Judo vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Which Grappling Martial Arts is Better?

Last update:
judo vs brazilian jiu jitsu.

Comparing Judo vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is tough.

They’re grappling combat sports that share many similarities and differences that we’ll get into in this article. 

And we not only discuss their history, similarities, and differences. We’ll also get into their effectiveness in modern times to see which would be best to learn both from a self-defense perspective and in terms of the training cost. 

So let’s get into it!

Judo vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: A Quick History Lesson

To compare the 2 disciplines, we must first understand the history.

After all, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu comes from Kôdôkan Jûdô. 

And to do this, we must discuss Mitsuyo Maeda. He is an influential and interesting figure in martial arts history. 

He was a 4th-degree black belt of Kôdôkan Jûdô who eventually began traveling the world as a professional wrestler, hosting seminars, facing off against opponents of all sizes. 

At only 155 pounds, he was often smaller than many of his opponents in the west but impressed crowds of onlookers with his variety of chokes and joint locks.

They weren’t familiar with the orthodox Japanese ne-waza (groundwork) that he was displaying.

By the mid to late 1910s, Maeda had settled in Brazil, where he worked as a professional wrestler for a circus.

The Birth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

One of the owners of this circus was Gastão Gracie who had 5 boys. Among them was Carlos Gracie who began training a mix of Judo and Jiu Jitsu under Maeda.

As a result, Carlos found his passion and became obsessed. He eventually opened a gym and invited his brothers to join him in Rio de Janeiro. 

One of his brothers there was Hélio Gracie. He was the smallest of the family and prone to health issues. This required him to rely on technique and groundwork more than his stronger brothers. 

In October 1951, he competed against a Japanese professional wrestler and one of the most famous Judoka practitioners of all time Masahiko Kimura (learn more about wrestling vs BJJ here).

Hélio lost in the second round via reverse armlock (now famously known as the Kimura) after refusing to tap. 

However, during the match, Hélio had used some traditional pre-war Judo moves that were then illegal in contests – body locks, arm locks, leg locks, and unusual choking techniques to great success.

And Masahiko was so impressed by Helios performance that he awarded him a rank in Judo (and be sure to check out Judo vs MMA).

Later, Hélio had children of his own, who brought their form of Judo-based BJJ to California. His smallest son, Royce Gracie, was the first Brazilian UFC fighter and went on to win three of the first 4 UFC events (UFC 1, 2, and 4).

Thanks to the success of Royce Gracie in these tournaments, especially considering his relatively slender frame, Gracie Jiu-jitsu became a household name in martial arts circles.

And in 1994, the US army even introduced Gracie Jiu-Jitsu into its training programs for rangers.

Judo vs BJJ: What are The Similarities?

Since Judo and Jiu Jitsu and their various sub-disciplines are grappling martial arts, they share many similarities.


Both Judo and Jiu Jitsu’s variety of styles use some form of throw to get onto the ground.

And from there, practitioners can use chokeholds and joint locks to defeat opponents.

As you’ll see below, the specifics of these chokeholds and locks do differ though. But of course, as grappling disciplines, they share much more similarities than, say BJJ vs Muay Thai.

Ranking Systems

Brazilian jiu-jitsu uses a similar belt rank system similar to Kôdôkan Jûdô.

Belts are tied around the waist and belt colors represent rank. For kids, there’s a white belt for beginners, then yellow, orange, green, brown, and black; and for adults, it goes blue belt, purple, brown, and then black.

Using the dan system of traditional martial arts, the black belt can then be differentiated by 1st degree on up. 

But of course there are differences between each dojo and school. 

For instance, a Judo black belt could be an Olympic world champion or the head coach of a local dojo in rural Kentucky. 

And while similarities can be found when comparing the belt systems of lower ranks, the BJJ belt system and progression to a black belt or even purple belt generally takes much longer than a general Judo black belt. 

To help illustrate what this looks like on the mat, here’s a video of a BJJ purple belt training with a Judo black belt.

What are Their Key Differences?

Like the ranking systems, even the similarities between Judo vs Jiu Jitsu have notable differences. 


While there are many common techniques, Judo is quite a bit more aggressive. And while quite not as successful BJJ practitioners, there have been some notable Judo fighters in the UFC.

Judo fighters remain relatively upright, almost grappling like in a Muay Thai clinch, and of course hip throws. And getting to that perfect throw requires tremendous practice and technique. 

Then once on the ground the focus is on top control and submission. 

BJJ is ground fighting from all angles and modern BJJ can be way more methodical in its approach to defeating opponents. It values strategy over strength and thus rewards those who are patient. 

Thus the ground techniques can be quite different as BJJ is evolving at what can seem like a rapid pace. There are lots of defensive techniques and some practitioners can be just as deadly from a defensive position as attacking.

Rules & Scoring System

In competition, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu depends on a point system and time limit to avoid the possibility of stalling. 

There are also submission-only competitions that do away with both and closely follow the traditions set out by Helio Gracie, which may even include striking techniques like open-palm smacking. But generally, points and time limits are used in competition.

In BJJ when you are ahead, you can choose to consolidate your position (stall).

In Judo competitions (Randori), you don’t need to pace yourself as much as the clock dictates a short match.

There are generally 4 ways to win a Judo match:

1. Throw – this is where a show of speed and force throws the opponent up into the air to land on their back. 

2. Pinning – where you pin an opponent on the ground for up to 20 seconds. 

3.  Submission – where an opponent is submitted via choke or armlock. 

4. Referee decision – aptly named.

Which is older, Judo or Jiu Jitsu?

As mentioned above, Jiu Jitsu and BJJ stem from Judo which officially dates back to Japan in 1882 by Kano Jigoro Shihan

Should you Learn Judo or BJJ first?

The beauty of this debate is how Judo vs BJJ complement each other.

Judo is a great practical starting point. It starts standing and teaches you throws and upright grappling.

Plus, considering the costly investment of most BJJ gyms, Judo is a much easier investment for most martial artists.

Once you’re comfortable with throws and some of the grappling Judo teaches, BJJ is a natural progression and you could even start getting comfortable first by training with a BJJ grappling dummy.

It’s just tough to say one is better over the other to learn first – they’re very helpful for self-defense.

Which is more effective in a street fight?

Real fights typically end up on the ground. And thus it’s important to not only be able to decide when and how a fight goes to the ground but it’s important to have some form of ground game in your arsenal.

This is why many would argue in terms of practicality, Judo is an excellent martial art to learn. 

The starting standing position and techniques learned with throws is an aspect of Judo that makes it much more realistic to a real fight. 

A judo technique is initiated by grabbing an opponent and putting them off-balance for a throw. And there are nearly 70 variations of throws to learn. This is very practical and helps you to establish dominant positions.

Then once on the ground, the explosiveness of the submission techniques make a judo practitioner a formidable force. 

So, it’s hard to go wrong with Judo when considering the combat method most effective for self-defense, plus the affordability of its training, especially when compared to most BJJ gyms. 

Judo vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Closing

There is a strong case that neither wins and that they complement each other and you could certainly do well to train either disciplines.

But certainly a good strategy would be to start with Judo and then move onto BJJ.

Hope this helps!

Photo of author


We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.