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Japanese Jiu Jitsu Vs Judo – 7 Differences

Modern jiu jitsu has often been criticized for copying moves from judo, and there is some debate about whether jiu jitsu is in fact just judo. 

Yet, judo remains one of the most popular martial arts, and it’s very difficult to find a Japanese jiu jitsu academy outside of Japan. While both Japanese jiu-jitsu and judo have similarities, what are the differences between Japanese jiu jitsu and judo?

Overall, judo does not have strikes, whereas, Japanese jiu jitsu does; judo is an Olympic sport but Japanese jiu jitsu is not; judo has a big emphasis on moral values; the belt ranking system is different; judo is far more popular; and they have a different curriculum.

It’s worth mentioning that there are many alternate spellings to jiu jitsu. These are jujitsu, ju-jitsu, jiu-jitsu, often this can be a bit confusing, but they are all the same martial arts.

In this post, I’ll look at:

  • The 7 main differences between Japanese jiu jitsu and judo
  • Is Japanese jiu jitsu any good?
  • Is Japanese jiu jitsu good for street fighting?
  • Why Japanese jiu jitsu is not as good as some other martial arts
  • Is judo effective in a real fight?
Judo vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu

1. Japanese Jiu Jitsu Teaches Striking But Judo Does Not

Judo has three main categories of techniques: throws, pins, and submission holds. However, it does not teach any strikes at all such as kicks and punches.

On the other hand, strikes are taught in the Japanese jiu-jitsu curriculum.

Here’s a video showing strikes used and taught in Japanese jiu-jitsu:

The striking techniques taught in Japanese jiu jitsu are called ‘atemi-waza’.

The Kyushin Ruy Jiu-jitsu academy based in Australia lists the striking techniques and shows some of the in video form on this page of their official website (source).

One of the most well known judo organizations – the Kodokan Judo Institute – has a detailed list of all of the techniques in judo. It also has videos for each of them.

Of the over 100 techniques in judo, none of them are striking techniques.

2. Judo Is An Olympic Sport But Japanese Jiu Jitsu Is Not

The Olympics is one of the most popular sporting events. Judo is one of the only grappling arts that is an Olympic sport, together with wrestling.

Japanese jiu jitsu is not an Olympic Sport. It is well known that Japanese jiu jitsu fell out of popularity, and was later revived by judo. 

In doing so, judo became extremely popular, and Japanese jiu jitsu become very obscure and hard to find. This is one of the main reasons why Japanese jiu jitsu is not an Olympic Sport. 

A related martial art, Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ), has been rumored to be in the process of becoming an Olympic Sport. However, this has yet to happen.

3. Judo Has An Emphasis On Moral Development

To understand why judo has such an emphasis on moral development, it’s important to know that Jigoro Kano invented judo and changed the name from jiu jitsu to judo.

After some time he added the code of moral conduct, which includes things such as respect, and patience.

While there’s no doubt that a Japanese jiu jitsu school will be a friendly and welcoming place, the moral development aspect is not part of the core curriculum.

For example, there are 3 Japanese jiu jitsu schools that I will link to at the very end of this article:

  • Kyushin Ryu Jiu Jitsu
  • Katabami Ju-Jitsu Honbu
  • Wakarishin Jujitsu

All of these Japanese jiu jitsu schools make public their curriculum online. None of them contain moral development.

On the other hand, the International Judo Federation website states the following moral code (source):

  • Courage
  • Respect
  • Modesty
  • Sincerity
  • Friendship
  • Honor
  • Politeness
  • Self-control

And these values are emphasized throughout the training.

4. Judo Is Far More Popular Than Japanese Jiu Jitsu

In virtually every city it’s easy to find a judo school. On the other hand, Japanese jiu jitsu is far less widespread.

You would be hard-pressed to find more than one or Japanese jiu jitsu academies outside of the largest cities.

In my opinion, the popularity of judo can be attributed to it being an Olympic sport.

Through its Olympic exposure, many more people have heard of it and would be interested in trying it. As you may know, some other forms of jiu jitsu you find nowadays are very popular.

However, the main popular type of jiu-jitsu is not Japanese jiu-jitsu but rather Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It has largely become popular due to the recent popularity of the UFC, and Joe Rogan – a very famous podcaster.

Prior to the popularity of the UFC, if you asked most people what jiu-jitsu is, they would not know.

However, nowadays many more people are aware of what jiu-jitsu is.

5. Judo Does Not Have A Purple Belt And It Takes Longer To Get Each Belt

There are a range of different Japanese jiu jitsu academies, and they don’t all have the same belt order. In some cases, the order is identical to judo. However, in others it’s different. 

The time in between each belt is also different.

Here’s a table that shows the belt order in judo compared to the belt order in Japanese jiu jitsu:

Judo BeltCumulative timeJapanese Jiu jitsu BeltCumulative time
Yellow3 to 4 monthsYellow4 months
Orange1 year to 1.5 yearsOrange8 months
Green2 years to 3.5 yearsGreen1 year, 4 months
Blue4 years to 6.5 yearsBlue1 year, 8 months
7 years to 10.4 yearsPurple2 years
BrownBrown2 years, 8 months
Black9 years to 12.4 yearsBlack3 years, 8 months

The total time it takes to get a black belt judo is 9 to 12 years. In Japanese jiu jitsu it only takes 3 to 4 years. 

Based on the difference in how long it takes to get a black belt in Japanese jiu jitsu compared to judo, it’s safe to say a black belt in judo is more skilled than a black belt in Japanese jiu jitsu.

