down
Soto Gake Outside Leg Trip
Suso Harai Rear Foot Sweep
Okuri Dashi Rear Push-Out
Tsuki Dashi Frontal Thrust-Out
Harite Slapping
Nodowa Throat-Thrust
Ottsuke Arm Clamp-Down

14.1. Yori Kiri

  • Grab your opponent and with an abrupt force push him out of the ring.
  • Lock your legs with your opponent’s so that he can not escape the push.

14.2. Oshi Dashi

Oshi Dashi
Photo Credit: @travelblog
  • Try to off-balance your balance position by forcing yourself onto him.

14.3. Uwate Nage

Uwate Nage
Photo Credit: @japantimes
  • Grab your opponent’s belt and roll him out of the ring.

14.4. Tsuri Dashi

Tsuri Dashi
Photo Credit: @nafkamina
  • Grab your opponent’s belt and lift him up in the air.
  • After that, throw him out of the ring.

14.5. Hiki Taoshi

  • As your opponent unleashes himself onto you, tightly hold his hand and pull him to the ground.
  • He will lose balance and fall to the ground.

14.6. Soto Gake

  • Hold your opponent’s hand and lock your one leg with your opponent's.
  • Use your foot to trip him so that he falls on the ground.

14.7. Suso Harai

  • Sweep your opponent’s leg from the back in such a way that he loses balance.

14.8. Okuri Dashi

  • Grab your opponent’s hand and turn it in such a way that the hand touches his back.
  • Use your opponent’s hand and push him out of the ring.

14.9. Tsuki Dashi

  • Thrust the opponent out of the ring by either hooking the leg or slapping.

14.10. Harite

  • To intervene between your opponent’s applied force, you can slap his face and when your opponent is deciphering the slap, you can force him out of the ring.

14.11. Nodowa

  • It is a simple throat thrust.
  • Thrust your hand on the opponent’s throat so that he can not see you as his face is up in the air.
  • Now push him out of the ring as he is in an off-balance position.

15. BJJ - Championships

International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the international authority that conducts and regulates BJJ tournaments and championships. IBJJF is responsible for hassle-free and organized tournaments. It also sanctions different states to conduct national matches. There are other international platforms that organize BJJ fights. Some of them are:

BJJ Organizations
Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC).
UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro Jiu-Jitsu Cup.
The Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Gi Championship.
The North American Grappling Association (NAGA).
UAEJJF - Abu Dhabi Grand Slam (ADGS).

16. Sumo – Championships

Sumo championships are organized by the International Sumo Federation. It was started in 1992. In the start it was only a men’s sport. In 2001, women’s competitions were also inducted into it.

Sumo Organizations
Sumo World Championship
European Sumo Championship
Grand Sumo Tournaments

17. Famous BJJ Champions

There are a lot of names in BJJ who are now called World Champions. Some of those names are

18. Famous Sumo Champions

  • Akebono Taro
  • Taiho Koki
  • Hakuho Sho
  • Konishiki Yasokichi

19. Differences Between BJJ and Sumo

BJJ Sumo
It originated in Japan in 1897 and then reached Brazil in 1915. It originated in Japan in the Heian Period (794-1192).
Slapping is prohibited in BJJ. Slaps are allowed in Sumo.
BJJ focuses on submissions and techniques to either submit or takedown your opponent. Sumo focuses on pushing and pulling techniques only.
BJJ is more focused on ground grappling rather than a standing fight. If a wrestler's body part touches the ground other than his feet, he automatically loses the fight.
The weight of the BJJ practitioner does not matter. The main factor in Sumo wrestling is the wrestler’s weight.
It is a more realistic way of fighting. It is not at all a realistic way of fighting.
The Gracie family propagated BJJ to instruct self-defense techniques. It was made to please the Shinto deities.
The average time for a BJJ fight is 5-10 minutes, but it can vary according to any tournament or championship. A Sumo wrestling match that lasts for 4 minutes.
BJJ uniform consists of Gi, Belt, and spats. The Sumo uniform consists of only mawashi and sagari.
High-ranked practitioners are awarded Black Belts. High ranked sumo wrestlers wear kesho-mawashi only during the ring-entering ceremony.

20. FAQs

20.1. Which is Better, BJJ or Sumo?

When it comes to grappling techniques, BJJ is the best combat sport. It makes the practitioner ready for different attacks which is why it is a more realistic fighting style than sumo. Sumo is mainly concerned about the weight and power of the practitioners.

20.2. Who would win the fight, a BJJ Grappler or a Sumo Wrestler?

Royce Gracie, a BJJ Champion, submitted a Sumo Champion via submission. It shows that submission techniques can increase the chances of your victory in front of a bigger opponent. But you can also go for Sumo as it instructs how to thrust your opponent to get him off-balance.

21. Conclusion

BJJ is a grappling combat sport that focuses on grappling techniques. On the other hand, Sumo mainly involves push and pull techniques. Sumo is concerned about the weight of the fighter as more weight in Sumo accounts for greater chances of victory.

BJJ indulges in chokes such as Arm Triangle, Armbar, Guillotine Choke, and many more. The skill set in BJJ is broader than Sumo. But that does not mean that Sumo is not a good sport. Sumo is the national sport of Japan and during its tournaments, people from all over the world enjoy it.

Related Readings

Reading next

Marcelo Garcia, The ADCC GOAT (Greatest of All Times)
Marcelo Garcia, The ADCC GOAT (Greatest of All Times)

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.