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Japanese Jiu-Jitsu Vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: What Makes Them Different?

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu Vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: What Makes Them Different?

A lot of people get confused when it comes to Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and count them as the same martial art, but that is not the case. They are separate martial arts, but have plenty of things in common. Isn’t it confusing? Well, let’s deal with this uncertainty together. 

The major reason behind the confusion about these martial arts might be their common origin. BJJ has its origins in jiu-jitsu, but they are different in a lot of ways. In this article, we will be discussing the key factors that make them different from each other.

1. A Brief History of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

A Brief History of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Japanese jiu-jitsu, also called ‘jujutsu’ has roots that go back more than 2000 years to the times of the ancient samurai. However, no one knows who actually invented it. Therefore, the Japanese military invented the modern form of Japanese jiu-jitsu to allow soldiers to fight enemies even when they lacked a weapon. This was purposefully designed and structured for wars and battles. 

In the 17th century, the term jujutsu began to attract people and was used to describe the grappling martial arts that were practiced by samurai. Jujutsu is translated as 'the art of softness' in Japanese.

Traditional jiu-jitsu comprises both grappling and striking techniques, as well as a lot of dirty tactics to beat the opponents. As jiu-jitsu was structured to help soldiers in hand-to-hand fights, the use of deadly joint locks and bone-breaking chokes is found to be excessive in it. JJJ also involves the use of small weapons like clubs and knives.

With the passage of time, Japanese Jiu-jitsu faced multiple evolutions as teachers of this art started to include their own techniques, which made it a broader sport.

2. Origins of BJJ

Unlike Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has its inventors known. BJJ has its roots in Japanese jujutsu and judo, and it began in the 1920s. Basically, BJJ is the transformation of jiu-jitsu into judo and for that, the credit goes to Jigoro Kano and Mitsuo Maeda. Kano defied traditional Japanese jujutsu by encouraging his students to participate in sparring sessions. Maeda was his student who took his teachings about ground fighting to the next level. He moved to Brazil and became the instructor of Carlos Gracie, who excelled well in ground-based martial arts. The transformation of judo to BJJ took place when the younger and weaker son of Gracie started training in the newaza style of judo and struggled against his stronger and bigger brothers due to his weaker physique. 

Read More: A Brief but Complete History of BJJ: Origins to Modern MMA

Helio started refining the judo movements he learned from Maeda to make it easier for his students to deal with even bigger opponents. He developed his techniques to introduce a new martial art, which we now know as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His sons took this martial art to the next level. Though it did not attract many people outside Brazil till 1970. Helio and his son, Rorion, migrated to the United States and started to illustrate their skills in front of locals. Later on, BJJ became a world-renowned martial art. The entry of BJJ practitioners into MMA competitions has made it more popular over time. BJJ is further divided into two subdivisions, such as BJJ in Gi and No-Gi BJJ, and both have separate rules and regulations for competitions.

3. The Key Differences Between BJJ and JJJ

BJJ and traditional jiu-jitsu have a lot of techniques in common, and they even seem like the same thing to people who do not know much about their fundamentals. Despite the similarities, both are separate martial arts in a number of ways. The factors that make them different are described below.

3.1. Purpose 


The major thing that differentiates both martial arts is the purpose of training. Japanese jiu-jitsu was originally developed for self-defense and to defeat opponents, so it involves both defense and offense techniques. Therefore, schools of Japanese jiu-jitsu taught students how to disarm opponents and neutralize them. Even in modern schools, these techniques are still taught to students. The difference is that they use wooden-made weapons for sparring.

While in BJJ, students are taught to defend themselves without causing any severe harm to their opponents, with the purpose of neutralizing opponents only to get out of the threat. That is why in BJJ, students do not learn any disarming techniques or the use of weapons. BJJ fighters are taught to avoid fighting to their full capacity wherever possible and should use their training in self-defense conditions.

