Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs. Japanese Jiu Jitsu (Key Differences)

There are hundreds of martial arts in the world, and it can be difficult to tell which one is the best. All we want to do is train the most effective and enjoyable disciplines. BJJ is a martial art that has taken the world by storm in the last few decades. This led me to question what are the key differences between Japanese Jiu Jitsu vs. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Japanese Jiu Jitsu is designed for self-defense and involves techniques from several martial arts. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses on teaching smaller and/or weaker practitioners how to use technique and leverage to overcome a larger opponent.

Let’s have a closer look at the differences between Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ll talk about the history of the martial arts, the techniques that they teach, and say which one is more effective than the other.

Overview of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a relatively new martial art. It is sometimes known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as it was largely created, and certainly popularized by the Gracie family, it’s patriarch Hélio in particular.

Jiu-Jitsu means “the gentle art”. It has this name because the objective of BJJ is not to cause damage to your opponent. Instead, it is to control your opponent using technique and leverage.

The purpose of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to get to a dominant position where you can cause damage.

But you don’t have to actually cause that damage. There is no striking in most BJJ competitions. Although there is a type of BJJ called Combat Jiu-Jitsu, where open palm striking is allowed when the match reaches the ground.

BJJ is very difficult and complicated, and it can take over 10 years to get a black belt. BJJ involves the use of countless joint locks, pins, and chokes.

If you want to learn more about what the techniques of BJJ are called, check out this recent article on my site. I talk about the top 49 BJJ techniques that you have to learn.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

The good thing about BJJ is that BJJ practitioners can use it to fight stronger opponents. BJJ was created in-part by Mitsuyo Maeda. Maeda was a Judo master and had excellent throws and ground fighting ability.

Maeda then taught the legendary Gracie family in Brazil.

The Gracie family took the strength-dependent techniques from Maeda and modified them so that they could be used by smaller, less athletic people. The Gracie family kept training and moved to the United States.

After a few decades, BJJ had really exploded in the USA. The early pioneers of the sport were receiving their red belts – which is the highest rank belt in BJJ.

Some of the most famous members of the Gracie family include Renner Gracie, Royce Gracie, and Rickson Gracie.

There are many significant differences between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and competitive BJJ. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is more about self-defense techniques, including defense against strikes and weapons. BJJ is more of a sport, and there are many positions in BJJ that would never work in a real fight.

Most BJJ fighters actually quit within two years of training. It is estimated that less than 3% of people who start training will become black belts.

Overview of Japanese Jiu Jitsu

Japanese Jiu Jitsu is one of the oldest forms of martial arts.

It was invented in the 1500s by the Samurai. Japanese Jiu Jitsu takes many techniques from Judo. This is because the Samurai would wear large coats of armor. Therefore, they needed a fighting system that would work with the armor on.

Judo was founded by Jigoro Kano, who was a martial artist from Japan. Kodokan Judo is one of the traditional Japanese martial arts and is practiced all around the world.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that teaches you about joint manipulation, some striking, and takedowns. It is all about hand-to-hand combat. Generally, Japanese Jiu Jitsu is practiced without weapons. However, in some classes, you will learn how to fight with weapons.

Japanese Jiu Jitsu is a combination of fighting styles.

Does Japanese Jiu Jitsu have striking?

Japanese Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that teaches striking.

This is the main difference between Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most Japanese Jiu-Jitsu practitioners will have to perform a number of striking sequences and forms in order to progress up the ranks.

The striking in Japanese Jiu Jitsu is not like the striking you will learn in sports like Boxing, however. The striking is more about how to generate a lot of power with a small amount of effort.

Remember, the purpose of Japanese Jiu Jitsu is self-defense. Therefore, the strikes are powerful, but subtle, so that they will surprise your attacker.

The most common strikes you will learn in Japanese Jiu Jitsu are chops and front kicks. A lot of the kicks in Japanese Jiu Jitsu are supposed to be used to create space between you and your attacker. There are some roundhouse kicks like you would see in Muay Thai and MMA.

