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What is the difference between Jiujitsu and Brazilian Jiujitsu?

Martial arts has taken the fancy of many, either as a sport or as an art form. Across the globe, people are practising different forms of Martial arts as a self-defence technique without the use of weapons. For example, trevor wittman record and Samurai evolved the Jitsu martial art as a yielding battlefield technique to handle opponents without weapons.

Over time, Jitsu practitioners from various parts of the world transformed this martial art into a different style. JuJutsu, Ju-Jitsu and Jiu Titsu are some of the variations of the famous yielding art, which uses similar movements, style, throwing and locking techniques to achieve the set objective.

Martial Arts has been developed in many different parts of the world from Europe, Africa, Asia, and to the Americas. Some evolved from other forms of martial arts, while others have deep histories that go back thousands of years. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a great example of this. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu descended from the art of Japanese Jujitsu.

Most of us have been guilty of it at one point: confusing Brazilian Jiujitsu with jujutsu. Some of it boils down to wording. For example, if you hear someone say “jiujitsu” by itself, they could be referring to either BJJ or Japanese Jiujitsu, also called jujutsu. Despite the similarities in names, however, BJJ and jujutsu (also called Japanese Jiujitsu, also called Jiujitsu… you see why this is confusing?) are two distinct arts.

Many people are familiar with Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) due to its use in contemporary MMA competitions, but not everyone is as aware of jujutsu. In fact, it is common for people to incorrectly use these two terms interchangeably (or to refer to BJJ as simply “jiujitsu”). While Brazilian Jiujitsu has its roots in traditional Japanese Jujitsu, there are many notable differences in both of these styles today.

Jiu-jitsu is a type of martial arts that can be used in close combat for self-defence. Generally, there are two different types of Jiujitsu. They are Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) and Japanese jujutsu. Unfortunately, over the years, many people worldwide have been guilty of confusing the two martial arts to mean the same thing – this is mostly because the two martial arts have the same name; “Jiujitsu”.

But, here’s a burning question; are there significant differences and similarities between Brazilian Jiujitsu and Japanese jujutsu?

The main similarity between BJJ and Japanese Jujutsu is that they both focus on the idea of defeating stronger opponents with a flexible fighting strategy. The difference is that BJJ focuses on ground fighting and submission grappling, while Japanese jujutsu focuses on throwing opponents and joint manipulation.

Japanese Jujitsu

There are many jujitsu schools around the world now. They originate from the old Japanese battlefield arts. Also known as Japanese koryu. These arts were used as a secondary means of defence by warriors. For instance, if they dropped or lost their weapon. Then later, it evolved into being used for self-defence and self-improvement.

Jujitsu is an art that embraces self-defence techniques with little focus on striking. The uniforms worn is a Gi and belts that are coloured (white to black) to indicate rank. Jujitsu moves are meant to give you leverage over an aggressor. The training typically focuses on blocking and throwing techniques. Jujitsu techniques use joint locks and chokeholds from a standing position. These are used to either to throw an opponent off his feet or hinder him. 

The precise origins of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu are quite unclear. Speculation points to the Buddhist monks in India, as the first to develop the art centuries ago. What’s known is that it was used as a survival tool for the Japanese Samurai and Ninja warriors. The idea was that striking would be completely ineffective in unarmed combat because of the warriors’ armour. In such cases, grappling methods that involved throws and joint locks proved to be a superior method of combat.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu has come a long way from its original military form. The traditional values of the art have survived as the knowledge of the art was passed from generation to generation. As time went by, the art developed into a more sport-friendly format, despite it being the art of choice for military and law-enforcement personnel to this day.

Jiu-Jitsu has its roots in Japan. Hence, they have many defence techniques adapted from traditional Japanese Jitsu. In this form, a defender uses blocking techniques to avoid the opponent’s attack. He also executes a technique to handle several things involved in an attack. Dojos practice Jitsu martial art to handle real-life attacks involving weapons and more than one attacker. Back then, Jitsu techniques proved effective. Hence, today we could use the same technique for self-defence.

Brazilian Jiujitsu

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Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) evolved from traditional Japanese Jujitsu. Jigoro Kano created judo in the early 20th century. As many schools ceased to emphasize live training and competition, he believed that the essence of Jujitsu was being lost. He created art based on throwing an opponent and then controlling or submitting him on the ground. When Mitsuyo Maeda, one of Kano’s students, migrated to Brazil, BJJ was born. He taught Jujitsu to locals. The Gracie family were among his students also. Carlos Gracie placed a greater emphasis on the ground fighting aspect of the art. This birthed the grappling art of Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Brazilian Jiujitsu is a competition sport. Like Japanese Jujitsu, BJJ features throws and joint locks and chokes, influenced by competition-orientated judo. Many of Jujitsu’s traditional locks and takedowns work best against unsuspecting opponents, making them hard to use in competition. BJJ focuses on grappling on the floor and features no striking. It is taught mainly through live training and competitive sparring, known as rolling. The aim is to control an opponent before applying submission holds such as joint locks and strangleholds to get him to “tap,” signalling that he cannot escape. Reinforced gis are worn to withstand the rigours of training, with belts ranging from white to black. It usually requires significant time to progress between belt levels, so stripes are attached to the belt to signify progress at a certain rank.

