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  • Writer's pictureAmerican Karate Institute

BJJ vs Japanese Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu, similar? Or worlds apart?

Although Japan is not necessarily the home of martial arts, many different forms of martial arts originate from this island country in the Pacific. Originally Japanese Jiu Jitsu was developed as a way for Samurais to engage in effective combat without weapons, this was due to the ineffectiveness of striking against armored opponents. Later strikes were added however this is seen to be supplementary in the art form. The origins of Jiu Jitsu still hold true today, a martial art that’s primary attacks are based on joint manipulation, chokes and holds

While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Japanese Jiu Jitsu both hold ‘Jiu Jitsu’ in their name (meaning: gentle art), there are some key differences between the two.

Today, The American Karate Institute will be exploring the similarities and differences between the two.

Ground fighting

Many assume that Jiu Jitsu is an exclusively ground based martial art. This is not the case. While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is almost exclusively performed on the floor, the same cannot be said for Japanese Jiu Jitsu. BJJ is heavily influenced by earlier versions of Kodokan Judo, especially versions of it that were performed pre-WW2 which focused a greater emphasis on ground fighting. On the other hand, Japanese Jiu Jitsu was developed to be a hybrid martial art, of which ground fighting was only one part of the system.

Mitsuyo Maeda – The man, the legend.

Mitsuyo Maeda also known as ‘Count Combat’ was a Judoka (student of Judo) from Japan that decided to travel the world teaching Judo. He was small in stature (164cm) yet he fought with practitioners of different disciplines, winning over 1,000 fights! This unimposing yet amazingly skilled Judoka was the sensei of Carlos Gracie, one the founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


Due to the strong influence of Judo on the formation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there is no striking taught or permitted when training/competing in traditional BJJ. There are techniques taught that deal with the dangers that come from being attacked with strikes (i.e. get up technique), however no offensive striking techniques are taught. This is not the case in Japanese Jiu Jitsu. Although not the primary focus of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, striking does play a more than superficial role. Striking within Japanese Jiu Jitsu is primarily utilized to close the gap between you and your opponent to allow for takedowns and eventually a hold/lock/choke.

It is important to note that when training BJJ a practitioner should be mindful of their positioning. Striking isn’t permitted in training/competition. However, an altercation outside of the gym will have no rules to prohibit strikes. Therefore, ensure you are conscious about your positioning when training. This is to not build up bad habits that will leave you open to strikes.

The influence of Eddie Bravo

There is a competition that is beginning to grow in popularity called, Combat Jiu Jitsu. This was founded by Eddie Bravo a pioneer in the BJJ world. He is known for helping bridge the gap between BJJ and it’s use within MMA. Combat Jiu Jitsu follows almost the same ruleset of traditional BJJ, however open palm strikes are permitted.

Real world effectiveness

There are many reasons why someone might start doing martial arts, the most obvious being self-defense. There is little that better prepares a person for a real confrontation than by simulating combat in what we call sparring, or in BJJ ‘rolling’. This aspect of training is not a part of Japanese Jiu Jitsu training for the most part, leaving a student potentially at a disadvantage if they do meet conflict in the outside world. A significant component of BJJ is the sparring, all students are advised to take part as this provides an opportunity to put into practice techniques used while becoming acclimated to an uncommon situation for most.

Sparring can be found in some Japanese Jiu Jitsu schools. Those geared towards the sport side of the martial art tend to allow sparring. However, unlike BJJ, emphasis is put on learning and refining katas (similarly to karate). A kata is a combination of movements that train the mind and body. They allow for important movements to become second nature, leading to better precision and speed.

UFC – BJJ’s coming out party

Mixed martial arts (MMA) has grown exponentially in the past two decades. It was at UFC 1 that Royce Gracie showed the world how effective BJJ could be. Even more impressive was that this was when UFC had far fewer rules than today! Eye gouging, no weight classes, no rounds and no judges were the norm! It is interesting to note that the majority of professional MMA fighters today have at least some knowledge of BJJ. Whether that be for offence or defense. This shouldn’t come as any surprise as it fits extremely well with striking disciplines such as Boxing and Muay Thai.

Our Thoughts

There is a clear difference between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu for those in the know. The popularity of BJJ continues to rise, allowing for the evolution of the discipline to continue marching forward. This doesn’t mean that Japanese Jiu Jitsu is obsolete. It is simply better suited for a practitioner looking for a traditional Japanese martial arts experience.


At the American Karate Institute, we teach a way of life. Our Miami martial arts school and MMA Classes has developed a well thought out curriculum that teaches more than just the art of self-defense. We delve deep into our students’ technique, skill set, intelligence, intuition and overall physical fitness. Contact us today if you’re interested in mixed martial arts and self-defense classes and schedule your free-trial class!


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