Difference Between Japanese (Traditional Jiu-Jitsu) and BJJ

They say fighting is not a physical thing but a spiritual thing. The literal meaning of this quote seems to be complemented by only one fighting art and that is Jiu-Jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu is a Japanese martial art, commonly described as a close combat fighting technique in which the use of weapons ranges from none to minimal.

Using the opponent’s force to overcome him or her is one of the best ways to describe Jiu-Jitsu. One of the main reasons this particular art of fighting evolved was the inability to attack an armored opponent.

Confronting attackers with his or her energy seems to be an amazing idea, right? And that is the main principle of this martial art technique.

As mentioned before, Jiu-Jitsu techniques may or may not employ the use of weapons. This has led to the evolution of several approaches, all falling under the diverse category of Jiu-Jitsu.

Some of these approaches include Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the Olympic form of this art. However, it must be noted that all these techniques stem from the parent grappling technique, the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

Exploring differences between these approaches is something many people do to satisfy their curiosity. If you are curious, then stick with us for we are exactly going to do that!

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Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

The first part of the word Jiu-Jitsu means soft, while the second part means art. It is interesting to have a look at the etymology of the term Jiu-Jitsu.

The term was used before the first half of the 20th century and it is still used commonly in Brazil, Germany, and a few other countries.

If we were to glance at the history of martial arts, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu will certainly stand out as a technique on which people depended to survive and thrive.

The origin of this technique dates back to the days when Samurai warriors and The Ninjas were stealing the show of combats. With an ever-increasing risk of fatalities, the need for a martial art system that could be used for unarmed combat kept mounting.

And as if nature responded to the calls of pour souls who suffered, this sophisticated yet beautiful technique was gifted to humanity.


Jiu-Jitsu was first practiced during the Sengoku period, its oldest form being Takenouchi-ryū which was discovered around the mid-16th century.

These earliest practices relied more on throwing and choking as compared to other variations which still involved a small weapon, for example, a dagger. The variations mentioned later were used in China mostly.

In the 17th century, a decline in the tendency to use armors and weapons was observed, which eventually lead to an increased appetite for hand-to-hand martial art techniques.

The increasing interest was eventually translated into the discovery of new and innovative skills within the technique. These new striking techniques focused on inflicting damage to areas above the chest and shoulders.

However, these techniques became less popular as we enter the 18th century, simply because these involved the use of a lot of energy. Their role was reduced to creating a distraction at best.

And now? Now Jiu-Jitsu serves not only as a combat technique in daily life but is also a part of military training all around the world. It is also played as a sport, the most notable form of which is its Olympic variation.


It is crucial to understand the basic theme on which Japanese Jiu-Jitsu operates. The main focus in this art of fighting is always on pinning, throwing and other joint locking techniques.

Previously, not much trust was put in the striking techniques because of the armor worn by the opponent. Instead, these were employed as a part of set-ups used for grappling methods.

But these days, striking techniques are back in action. Many instructors believe in using striking either as a set-up or as a separate action.

The goal of learning this category of martial arts vary with the situation. Sometimes, even disarming is deemed enough while in other cases, inflicting grievous damage can be the ultimate goal.

Training sessions are usually held in an environment that is not as hostile as the actual battlefield, hence the chances of becoming gravely injured are minimized. However, this doesn’t mean that the training sessions are devoid of adventure.

Absolute focus is required to attain a complete command over the deadly dangerous moves taught in the practice sessions.

The older styles of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu include Araki-ryu, Daito-ryuaiki Jiu-Jitsu, and a few others. Modern-day schools include Hakko Ryu, Goshin Jiu-Jitsu and many others.

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Grappling with ground fighting is the distinctive feature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Categorized as a martial art and a sport, this particular technique was borne out of Kodokan judo fighting fundamentals.

Judo was subjected to improvisations, adaptations and innovations and the final product was BJJ, could it have been any better?

The most illuminating feature of this technique is the very idea on which it is based: the size doesn’t matter.