3.2. Fighting Style


The other important difference between the two is the fighting style. Japanese jujutsu is more focused on attacking and incorporates both grappling and striking fighting styles. As mentioned above, JJJ was developed to enable military men to combat without or with light weapons against armed opponents. It is more aggressive. 

As a JJJ practitioner, you can use any of the tactics or techniques that might be illegal in BJJ to take the enemy down and cause major harm like bone breakage and joint dislocation. 

On the other hand, BJJ is more of a ground-fighting kind of martial art that is influenced by the initial versions of Kodokan Judo. Also, BJJ does not involve any sort of striking techniques, but involves a lot of grappling techniques that make it a softer version of jujutsu. 

Specifically, in competitions, there are rules to follow for BJJ practitioners, and they cannot use dirty tactics like gouging eyes and striking the groins like practitioners do in Japanese jujutsu.

Read More: Striking and Grappling Martial Arts: The Difference and Importance

3.3. Techniques


In comparison to BJJ, Japanese jujutsu has a broader variety of techniques that are taught to students with the purpose of taking down the opponent, either by using strikes, takedowns, or by placing chokes and joint locks.

BJJ is all about getting the opponent to the ground without causing them harm. When you get your opponent to the ground, you become safe from getting throws and fatal strikes from them. 

In BJJ, you can use joint locks, chokeholds, sweeps, takedowns, and positional grappling, while in JJJ, you can add throwing and strikes to these techniques to make your opponent unable to cause any damage. 

3.4. Rules and Competition Opportunities


BJJ and Japanese jujutsu are not just different in fighting style and techniques; they also have different fight rules in competitions. In BJJ Gi and No-Gi competitions, you are allowed to use techniques that are not too hard to disable opponents. They are softer in comparison to traditional jiu-jitsu. 

In BJJ, you cannot make use of knee reaping, most of the spinal locks, heel hooks, scissors takedown, and knee twisting as they are illegal moves according to the IBJJF’s rules for competitions. While in JJJ, you can see practitioners using strikes, throws, and most of these harmful moves freely during their fights, as this martial art is more focused on self-defense than BJJ and is less of a sport. 

That is why you will see very few competitions for this martial art. While BJJ is progressing as a sport around the globe, you can see a lot of competitions taking place every week.

Read More: The Ultimate Rules Guide for BJJ Competitions| IBJJF, ADCC, and SJJIF Rules

3.5. Belts and Promotion Systems


In both martial arts, you can find belt ranks and promotion mechanisms, but they are different from each other. Initially, there was no belt system in Japanese jujutsu. It was introduced by Jigoro Kano when he established his Kodokan school. However, modern JJJ schools use a belt system that is very similar to the judo belt system.

However, in BJJ schools, there is a different belt system and promotion mechanism. There are just four-belt ranks before a practitioner is promoted to black belt. In JJJ, a belt holder is promoted to the next level when he already has a strip on his Kyu belt, but in BJJ, that is not the case. A BJJ practitioner needs to have four stripes on a color belt before getting promoted to the next one. 

As a BJJ practitioner, you can get white, blue, purple, brown, and black belts while JJJ holds more belt colors. A JJJ practitioner can get white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, and black belts. But, not all the JJJ schools follow this belt progression system. Some JJJ schools start with the red belt instead of the white.

In BJJ, belt promotion depends on various factors, such as time spent, sparring levels, and technical knowledge. And belt progression from one to another mainly depends on instructors. Everything counts on what they think and which mechanism they use to evaluate the eligibility for belt rank promotion.

But that is not the case with traditional or Japanese jiu-jitsu. JJJ schools ask their students to go through a formal grading process for belt promotion.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt System

4. Final Thoughts

Contrary to the perception that both Japanese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are the same discipline, you should be aware of the fact that they are two separate martial arts of different natures and fighting styles. The above discussion can help you grasp the major differences between the two and understand what you will be indulging in by practicing any of these martial arts.

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