Posted By: Rob-Kassy
Posted On: 07 Jul, 2021

Traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: What’s the difference?

Traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu look very similar from the first glance and both share a common lineage and many of the same techniques. The sports differ however both in concepts and in execution. In the simplest terms, the centuries-old traditional Japanese art of Jiu-Jitsu (often dated to the 8th Century AD) begins from a traditional standing orientation and is often initiated by a calculated response to an attack. It relies on using one’s opponent’s strength and momentum against them in a system of joint manipulations, throws, strikes and counters, as well as chokes and strangulation holds. There are also specific weapons taught in the traditional Japanese curriculum. In contrast, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is designed almost exclusively as a ground grappling art. It specializes in takedowns, joint manipulations, chokes, strangulations, and submission holds. It was designed to incorporate technique and finesse over brute strength. One specific tactic that is unique to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the concept of “pulling guard”. This is at first glance a purely defensive technique as it is executed from being on one’s own back or in a sitting position with your opponent in a position above you. This deceptive tactic enables the person in the guard position to take advantage of joint manipulations, body leverage, uniform manipulations, chokes or joint submissions from a defensive position.

Traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu Comes to Brazil

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (Judo) champion (and later instructor) Esai Maeda was part of an immigration group who was establishing a colony in Brazil. Maeda soon befriended a Brazilian businessman named Gastão Gracie who assisted Maeda in getting established. As repayment of Gastão’s generosity, Maeda offered to teach Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to Gastão’s oldest son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos trained and shared his knowledge to his brothers. The youngest brother Helio, aged fourteen, had moved in with his brothers in a home in Rio de Janerio where the brothers taught Jiu-Jitsu. As Helio was physically frail, he did not train with his brothers, but was a keen observer. When Helio was 16 years old, a student arrived for a class when Carlos was not available. Helio, who was familiar with the techniques from memory, offered to begin teaching until Carlos arrived. Carlos arrived late and the student requested Helio as his instructor. Making the best of his limited physical capabilities, Helio’s approach was to incorporate skill and technique over brute strength. This soon became a hallmark of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu style. The Gracie family introduced Jiu-Jitsu to international martial arts competitions and revolutionized the sport.

Sport vs Defensive Art

While traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu was conceived as a fighting art for Samurai who had lost their weapons, sporting applications have also evolved in both forms. Traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t have the same competitive structure as the Brazilian variety, the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) holds competitions where a pair of fighters perform techniques called by a referee who judges on execution. In IBJJF, which is one of the most prestigious tournament options for BJJ, there is no striking. IBJFF includes a competitive structure where points are awarded based on the actions mentioned below. Or, the match can be stopped, prior to completion of time by a submission.

A match called “Ne-waza” that approximates Brazilian Ju-Jitsu with takedowns, joint locks and submissions with no strikes allowed.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions are scored with point values that are awarded for certain things as

  • Mounting opponent – 4 points
  • Taking control of opponents back- 4 points
  • Passing the guard- 3 points
  • Knee on opponent’s belly- 2 points
  • Takedowns – 2 points
  • Sweeping opponent- 2 points

A fighter can win a match by submitting their opponent by joint locks, or strangulation holds.