Essentials Of Brazilian Jiujitsu

Brazilian Jiujitsu is a third-generation offspring of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. It came into existence thanks to the influence of judo. Mitsuyo Maeda was the person responsible for introducing Carlos Gracie Sr. to the art of judo. However, both Carlos Gracie and his brother, Helio were, not the most impressive physical specimens. This was particularly the case of Helio Gracie, who was weak, to begin with. This prompted the Brazilian to focus on the ground aspects of fighting, thus reverting back to the Japanese Jiujitsu roots of judo.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Today

Today, BJJ is by far the most prevalent grappling art in the world. This is because it was the base for the inception and rise of MMA after Royce Gracie destroyed everyone. Since then, even BJJ itself has evolved substantially from the original version created by the Gracies. So, you could even say that MMA is the result of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, thanks to Judo and BJJ.

Opposed to judo, which went the way of throws and sweeps, BJJ’s area of specialization is the ground. Reverting to many of the most basic traditional Jiujitsu control principles, BJJ is built around a system of dominant pinning positions. The ultimate goal of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to finish an opponent via a choke or joint-lock, which can be traced back to the original days of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

Another important aspect is the culture that gave birth to the art. Brazilians are less traditional and more relaxed than the Japanese. This is reflected in the art where training and communication are less formal than Judo or Jiu-Jitsu.

What’s Different Between Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ?

Now that we know the history of the grappling martial arts of the Jiu-Jitsu line let’s take a look at how they differ in modern times. Both BJJ and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu are today competitive sports, ranging across different disciplines.

Brazilian Jiujitsu

To begin with, modern BJJ is a much more sports-oriented martial art. Not to take anything from its effectiveness, but the sports aspect has taken away most of the self-defence aspects of the art. Today, BJJ’s focus is in a sports direction, with points and rules guiding the choice of techniques.

Furthermore, BJJ specializes almost exclusively in the ground fighting aspect of grappling. On the ground, it offers complete control over an untrained opponent, regardless of size. It is more geared towards giving smaller people the upper hand over bigger opponents. The fact that the fight takes place on the ground means that there is less left to chance. Whnenonn the ground, control is easier to obtain and is much more stable. On the negative side of things, BJJ takes more time to elicit complete control over someone. Many people think that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is useless against multiple opponents, especially armed ones, in a self-defence context. But, to prove that BJJ makes sense in those types of situations. 

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Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Today’s Japanese Jiu-Jitsu still has a lot of the traditional elements held in high regard. It is much stricter discipline-wise. However, it does incorporate many different disciplines, from striking to practising throws and locks that are considered dangerous. It is faster in terms of defeating an opponent and is more self-defence oriented. Nonetheless, it is not as effective against a stronger, bigger opponent in a real situation.

To wrap it up, BJJ is undisputed in the ground aspect of fighting. On the other hand, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu offers more diverse knowledge that is not as in-depth and detailed as that of BJJ.

Both martial arts have different rules.

The key difference in their rules is that BJJ doesn’t involve strikes while Japanese jujutsu requires strikes. Here’s what you need to know about their rules below.


Speaking of the most popular form of Jiujitsu – “Brazilian jiujitsu” – it primarily focuses on self-defence, using two key techniques. These are ground fighting and grappling.

But, here’s a question; what is ground fighting and grappling in BJJ? First, it’s worth noting that ground fighting and grappling are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there’s a slight difference between them.

Generally, ground fighting is hand-to-hand combat that happens when two fighters are on the ground. BJJ’s Ground fighting occurs when both combatants are at a pretty close range on the ground. As far as grappling is concerned, it primarily involves gripping the opponent on the ground. It doesn’t require striking. Instead, it involves using various moves to cause injury to the opponent.

Here’s a better illustration; In Brazilian Jiujitsu, a match begins with combatants standing up. However, as quickly as the match begins, there’s a takedown, where the fighters take the fight to the ground.

On the ground, the fighters use different moves to score points. For example, BJJ may end in submission. In this situation, a competitor accepts defeat after their opponent has taken full control on the ground, using certain holds, joint locks, and chokes.

Here’s a brief on how points are scored in a BJJ match.

  • Mount – 4 points
  • Back control – 4 points
  • Guard pass – 3 points
  • Takedowns – 2 points
  • Knee-on-belly position – 2 points
  • Sweeps – 2 points

Japanese jujutsu

As for the oldest form of Jiujitsu – “Japanese jujutsu” – it primarily focuses on self-defence by using various techniques, such as throwing opponents and joint manipulation. Furthermore, martial art also uses other strategies, such as strangling, choking, striking, and blocking. 