As for strikes with the hand, chops are used. Most people think that to knock someone out, you have to punch them in the head. That’s kind of true. However, in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, you learn more unconventional striking methods.

In Japanese Jiu Jitsu, you will learn how to knock people out with artery strikes. That’s right, hitting people on their arteries!

In addition to the striking you will learn in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, you will also get to learn many BJJ techniques.

You won’t learn the sport BJJ techniques like worm guard and bermibolos though. That’s because Japanese Jiu Jitsu is about self-defense. And those techniques won’t work in a street fight.

Let’s now compare Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu head-to-head.

Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Japanese Jiu Jitsu better for self-defense?

There are some important differences between Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for self-defense. Traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu is one of the best martial arts for self-defense. This is because you learn striking, grappling, and some weapons defense.

In BJJ, there is no striking. This is problematic if you are training for self-defense. This is because, in a street fight, you will almost certainly have someone try and hit you. And striking is the best way to attack someone on the streets.

If you go to the ground to use a BJJ technique, multiple attackers can hit you at the same time. The good thing about BJJ is that the Wrestling training can be quite intense. So you will be good at defending takedowns.

Japanese Jiu Jitsu has takedowns and takedown defense too, but it is not trained as much as in BJJ schools.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does not have any weapons training either. There are lots of weapons on the streets. So, you have to be able to defend against knives, guns, and other stuff. Japanese Jiu Jitsu will teach you this stuff.

There is one major benefit to BJJ for self-defense though. In BJJ schools, there is a heavy emphasis on sparring. The average BJJ fighter will do more than 3 hours of sparring per week! The good thing about doing too much sparring is that you become accustomed to the intensity of a fight.

Therefore, BJJ practitioners will have had more practice in applying their techniques to a resisting opponent.

There is some sparring in Japanese Jiu Jitsu as well, but not as much as in BJJ. There are not as many Japanese Jiu Jitsu competitions either. So, you won’t get the chance to practice facing total strangers as you would if you did BJJ.

Who would win in a fight – Japanese Jiu Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

In a street fight, especially with multiple attackers, the grappling arts are not a good plan.

However, in a one-on-one fight, grappling is one of the best things you can do. This is because when you take a fight to the ground, you heavily reduce the chances of you getting knocked out.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners will have done much more takedown sparring. Therefore, the BJJ fighter would take down the Japanese Jiu Jitsu fighter with ease even if the Japanese Jiu Jitsu fighter is throwing strikes.

BJJ practitioners are also used to fighting bigger opponents. They can use their grappling skills to get to dominant positions in the fight and overpower the Japanese Jiu Jitsu practitioner.

In a fight, the only chance the Japanese Jiu Jitsu practitioner would have is to knock out the BJJ guy.

If the Japanese Jiu Jitsu practitioner worked more on their Wrestling and cross-trained some Muay Thai, they would win. Muay Thai is one of the most effective striking martial arts.

If a BJJ practitioner is not able to take down a good striker, then the traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu fighter would win.

BJJ black belt vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu black belt


Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are martial arts that both come from Judo. Japanese Jiu Jitsu was invented in the 1500s and was designed to be used in battle by the samurai. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was invented in the 1900s and was designed to allow smaller people to fight bigger people.

There are many fundamental differences between the two martial arts. Japanese Jiu Jitsu is more of a self-defense system. In it, you learn how to strike, grapple, and defend against weapons.

In BJJ, you only learn how to grapple. There are some BJJ schools that have an MMA focus and will teach some striking, but this is rare.

If you are looking for a martial art for self-defense, then Japanese Jiu Jitsu is the way to go. Just make sure that you attend a school that does sparring. This is because sparring will help you learn how to fight a resisting opponent.

If you decide to train BJJ, make sure you cross-train some striking. The best striking martial arts and combat sports are Muay Thai and Boxing. You could just learn MMA if you wanted to. But you won’t learn how to fight against weapons.

But do BJJ and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu use the same belt system?

If you want to learn more about the differences in the belt systems of Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then check out this recent article on my site. Both start with white and end with black. But there is open key difference between the 2.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Image by jorono from Pixabay and Image by ASSY from Pixabay


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