A weaker person can successfully stand his or her ground against a mightier opposition.

However, this will be only possible if one can take the fight to the ground and then use all the tools of the trade to eventually overcome the opponent. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu involves chokeholds, joint-locks and is a perfect art to learn if self-defense is your priority.

It is also used in sports i.e. in the grappling tournaments.

The number of people who practice BJJ is increasing with every day passing.


The trip taken by Mitsuyo Maeda to Brazil to spread the art of Kodokan fighting can be deemed as the foundation stone of BJJ. Maeda reached Brazil in 1914 where he gave demonstrations and accepted challenges from wrestlers and boxers.

Inspired by these animated performances, a certain Carlos Gracie became Maeda’s student and learned the art by all his heart. Not only that, but he also disseminated the teachings to his younger siblings.

Helio Gracie, one of Carlos’s siblings played a major role in the development of BJJ as he practiced Maeda’s judo and complimented it with ground fighting techniques.

He had to adapt because of his smaller physique, and that’s how the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was created. As Gracie’s established their academy and members of the family immigrated to the USA IN the 1980’S, BJJ began gathering popularity.

Pretty soon, all around the world, MMA fighters who relied on merely punching and kicking were humiliated by the BJJ rivals. A major highlight was Royce Gracie’s string of wins at the Ultimate Fighting Championship.


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These days in Brazil, there are four ways in which BJJ is practiced and played. These include Gracie Humaita, Gracie Barra, Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Alliance Jiu-Jitsu.

However, the central idea and the basic techniques are constant in all these variations.

As mentioned earlier, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques revolve around the idea of ground fighting. This reduces the importance of standing strategies, the most important one of which is striking.

This unique martial art method employs several strategies that are practiced at a rapid pace competitively in learning drills. Rolling, sparring and live drills, all of these are important contributors to BJJ.

Submission is the ultimate goal of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It doesn’t matter if you are short in stature, once you have an opponent on the floor, you can take assume a dominant position and submit your opponent.

The nature of submission varies with the position you and your opponent are in. Some of the popular positions are side control, full mount and back mount.

For our understanding, we can divide the submission techniques into two pools. These are commonly known as Joint-locks and chokes. In the former, the idea is to isolate the limb of the opponent and then establishing a lever that will serve to dislocate the joint.

One has to be mindful of the fact that if the opponent is signaling defeat by tapping, then pressure must be released in a calculated and controlled manner.

Chokes are primarily conferenced with interrupting the supply of blood to the brain, eventually resulting in unconsciousness.


At this stage in this discussion, it is important to realize the differences between the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Japanese version has been here for many centuries while the BJJ is barely a century old art.

The main teaching of the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is discipline, while BJJ is more often played as a sport. Certainly, BJJ is less classical as compared to its Japanese counterpart.

While the Japanese version is more focused on the idea of self-defense which eventually helps you defeat your opponent faster, the Brazilian version believes in offense and attack.

And one can’t argue its effectiveness if we recall the results produced by BJJ players in UFC’s and other mixed martial arts events all across the world.

While BJJ is played as a sport and some of its techniques are quite effective in the game, they aren’t that helpful in a real fight outside the ring. And that’s where we once again realize the importance of simple yet effective Japanese Jiu-Jitsu martial arts. Lastly, against a taller and stronger opponent, BJJ is more effective as it takes the factor of power, out of the equation.

So all in all, it might not be a bad idea if one becomes the master of both of these forms.


This discussion aimed at highlighting the technical aspects, history and various types of jiu-jitsu, as well as illuminating the stark differences between them.

Hopefully, by now, you have grasped the main idea behind Jiu-Jitsu and its various forms. Theory always comes first before anything, martial arts are no exception to this rule.

Without knowing the basic concepts involved in these fighting techniques, one cannot hope to survive in combat. We will strongly recommend that you must first satisfy your thirst of curiosity by reading more such articles like this before practically entering the arena for your first official combat!

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