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Judo Vs. BJJ - What's The Difference & Which Is Better?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: June 5, 2023

I regularly work with several martial arts coaches to provide their fighters with strength training. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about each combat sport, with Judo and BJJ being two of the most popular ones.

I also gathered many notes from those martial arts coaches that have helped me address the question for this post.

How are Judo and BJJ different? And what advantages do they bring my average clients?

Quick Summary

  • Judo and BJJ are both popular combat sports with similar origins but have distinct differences in philosophy, techniques, and competition rules.
  • Judo focuses on achieving maximum effect with minimum effort, emphasizing throws and takedowns for point-scoring, while BJJ centers around using leverage and technique to force opponents into submission.
  • BJJ is more popular currently and provides a stronger emphasis on ground techniques, making it suitable for self-defense situations that involve grappling exchanges. Judo offers more established competitive opportunities, including the Olympics.

Origins of Judo

a vintage image of jigoro kano with his students

Judo was created in Japan by Jigoro Kano, and he took a unique approach of combining the martial art of Jiu-Jitsu with mental discipline.

Kano later brought Judo to Europe, and it became an official Olympic sport back in 1940.

Since then, the following has grown all over the world, and new styles and techniques have regularly appeared.

Judo practitioners are known as a judoka, and they follow a strict discipline of respect for each other.

Judo principles involve training balance and stability and the techniques to break the balance of an opponent.

Origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

vintage image of a shirtless Mitsuyo Maeda

While Kano deserves credit for bringing Judo to Europe, he didn’t make it as far as South America.

In this case, the credit goes to Mitsuyo Maeda, who introduced Judo Kodokan to Brazil.

Kodokan was quickly adapted with a focus on ground techniques, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was born.

Because of its origins in Kodokan and especially groundwork, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often look very similar.

The principles of BJJ are very similar to Judo, with training heavily focusing on gaining control over your balance and using action and reaction to overpower your competitor through takedowns.

“Brazilian jiu-jitsu descends from a martial art originally developed in feudal Japan, before being exported to Brazil on a wave of Japanese immigration around the turn of the 20th century.”

- Jamie Millar, writer at

Comparison Between Judo and BJJ

While the style and ground-work of both fighting categories look similar, we had instructors from both disciplines specifically highlight the difference.

1. Philosophy

man grabbing another's wrist

The philosophy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu centers around pride in a state of mind that revolves around not using force to counter an opponent.

By building a strong physical standing position, a student or an experienced practitioner can anchor themselves to the ground and use their mind, body, and spirit to apply the opponents’ force to their advantage.

A judoka will work off a similar philosophy.

The Japanese word Judo means “gentle way” and refers to the fact that it’s not a method of force but rather achieving maximum effects with minimum effort.

Both are an art technique of takedowns that use smart moves over forceful actions.

Judo and BJJ pride themselves on principles and strict rules that everyone follows, making practitioners aware of the power they have. This level of discipline makes both an attractive lifestyle for aspiring martial artists.

2. Techniques

men pulling each others clothes

Jiu-Jitsu and Judo techniques are very similar sports, but there are some notable differences.

A judoka will focus more on a Judo throw of the opponent to score maximum points on the way the competitor lands on the ground.

More on this in the next section.

Along with the takedown skills, some arm bar moves and arm locks are part of standard Judo training and point-scoring.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses more on grappling and wrestling, with the main goal being to force competitors into submission rather than winning a point.

What’s great about both of them is that they are perfectly suited to a self-defense situation.

3. Competition

men practicing judo by dueling

The competitive fight is probably where the two show the biggest difference.

In a BJJ match, you’ll see much more takedown moves that are not allowed in Judo at all.

Jiu-Jitsu is also much more focused on winning a match by submission rather than scoring individual points for a specific type of takedown.

Judo is probably a more suitable sport for world stage tournaments like the Olympics because of the strict points system and rules it follows.

Scoring an Ippon, Waza-ari, and Yuko all bring a difference in match outcome.

Ippon is the highest score and means an immediate win.

A fighter can score this through a takedown throw that lands the opponent on the ground straight on their back or with an arm lock.

Waza-ari gives another high score in a match, but it doesn’t end it immediately.

4. Clothing

woman in a white martial arts uniform

BJJ and Judo are similar to each other in their clothing. However, the BJJ gi requirements are less strict than for Judogi.

In Jiu-Jitsu, it’s common to have different color gis with the belt, indicating the skill level of a fighter.

In Judo, the suit has to be white, and it also has to be a very specific size to be competition legal.

There’s also a form of no-gi Jiu-Jitsu, which creates a very different competition with much more attention on takedown throw techniques that grip the neck, head, arms, wrists, and ankles.

It is a style of fighting you won’t find as part of Judo.

“The GI top should reach the athlete’s thigh, and the sleeves should come to no more than 5 cm from the athlete’s wrist when the arm is extended straight parallel to the ground. GI pants should reach no more than 5 cm above the tibial malleolus (ankle bone).”

- IBJJF Uniform Requirements

5. Training Equipment

men dueling inside a gym

This is one area where you’ll find very few differences.

A BJJ gym will look very similar to a Judo one, with a large open area and a thick rubber floor mat.

You’ll be glad for the rubber mats when you experience your first takedowns.

Overall, there really isn’t much equipment in either martial art, as it’s a practice of physical contact without kicking or punching.

That’s why there’s no need for heavy bags or weight training equipment.