This is simply due to the fact that a person doing judo needs to train for nearly twice as long.

6. Japanese Jiu Jitsu Is Closer To Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

As you may know, MMA involves striking but the fight can also go the ground.

MMA fighters typically know 4 martial arts to a high level – boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Brazilian jiu jitsu is very similar to judo and Japanese jiu-jitsu but BJJ is now incredibly popular.

If you watch a regular Japanese jiu jitsu match, you will notice it resembles MMA. But, if you watch a judo match it is very different and there are no strikes at all.

The only moves competitors can do are throws, trips, and submission holds.

In Japanese jiu jitsu, virtually all strikes are allowed.

Here’s a video from the International Ju-jitsu Federation that shows an overview of Japanese jiu jitsu techniques:

7. Judo And Japanese Jiu Jitsu Have A Significantly Different Curriculum

Judo has a curriculum that is well known.

The entire list of techniques, and videos of each of them performed by judo experts is provided by the International Kodokan Judo Federation. 

There are 8 categories of techniques in judo. These are:

  • Joint locks
  • Choking techniques
  • Pinning techniques
  • Side sacrifice throws (person gets into a disadvantageous position)
  • Back sacrifice throws (person gets into a disadvantageous position)
  • Foot sweeping techniques
  • Hip techniques
  • Hand techniques

But, interestingly Japanese jiu jitsu also has many of the same techniques in judo.

For example, the techniques in Japanese jiu jitsu are categorized as:

  • Throws
  • Joint locks and chokes
  • Strikes and kicks
  • Stances
  • Weapons
  • Rolls and falls

There is no universal curriculum in judo or Japanese jiu jitsu. However, there are affiliations. If two schools are under the same judo or Japanese jiu jitsu affiliation, they will have an almost identical curriculum. 

However, it’s not necessary to master every technique in judo. Most of the top judo competitors specialize in one or two techniques that they are exceptional at.

Is Japanese Jiu Jitsu Any Good?

Japanese jiu jitsu is not a very well-known martial art.

While it’s possible to find some Japanese jiu jitsu academies, they are very rare. Therefore it’s hard to know if Japanese jiu jitsu is any good or not.

Here’s my personal rundown of whether Japanese jiu jitsu is any good…

Overall, Japanese jiu jitsu is good. The main issue with Japanese jiu jitsu is it is not very popular. Therefore, it’s very difficult to find an academy that teaches it. A nearly identical martial art such as judo is far more widespread, and it’s easier to attend classes.

If you’re traveling a long way out of town to train Japanese jiu jitsu, in my opinion it’s not worth it. The reason is judo is so similar that it just makes more sense to learn that. 

Judo is far popular, and as a result, it’s far easier to find a judo academy. Chances are there is one very close by where you live. 

Is Japanese Jiu Jitsu Good For Street Fighting?

One of the main reasons people start doing martial arts is to defend themselves in a fight.

MMA is also almost identical to a real fight, except a few moves are not allowed. Below, is the long and short of how good Japanese jiu jitsu is for street fight and self-defense.

Japanese jiu jitsu is OK for street fighting/self-defense. Japanese jiu jitsu has a self-defense curriculum. However, it is not the best for self-defense according to martial arts experts. Boxing, Muay Thai (kickboxing), Brazilian jiu jitsu, and Wrestling, are better for self-defense.

Ideally you want to be able to perform a combination of a few.

Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu jitsu is a good combination. The reason is it has been shown in exhibition matches that a Muay Thai fighter will easily beat a boxer. 

This is mainly due to very effective leg kicks. If a boxer gets hit with 1 to 3 very good leg kicks, chances are they will not be able to continue, and this will be a technical knockout (TKO). 

Boxers do not train blocking leg kicks at all, and so a Muay Thai fighter would have a very easy time landing leg kicks at will, which would ultimately win them the match.

The striking skill that a Muay Thai fighter has is superior to the stand-up skills taught in Japanese jiu jitsu.

The training methods are also very good because all of the training is geared around a real fight.

One of the easy ways to see why this is the case is that MMA fighters almost always use kickboxing or Muay Thai as the stand-up striking martial art.

There are no known MMA fighters who have a background in Japanese jiu jitsu.

Why Japanese Jiu Jitsu Is Not As Good As Some Other Martial Arts

The techniques taught in Japanese jiu jitsu are effective.

However, for a person to develop real skill in martial arts they need to ultimately test their skills against a 100% resisting opponent. In effect ‘sparring’. 

Provided a Japanese jiu jitsu school incorporates live sparring into their training at some point, it will be effective and make a person better prepared for a real fight.

However, there are still many benefits a person can get from training Japanese jiu jitsu.

Is Judo Effective in a Real Fight?

In a real fight, there are a few martial arts that stand out such as boxing, and kickboxing.

Judo is very popular, but it is training exclusively in a kimono (gi) uniform, so whether all of the techniques will work in real life is debatable.

However, here is whether judo overall is effective in a real fight…

Judo is effective in a real fight. There are an overwhelmingly large number of videos where judo has been used effectively in self-defense. Many judo techniques are also used in almost every MMA fight. The main goal for a person who knows judo is typically to throw the person.

People who do judo are very good at doing throws on people. If a person doesn’t know judo, they will easily be thrown.

Many judo throws are also seen in MMA.

Here’s a video that shows a range of judo throws being used in MMA.