Japanese Jujutsu vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: What’s The Difference?

December 27, 2021

Japanese Jujutsu and Brazilian jiu-Jitsu are two separate martial arts that share more than a few things in common. This is mainly because BJJ has origins in Jujutsu. But if you set Jujutsu against BJJ, what are all the significant differences? And which one is better and why?

Jujutsu is a combat system created by the Japanese military for hand-to-hand fighting. It consists of grappling, ground fighting, and striking techniques put into one system. BJJ has origins in Jujutsu and Judo, but it entirely focuses on ground fighting.

There is no striking within BJJ, and its students do not learn any military combat tactics. Does this mean that Jujutsu is better for self-defense and street fighting?

What Is Japanese Jujutsu?

Jujutsu is a martial art created by the Japanese military in the 15th century. It is also known as “Japanese Jiu-Jitsu” and “Jujitsu.” It consists of grappling, striking, fighting on the ground, and dirty tactics put into one combat system. Jujutsu was a mix of sumo and techniques from medieval Japanese martial arts in its initial form. Some of the early forms of Jujutsu were:

  • Shinden Fudo-Ryu
  • Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu
  • Takenouchi-Ryu

Jujutsu is a military system designed for wars and real battles. At one point, the military realized that strikes do not work well against an enemy who carries a weapon. So, they created a system that focuses on grappling and lethal ground fighting moves.

Instead of striking, Samurai warriors would take the enemy down and kill using chokes or break bones with joint locks. Suppose you combine this with basic striking and dirty tactics. In that case, you get a versatile art that is highly effective in actual combat.

They named it “jujutsu,” which means “gentle art” because a person doesn’t have to be strong to execute jujutsu techniques. It’s one of the very few arts that allows a smaller person to beat much stronger and bigger opponents.

Jujutsu started to evolve at a high rate during the peaceful time of the Edo period. Later on, many martial arts would derivate from Jujutsu like Judo, Sambo, and of course, BJJ.

What Is BJJ?

BJJ is a grappling martial art with no striking, and the entire emphasis is on ground fighting. It has origins in Judo and Jujutsu, and its story began in the 1920s. At the time, judoka Matsuo Maeda made a trip to Brazil to spread Judo.

His students, Carlos and Helio Gracie would later use Judo as a base. They added advanced ground fighting techniques. In some way, they moved the emphasis of Judo from powerful throws to ground fighting using chokes, joint locks, and positioning.

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Although it has been around since the 1920s, BJJ started to rise outside of Brazil with the birth of modern MMA fighting. In fact, most people associate BJJ with cage fighting, and for the right reason.

Back in the 90s, early UFC events were legal street fights without any time limits, weight classes, or even referees. It was a home of style vs. style matchups where the ultimate goal was to determine which martial art was the most effective.

Thanks to Royce Gracie, who won 3 UFC tournaments, BJJ emerged as the best. Thanks to its success in MMA, the popularity of BJJ exploded in the 90s and 2000s. It is by far the most popular grappling martial art practiced by all ages and genders in modern times. 

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ — What Are The Differences?

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ What Are The Differences

Jujutsu and BJJ share a lot of techniques and strategies in common. In fact, they may even look the same in the eyes of the layman. But at the same time, these two are separate martial arts that differ in many aspects. Here is all you need to know:

History And Origins

The earliest records of Jujutsu go back to the Nara period. One of the oldest styles was “Shinden Fudo,” developed in 1130 AD. However, the form we know today emerged in the 15th century in Japan.

At the time, the military required a new combat system to enhance its soldiers’ hand-to-hand fighting abilities. They worked out that the most practical approach to kill the enemy was through grappling and ground fighting, so they created “jujutsu.”

BJJ is a grappling martial art created by the famous Gracie family in the 1920s in Brazil. The founders were brothers Carlos and Helio Gracie, both skilled judokas. When they decided to develop their own style, the Gracie brothers took Judo and Jujutsu as a base. They added advanced ground fighting techniques.

Emphasis And Strategies

Jujutsu is a military combat system designed for war and self-defense. It is a brutal system where the emphasis is on killing or hurting the enemy as fast as possible. The main goal is to take the enemy down to the ground and finish using various strangles, chokes, and joint locks.

On top of that, it allows you to gouge eyes, strike the groins and carry out various other brutal moves. It is much more aggressive and brutal than BJJ.

BJJ is a softer version of Jujutsu that focuses only on grappling. There is no striking, not even the basics of striking defense; neither students learn dirty tactics nor deal with weapons. The emphasis is on self-defense and learning how to fight under competition rules.

Since most fights begin on the feet, the initial goal is to take the opponent down to the ground. Once there, fighters battle for a dominant position to apply submission moves.


Jujutsu is a complex fighting system where the main goal is to prepare a person to fight on the battlefield. That said, students learn advanced grappling and ground fighting techniques and the basics of striking offense and defense.

They also must know how to use or defend against dirty tactics. Some traditional schools also include weapon-based training. Students learn how to deal with street weapons like sticks, bats, and knives in modern times.

On top of that, there is also a lot of theory where students learn about Japanese history, anatomy of the human body, first aid, and much more. 

BJJ is less versatile than Jujutsu on paper. But it is far more complex and advanced in grappling and ground fighting. There is no striking, weapon-based training or dirty tactics.

The entire focus is on throws, trips, and sweeps, and positioning on the ground before placing a submission. There are more than 600 techniques and moves to master, most of them coming from Judo and Jujutsu.

  • Positions (full mount, back mount, side control, guard, half guard)
  • Chokeholds- (rear-naked choke, triangle choke, anaconda, D’arce)
  • Joint Locks- (armbar, leg lock, kimura)
  • Various throws, trips, sweeps, and escapes. 