6. Belt System

a close up image of a blue belt woman

Both martial arts disciplines have a belt level system that starts at white and goes to black. But it’s the belts in between where the difference is with both of them.

A judoka will go through white, yellow, orange, green, blue, then brown belt. And in BJJ, fewer belts are going through white, blue, purple, and brown.

How fast you progress in both depends on how often you go to training sessions to learn all takedown forms.

More exposure to a Judo or BJJ match will also help any practitioner progress.

When it comes to the black belt, it usually takes people 5 to 10 years in Judo and a bit more for Jiu-Jitsu with about 8 to 12 years.

7. Rules

men in a middle of a judo match

BJJ and Judo rules are quite different, especially when it comes to match rules.

You’ll find that there’s a lot more allowed in Jiu-Jitsu rules in the way of how you can use your arms and legs during takedowns.

In a Judo match, the ultimate goal is Ippon, which is an immediate victory.

You achieve this through certain types of throws, submission, or holding an opponent down for 20 seconds.

You also gain points for certain other moves, and many rules define these.

In Jiu-Jitsu, the main goal is full submission. But the BJJ rules also list out points in different categories of moves [1].

These count if no one has submitted during a match.

8. Classes And Schools

teens learning martial arts

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is possibly one of the fastest-growing combat sports in the world, with BJJ schools popping up in every town [2].

Judo is probably a more established sport, and you’ll have no problem finding a training class to best suit any student age group.

I have a few clients who have become students in both to practice the techniques and see which fighting sessions best suit their interest.

9. Popularity

a group of people dueling

Right now, I would say that Jiu-Jitsu is the most popular.

One reason is that it does take self-defense a step further by giving a student more techniques to deal with competitors and disable threats.

You’ll see this in a Jiu-Jitsu match, where it’s less about scoring points and more about getting rivals to the ground and stop them from getting back on their feet.

Choosing One For Your Goals

Choosing a style is a question of what your specific goals are in the sport.

1. Fitness

man warming up outdoors

You’ll find that both a BJJ and Judo training class will be a great cardio workout and that you’ll be seriously sweating by the end of it [3].

It’s certainly not all about standing around and waiting your turn to practice takedowns.

While pros will workout in the gym as well to gain more power and higher levels of fitness, it’s not something you have to do, especially if you’re not too interested in competitive matches.

2. Self-Defense

men learning judo take down

Both are great for a self-defense situation, but BJJ arguably gives you more training for dealing with a fight that goes to the ground.

In Judo, a fight tends to stop once you get to the ground and you stand up on your feet again.

Jiu-Jitsu takes it further to force submissions.

The part of the Jiu-Jitsu technique also allows for more aggressive moves that take the legs and feet from under practitioners.

And once experience gives you the upper hand, you’ll also use chokes to force submissions. Until then, consider refraining from using these techniques on real-life scenarios.

3. Competition

man raising a winners arm

Both martial arts have seen increased popularity in competitive events.

But you could argue that Judo offers better options from a competition perspective.

Not only is it a way to have access to more events, but Judo allows people to bring their skills all the way to the Olympics.

Now, there are plenty of Jiu-Jitsu competitions that offer matches for people of all ages and size categories, but it’s not quite as well established as Judo.

So, if you’re interested in bringing your success to a match situation, then Judo might be the best option for you.

4. Mixed Martial Arts

woman with her fist up

If you follow mixed martial arts and UFC, you’ll have seen some kind of BJJ ground technique in pretty much every fight.

Many UFC fighters will attend regular BJJ classes and pay a lot of attention to cross-training with Muay Thai and other disciplines.

And if you’re into MMA fighting, the question mainly comes down to what amount of groundwork you need to learn to have a strategy for when you’re not standing on two feet.

BJJ is definitely the better art to have for MMA fighters, as it focuses on many types of arm, head, and leg locks [4].

Related Articles:


Is Judo Better Than BJJ?

Yes, Judo is better than BJJ for grappling while standing up. But BJJ offers more emphasis for training partners to learn grappling on the ground. Both provide a strategy for self-defense using minimum effort for maximum effect.

Why Is BJJ More Popular Than Judo?

Yes, BJJ is more popular than Judo because it seems to have gained more traction online and on social media. Of all martial arts, BJJ has put the most emphasis on creating great online resources to attract a higher student inflow.

Why Is Judo Cheaper Than BJJ?

Judo is cheaper than BJJ mainly because there are more Judo schools and instructors. BJJ is struggling to keep up with demand, and that is always a factor in the cost of joining classes. A lot of Judo schools also use community centers making them cheaper to run.

Is Bjj Safer Than Judo?

Yes, BJJ is safer than Judo based on data about competitive event injuries. While BJJ and Judo have similarities in how they deal with opponents, Judo relies much more on the throw technique, making it a higher risk than the BJJ wrestling techniques.

Which Is Harder: Judo or BJJ?

Judo tends to be harder than BJJ because it involves trying to shift competitors across your body to get them to the ground. BJJ tries to catch them off-guard and uses wrestling techniques to gain a dominant position.

Are You Going To Choose Judo Or BJJ?

The choice between Judo or BJJ is a very personal one, and there really is no right decision.

For me, one of the main differences is how suitable they are for self-defense outside of a class or official match.

BJJ has some better grappling exchanges that work very well to force submission when you’re not standing.

If you still can’t decide between these sports and their different styles, perhaps you should try some trial classes in Judo and BJJ both. Then report back to us which sport you liked better.


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