In the traditional Japanese jujutsu, a match usually involves three stages. These are the striking stage, grabbing stage (takedown), and ground fighting.

Here’s a better illustration; in a Japanese jujutsu match, the game begins with combatants fighting with strikes alone. Shortly after, strike attacks stop, and competitors are only allowed to fight by grabbing themselves. It’s at this point that they try to take each other down. Lastly, on the ground, the competitors utilize a few strategies, including joint locks and strangulations, to make each other submit or accept defeat. For every move taken, points are usually awarded.

What opportunities do they offer?

Another difference between the two martial arts can be seen from the opportunities that both offer their learners.


Brazilian Jiujitsu is a martial art for two primary purposes. First, some people learn art because it offers lots of competition opportunities. Interestingly, there are lots of benefits attached to going to competitions. First, it motivates people to reach higher levels. Apart from that, there are always lessons to learn from fighting with high-level competitors in a competition.

However, others only learn the art for self-defence purposes and other martial arts benefits, such as workouts and physical fitness. For example, some schools often create gyms for people who’re only interested in learning it for self-defence.

So, BJJ is more suitable for sport.

Japanese jujutsu

Unlike BJJ, which offers people lots of opportunities for sports competitions, Japanese jujutsu only offers a few opportunities in that area. That’s because Japanese martial art was primarily created for self-defence.

Belt system and progression


Another big difference that can be spotted in the way BJJ and Japanese jujutsu works is their belt system and progression.

In BJJ, there are eight different belt systems. Here’s the list of the belt systems, and the order of progression, below.

  • White
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Red and black belt
  • Red and white belt 
  • Red belt

Furthermore, earning belts always depends on factors such as time spent, technical knowledge, and sparring levels. Finally, speaking of progression from one belt system to another, it all depends on the instructors. Some of them will require the demonstration of techniques before moving to the next level. As for others, they might use a grading system.

Japanese jujutsu

The belt systems employed by Japanese jujutsu are different from that of BJJ. Just like that of BJJ that starts with white, traditional jujutsu also starts with a white belt. However, some schools start with a red belt for beginners before moving to white. That said, here’s the list of belt systems used in Japanese jujutsu below.

  • Red – (only in a few places) 
  • White – (most schools begin by awarding white belts)
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black

What Are The Similarities Between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu And Japanese Jujutsu?

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First, both Brazilian Jiujitsu and the traditional Japanese jujutsu are related to Judo (Kodokan). The “Kodokan Judo” was modified from the traditional “Japanese Jujutsu”. Furthermore, the “Brazilian Jiu-jitsu” came into existence as a result of the knowledge of “Kodokan Judo”. With that, it means both BJJ and Japanese jujutsu are “indirectly” related.

Apart from the fact that both martial arts are indirectly related, they also have a few techniques in common. These include armlocks, pins, and leglocks, joint manipulations, and chokeholds.

Furthermore, in Brazilian Jiujitsu and Japanese jujutsu, “size doesn’t matter.” That’s because both arts are designed to enable smaller people to overcome bigger and stronger opponents. Lastly, skills acquired from any of the two martial arts can be used for self-defence, competition, and martial combats.

Although Jujitsu is hundreds of years old, it still relies on many of its original principles and techniques. Since this martial art was originally developed for Samurai, Japanese Jujitsu is suitable for real-life combat situations. In addition, it is often taught in a very traditional setting where discipline is greatly valued. On the other hand, Brazilian Jiujitsu is primarily used for sport with a primary focus on grappling. For this reason, some of the techniques taught in BJJ may not be applicable in a real-life situation but will win points in the competition. 

While both Jujitsu and BJJ are closely related to one another due to their connected histories, these styles are very different in how they are practised and applied in the world today. Understanding the difference between these two styles allows beginners to choose which style they are interested in learning and improve their overall knowledge of martial arts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jui Jitsu

Generally, there are two different types of Jiujitsu. They are Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) and Japanese jujutsu. Unfortunately, over the years, many people worldwide have been guilty of confusing the two martial arts to mean the same thing – this is mostly because the two martial arts have the same name; “Jiujitsu”.


Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) benefits people from every walk of life. Due to many factors, it is the best martial art for street defence from childhood to adulthood and from young women to older men. Moreover, it is effective against larger, stronger opponents.

Jujutsu was developed to combat the Samurai of feudal Japan to defeat an armed and armoured opponent in which one uses no form of weapon or only a short weapon. Today, jujutsu is practised in both traditional self-defence oriented and modern sports forms.

Like judo, this martial arts allows smaller, weaker individuals the ability to defend themselves against a bigger opponent. While Brazilian Jiujitsu is one of the most popular types of martial arts used in MMA competitions today, the sport itself focuses on grappling and does not involve kicking or punching.

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