I would say one of the questions I get the most is, “What’s the difference between Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?”. This isn’t as easy a question to answer as one would think; even for a guy like myself that has practiced both and spent so many years thinking about, learning, and researching the gentle art. The biggest issue with the answer is that the origins of the two are exactly the same. Well, to be more clear, the origins of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu actually come from the Japanese version of the art.
This stuff has been around for a long, long time
Without getting into an in-depth history lesson about martial arts and jujitsu, let’s just say Jiu Jitsu has been around for a very long time. In fact, there has been evidence found that forms of martial arts and hand to hand combat techniques go back almost as far as civilization its self.
Maybe we will jump ahead a few centuries
So, as I mentioned above, Japan did it first and in the early 1900s it was brought to Brazil. As a few select people in Brazil began to learn and practice the Japanese form of the art, the art eventually began to evolve. This is where the differences begin and the confusion starts.
What came first, the armbar, or the armbar
The biggest difference and the easiest to see is the difference in where exactly the techniques are applied within the two respective arts. Since Jiu Jitsu in the Brazilian form was literally evolved from Japanese Jiu Jitsu, the majority of the core techniques are identical. Where Japanese Jiu Jitsu tends to practice the majority of the moves while standing, In Brazil these same moves became much more efficient while implemented on the ground. This is the biggest difference. Standing vs. grappling. Now, Japanese does in fact practice a good amount of ground techniques, and Brazilian respectively practices a good amount of standing techniques. But as I mentioned the majority of the techniques are ground based in Brazil and Standing in Japan.
I’ll take mine on the side… a la carte please
An armlock is an armlock, right? Well, not exactly. So, here’s what happens, in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, you learn an armlock and you learn an arm lock from a few key positions; most likely standing, after a throw, and in maybe one or two positions on the ground. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you will learn the same armlock from all of those same positions. Then it gets fun, because you are going to learn the same armlock in hundreds of variations from hundreds of positions in hundreds of different scenarios. Not to mention, you also learn how to escape the armbar and how to efficiently defend while it’s attempted by someone else against you. This theme is reproduced with every single technique you learn in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, be it an armlock, a common choke, a foot or leg lock, or even an escape from a dominant position.
This is the beauty I see in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every single day
Not to take anything away from Japanese Jiu Jitsu, I personally enjoy the Japanese version greatly and I think it is a great martial art for anyone to pick up and study. My passion and love has a home with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu though. I enjoy the detail and the precision of it. I last practiced Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu, which is of Japanese descent, over 12 years ago and I have been exclusively training and teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ever since.
So now when someone asks you what in heck is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Or isn’t Jiu Jitsu just Jiu Jitsu? Or wants to know the difference between Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you will know exactly what to say. The next step is to get out there and try both forms. This way you will know firsthand the benefits of both and will easily find out which of the two is best for you. I happen to know a great place to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.