Judo Vs BJJ - The Debate

by Jonathan Leger

Judo vs BJJ

Judo vs BJJ

Judo vs BJJ
BJJ vs Judo

Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are two sides of the same art. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, put a lot of emphasis on “big Judo”, the spiritual side of the art, and the idea of improving your mind over that of improving your body.

Judo included both throws and groundwork, but over time the stand-up side of the art became the part with the most emphasis.

Meanwhile, the Gracie family took a different approach, working more on groundwork, and focusing on the sport and the competitive side of the art.

Their version of the art became known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and they developed the ground game.

Kano achieved his goal of getting Judo into the Olympic Games, and today there are international governing bodies for the sport, standardized rules, and a strong structure for competition at all ages, and for all ability levels.

Judo combines the traditional ‘budo’ of martial arts with safe sporting practices. It is “the gentle way”, and practitioners train while being mindful of the safety of their partners, although competition can be brutal at the higher levels.

For young children, however, the sport is closely regulated. They are matched by age, weight, and where possible belt, and while throws are allowed, under twelves merely try to pin each other on t he ground. There are no submissions.

The Brutal Way?


In contrast, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses on the sport, and it has become very popular with mixed martial artists who are looking for ways to finish opponents on the ground. Even those who prefer to ‘ground and pound’ and those who prefer to keep the fight standing, need options for what to do when the fight goes wrong and they end up taken down, or on the bottom.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions allow submissions for children as young as four – although the list of submissions allowed is short, and does not include anything that could crank the neck or cause injury to the spine.

  • This has caused a lot of debate in the Judo community. Many parents are staunchly against the idea of submissions for children, because of the injury risk.
  • While the BJJ community emphasizes that children’s matches end when the referee decides that the child is in a position to finish the submission – which is often before the losing child ‘taps’ to submit. The safety of both competitors comes first.

The International Judo Federation has made it clear that they are not a fan of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Adult competitors who compete at the highest levels are forbidden from taking part in BJJ competitions.

Ostensibly this is because of issues with prize money and sponsorship – something that amateur athletes in any sport would do well to avoid. However, the difference in philosophies between the two sports is clear.

Spectators vs Competitors


Judo has changed a lot over the last few years to satisfy the Olympic committee. Leg grabs are forbidden, as are two handed grip breaks. The idea, there, is to keep the sport exciting to watch.

This has driven away a lot of competitors who preferred the more martial and combative approach of old judo.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, on the other hand, bans very little – unless it is for safety reasons, which produces a sport where people can stall, play to ‘advantages’, and fight any way that they want. Matches are challenging – but not always exciting to watch.

Both sports could learn a lot from each other. It’s not a question of which is right or wrong, but what it will take to grow and stay popular for decades to come.

Jonathan Leger is a small business owner and personal development enthusiast. He also runs a popular question and answer.

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