BJJ and Judo, a mutually beneficial relationship

The rivalry in some nations between that of the BJJ community and that of the Judo community is well known.   Judo once the most popular martial art in the United States (1960’s) experienced a serious decline as a result of the rise of first Karate, later Taekwondo, and even later MMA.   Judo was the first martial art (outside of wrestling) to achieve Olympic status (1964).   Judo though had large amounts of internal problems including internal politics, the difficulty in achieving high ranks, as well as the lack of a desire to sacrifice growth for a relaxation of standards (McDojo).   

The argument from Judo purists are that many BJJ techniques existed in Judo for over 80 to 100 years is in fact true.   There are numerous claims that Helio Gracie invented techniques such as the closed guard and even the triangle choke.   There are other claims that techniques such as the Gogoplata and Butterfly Guard. These are inherently false as these techniques had existed in Judo for years and can be seen in old videos Kosen Judo (a ground fighting school of Judo). 

Many Judo instructors for competitive reasons do not share specialized advanced ground and standing techniques and thus these techniques rarely leave the dojo.   Sometimes techniques are documented in books but if they aren’t shown and spread they can be lost to time.   Some Judo techniques are also lost when they are deemed illegal from competitive Judo and thus no longer taught. Rolls Gracie and a number of BJJ practitioners were well known to cross train in Judo and were voracious readers of old Judo books.  Consequently many old and forgotten techniques of Judo became aware amongst the BJJ community and spread to the MMA community.   These techniques were not illegal in BJJ and thus the teaching and learning of them were not hindered. This has helped to evolve BJJ but also to bring back forgotten Judo techniques.

During the early 1990’s BJJ grew exponentially in the United States and consequently worldwide as a result of MMA and the Gracie clan.   BJJ was seen as combat effective martial art and experienced a rush of students who wanted to learn the style.  Many styles were no longer considered to be highly effective while others such as Muay Thai experienced exponential growth.    BJJ practitioners especially saw a growth but limitations including takedown, takedown defense, and throws were realized.  This led to many BJJ practitioners seek additional training including wrestling as well as Judo.  Judo proved to be better as it utilized a GI based system and was not primarily limited to scholastic environments.  Judo as a result has experienced the entrance of young, injury-free, hungry, and competitive adults from BJJ.  Many have a small desire to compete in Judo, but a large desire to learn Judo techniques to supplement their training.  These practitioners often train Judo at a fraction of the cost of their BJJ academies and gain a myriad of techniques to improve their overall BJJ game. 

Judo has and continues to be a highly popular martial art amongst children.  It promotes gross motor activity and is a fun activity.  Judo is the second most popular sport in the world next to Soccer.   Judo is even more popular in Brazil than BJJ.   Judo though as practitioners grow older gets more difficult.     When a student is a child (weighing 60lbs) and thrown from 3 feet in the air onto soft mats there is little pain.  When an adult (weighing 180lbs) and thrown with force from 5 to 6 feet in the air with force onto soft mats there will be pain.  After a while the constant impact on the body tends to have a detrimental effect on the body.   The injuries and pain associated despite the passion forces many adult Judoka to eventually retire from Judo.   BJJ often starts and finishes on the ground, thus the strain on the body is eliminated.    BJJ though has opened the door for many older Judoka who love to grapple but cannot take the impactful nature associated with Judo.    These Judoka bring their experience and knowledge of takedowns of throws to BJJ academies and help to enrich the experience of BJJ practitioners.

As a central idea and maxim of Judo of Jita-Kyoei which means mutual welfare and benefit.    BJJ practitioners come to Judo with a strong desire to train, older Judo practitioners go to BJJ academies to train, and BJJ practitioners have brought back old Judo techniques and implement them.  So when BJJ practitioners run into Judoka and vice versa, be happy at how each has helped the other. 


  1. Good points on some historic background of both and how that plays a big part in the present relationship. It really makes sense that both interrelate with one another. Great article sensei !

  2. In Japan, adults in their 60s still do randori. One reason is that they start Judo while young and, learn to fall at ease from any type of throw. Another reason is that the tatami sits on top of steel spring floors purposely built for Judo. Taking falls on those is a much different experience than getting thrown on tatami that sits on concrete. Your force is absorbed and your body is sprung back. Falling is safe, and doesn’t have a harsh impact. Still, they mainly take falls from throws in randori, not practice. In America, they say “embrace the pain” and, throw and, throw. AT best, they have tatami, but usually, it;s a wrestling, or puzzle mat, on concrete, or a wood gym floor.

  3. Mike is right – the old mat on an indoor basketball court is the judo standard. It judo instructors were more open to using crash pads, students would learn exponentially faster. Getting hurt is is the key rate-limiting step for learning judo. Having partners afraid of being thrown (or thrown again) is the second most rate-limiting step.


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