Japanese Jiu-Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: What are the Differences?

While the various disciplines of martial arts can cause confusion for newcomers, even the staunchest MMA supporters can have trouble distinguishing between the variations of combat styles. This is the case when it comes to observing differences between Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Before considering the variances, however, here is a breakdown of both styles.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Putting it simply, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu sits at the top table as the father of grappling arts. Its origins date back to the Japanese samurai. Because striking attacks would prove ineffective against the heavy armor worn by their enemies, grappling – which included joint locks and throws – was a far superior combat method.  

The discipline has come a long way since its roots as a form of military combat. Nowadays, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is more sport-friendly, although it still retains the traditional values that the martial art was built on.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In a sense, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is seen as a third generation offspring of its Japanese equivalent. This is because of its direct influence taken from Judo, which itself came from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. The famous Gracie family was introduced to Judo and the rest, as they say, is history.  

Nowadays, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the most prevalent grappling-based art on the planet. Its popularity exploded when Royce Gracie entered the first UFC tournaments and wiped the floor with the competition. From then on, UFC has always pivoted towards combat that is influenced by grappling and ground-based fighting.

As combat in MMA evolves, so does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, the BJJ that is seen in MMA these days has evolved substantially from the Gracie origins. It continues to advance to this day. In ten years’ time, BJJ will be noticeably different to its present state.

So what’s the difference?

The main difference between the two has already been touched upon – the evolution of the respective Jiu-Jitsu arts. Whereas Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is traditional in the sense that its teachings largely remain the same, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has never stood still since its inception. As a result, BJJ not only has a larger repertoire in terms of moves – from flying attacks to the Berimbolo – but it is also a much more versatile discipline for MMA.

The constant development of BJJ is also helped by its approach. As Japanese Jiu-Jitsu usually stays in its own lane with light sparring and not mixing against other styles, BJJ frequently focuses on contested situational sparring against partners that use many different techniques.

As for other differences, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is usually the choice for self-defense as it’s a faster method of defeating opponents. However, it doesn’t have the same effectiveness against bigger opponents in the way BJJ does, and the Brazilian variant is the king of the ground game. 

So when you’re next reading MMA news that references a fighter utilizing either Brazilian or Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, you’ll have a clearer idea about their approach and fighting style.