What Are The Differences Between Japanese And Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Jiu-jitsu practitioners grappling

The question about the differences between Brazilian and Japanese Jiu Jitsu is often thrown around by beginners in martial art circles. After all, it is quite a fascinating thing to try and trace the roots and origins of different grappling arts and especially the one that you practice or are about to take up.

When it comes to tracing the origins of the martial art of jiu jistu, we know that it actually comes from Judo as most other grappling arts do. Jiu jistu has picked up various techniques from the martial art of judo and refined them. However, there are two distinct types of jiu jitsu itself. One is Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) and the other is the Japanese jiu jitsu. Naturally, people taking up either of these martial arts are curious to know how one is different from the other. Let’s look at how these two types of jiu jitsu came into existence and what the differences between the two are.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

The Japanese version of jiu jitsu developed way back in history as a system of techniques and skills to be used in life and death combat situations. It is said that it was in the age of the ninjas and samurai warriors when this combat art was first developed. Those were tough times and these Japanese warriors were frequently forced to face life and death situations in battles. Therefore, this grappling art evolved out of the need to survive in a hand to hand combat situation.

Japanese Jiu Jitsu Today

Even today, the Japanese version of this martial art continues to be taught in traditional ways and settings. The conventional values of hierarchy and discipline are still given priority over other things when Japanese jiu jitsu is practiced today.

As a result, Japanese jiu jitsu has not evolved much to meet the needs of modern times and contemporary fighting dynamics. The masters of this art value traditional techniques over the need to evolve and add to this system of self defense. They are more concerned about passing the art on undiluted and pure. The addition of modern techniques and tactics is not encouraged.

This is not to say that this particular form of fighting is ineffective or outmoded today. Japanese jiu jitsu can very much be used today especially in fighting or self defense situations that require quick action. The principles and techniques are still as effective as they were years ago. But that’s the thing; Japanese jiu jitsu did not improve over the years as a system of self defense.


The practitioners of this martial art learn through both solo drills as well as through practicing with a partner. There are low resistance and medium resistance drills that masters employ to train the students of this particular martial art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) as a separate form of martial art in itself can be solely credited to the Gracie family of Brazil. The Gracie family had a crucial role in the development of the art form—so much so, that Brazilian jiu jitsu is still known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu around many martial art circles.

One of the main advantages that BJJ holds for its practitioner is that it will help even a smaller, physically weaker person to take on or defend himself against a bigger and stronger opponent. The techniques of BJJ are specifically designed to enable you to do just that. 

There’s immense focus on using leverage instead of force in BJJ training and it is this principle that is seen being applied through various techniques of the sport.

Helio Gracie of the Gracie family, one of the founders of this grappling art, was himself known to have a typically small frame. In an attempt to work around the certain disadvantages of a weaker body and smaller frame, he refined and altered a number of judo techniques.

What came out the other end were the several Brazilian jujitsu techniques that we now see small-framed people applying in combat to pin down a bigger opponent and make them “tap out.”

On the other hand, the more traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu will not provide you a substantial advantage over a larger, stronger challenger.


One of the primary differences in both these forms of jiu jitsu is related to how you train for each. Both the training methodology and the philosophy differ considerably in the different forms of jiu jitsu. As mentioned earlier, the Japanese version prioritizes stability and hierarchy and passing down of the principles undiluted. The practitioner takes those principles as is and practices to perfect them. 

On the contrary, when it comes to BJJ, it is much more dynamic as a body of principles and system of techniques. Even though it is not like there is no concept of stability and hierarchy, even a white belt will experiment with new techniques and ideas and come up with more effective ways of dominating the opponent. At times even a black belt may fall victim to one of these experimental new moves from a white belt.

More Focus on Sparring

BJJ relies a lot more on sparring than the Japanese version of jiu jitsu. There is a lot of mat rolling and pinning of opponents against each other from the very first day. Even as a beginner, on your first day of training, you will be tossed in front of an opponent.

More Functional

It is a lot more functional as a martial art than its Japanese counterpart. BJJ is primarily a form of self defense and can be extremely handy in real life fighting situations. The whole idea to give a smaller and weaker person the ability to dominate a larger and stronger adversary.

There may be a number of similarities in the two forms of jiu jitsu, but they differ from each other in a number of ways. If you want to know more about jiu jitsu or its history, you can go ahead and visit our website to find out everything you need to know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

John Porter

John is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt and founder of Livermore Supply Co. When not training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, John enjoys learning languages, traveling to the warm parts of the world, and photography. Outside of Livermore Supply Co., John has a career in the technology field.

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