Belt Ranks

Jujutsu belt ranking system:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple 
  • Brown 
  • Black

BJJ belt ranking system:

  • White
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Red and black belt (7th degree)
  • Red and white belt (8th degree)
  • Red belt (9th and 10th degree)

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ For Self-Defense

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ For Self-Defense

Both BJJ and Jujutsu have pros and cons when it comes to self-defense. But as a more versatile system, Jujutsu has a slight edge in this aspect. BJJ is also very practical. In fact, it is often seen as the best option. But the intensity and broader range of weapons are why Jujutsu is better.

In some way, Jujutsu is a total package for street fighting, and the skills you develop might help you get out of trouble and stay safe. First, training includes theory lessons where students learn about history, first aid, and the body’s anatomy.

Next, they learn how to beat the enemy or even kill, using various grappling and ground fighting moves. Training also covers the basics of striking, which is why Jujutsu is better than BJJ for street fighting.

The fight would begin with the attacker throwing a punch in your direction in most scenarios. As a trained jujutsu athlete, you would have solid striking skills and even better grappling skills. Grappling is crucial in street fighting because most ordinary people don’t know how to stop a takedown.

The only thing you need to do would be to secure a firm grip and execute a basic trip or throw to take the fight to the ground. Once the fight hits the ground, it will be game over. Just a solid top position and a soft squeeze would be enough to force the attacker to give up.

But on top of that, jujutsu training also trains you to deal with well-known street-fighting weapons like sticks, knives, and even guns. And like that’s not versatile enough, students also learn how to defend or use dirty tactics, which adds to the realism of Jujutsu.

BJJ is also very effective for self-defense, but its most significant downside is the lack of striking, dirty tactics, and weapon-based training.

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ For MMA

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ For MMA

BJJ has an edge when it comes to MMA fighting because it fits better within the sport’s rules. Jujutsu is simply too brutal for MMA. It trains its fighters to use dirty tactics like eye-gouging and other brutal techniques. These moves are illegal in modern MMA fighting and would disqualify you if you decide to use them.

BJJ plays a crucial role in modern MMA, and it has been like that since day 1 when Royce Gracie ruled the sport in the early stages. Since then, BJJ has evolved a lot, and it’s fair to say that its role has gotten even more prominent.

In this day and age, it is a crucial element of MMA for ground fighting, an element you can’t expect to succeed without. Just about every modern MMA fighter at the top level in the UFC must have at least basic BJJ skills in their arsenal.

According to stats, BJJ is in the second place on the list of martial arts that have produced most UFC champions, with the first one being wrestling. Many great UFC fighters have had some background in BJJ, with the most famous ones being Charles Oliveira and Fabricio Werdum.

As a more brutal version of BJJ, Jujutsu is not that practical for MMA fighting. Yes, its techniques are very effective in freestyle fighting, maybe even more than BJJ. But on the other side, MMA is a sport where you have to obey strict rules. There are no dirty tactics or weapons in cage fighting.

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ — Who Would Win In A Street Fight?

Japanese Jujutsu vs. BJJ Who Would Win In A Street Fight

The winner of the Jujutsu vs. BJJ matchup is based on many factors, like the place of the fight or if there are any weapons. Overall, it’s fair to assume that athletes trained in Jujutsu have slightly better chances of beating their grappling colleagues from BJJ. But there is an argument that this fight could also go the other way around.

Jujutsu emphasizes real-life combat scenarios and includes a broader range of weapons. It is much more versatile than BJJ because it has striking techniques, dirty tactics, and the emphasis is slightly different.

Yes, striking in Jujutsu is not advanced as in boxing or Muay Thai. But still, it teaches you the basics, while BJJ doesn’t include striking at all. And this is crucial when it comes to street fighting without the rules.

The thing is, modern BJJ practice is too oriented towards competition and rules. On the other side, Jujutsu is all about aggression. It is getting the finish as fast as possible, breaking bones, gouging eyes, and doing anything in your power to hurt the opponent as much as possible. This on its own makes a big difference in how you approach the fight. But, there is one big problem.

Jujutsu training doesn’t include nearly as much sparring as BJJ. In training, jujutsu students do a lot of katas, and they practice the moves in pre-arranged forms. Of course, the structure and concept of training vary between the schools. But overall, BJJ puts far more emphasis on sparring in just about every class. 

And on top of that, BJJ techniques have evolved a lot over the years. If the fight goes to the ground, jujutsu fighters would have difficulty defending against the BJJ moves.

Jujutsu vs. BJJ — Which One Is Better For You?

The answer to this question is based on many factors. The most important one is why you want to enroll in martial arts, your age, and what you want to achieve in the end. Here is a final look at both of these arts that might help you make the right choice.

Jujutsu should be your choice if you are focusing on learning self-defense tactics. Techniques you learn and skills you develop in training work well in any street fighting and get you out of trouble.

It is a comprehensive system that trains you to strike, grapple, fight on the ground, and deal with the most common weapons. On top of that, it is a full-body workout with many benefits for fitness and health. The biggest downside is the fact that students do not spar often.

BJJ should be your choice if you want to learn self-defense tactics, compete in matches, or switch over to MMA later in the future. It is also a much safer option because it doesn’t include striking, which is why people choose BJJ over Jujutsu.

Despite the lack of striking, it is still effective enough for street fighting, and each technique you learn in training works in real life as well. And unlike jiu-jitsu, BJJ students spar daily, which, apart from providing a lot of fun, is the best way to learn how to fight.

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About the author 

Tomislav Zivanovic

Since 2017, Tomi has been working within the martial arts media, writing unique and creative articles about martial arts, and covering the most famous combat sports events. He works with some of the biggest martial arts blogs and websites like Middleeasy and Martial Arts Unleashed.


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