Martial Arts Styles: Judo vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs. Judo - Characteristics, Great Matches and More

Masahiko Kimura. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Judo. Which martial art is better? They're both similar in many ways. This is mainly because both have roots in the ancient Japanese art of jujutsu. Judo was created by Dr. Jigoro Kano with the expectation that it would be practiced as a sport. Hence, he removed some of the more dangerous jujutsu moves. By doing so, sparring, or newaza, became more popular. Judo was practiced in schools, as Kano had hoped.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was invented by the Gracie family of Brazil, most notably Helio Gracie. Helio's father, Gastao Gracie, helped a Kodokan Judo master named Mitsuyo Maeda (at the time the terms judo and jujutsu were often used interchangeably) with business in Brazil. In turn, Maeda taught Gastao's eldest son, Carlos, the art of judo. Carlos taught the rest of his brothers what he had learned, including the smallest and frailest of them, Helio.

Helio was often at a disadvantage when practicing the art because many of the moves in judo favored the stronger and larger fighter. Thus, he developed an offshoot of Maeda’s teachings that favored leverage on the ground over brute strength and refined the formula for fighting from one’s back on the ground. Helio's art eventually became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches takedowns influenced by both judo and wrestling. The art also touches upon striking, but Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is mostly a ground fighting martial arts style that stresses improving one's position with joint locks. In addition, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches practitioners to effectively fight from one's back. It is a patient art in which practitioners wait for openings and slowly move toward them in most cases.

Judo teaches submissions as well, even if these submissions are often practiced in a hastened manner. Despite similarities between the two arts on the ground, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uses leverage and patience more there. In that sense, it is widely and accurately believed to be a more complete grappling art. But judo is the superior takedown style.

Judo teaches leverage, hip throws and more to take opponents to the ground. Few arts compare to it in this way.

Famous Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs. Judo Fights

Helio Gracie vs. Yukio Kato

Helio Gracie vs. Masahiko Kimura

Royce Gracie vs. Remco Pardoel

Royce Gracie vs. Hidehiko Yoshida

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Pawel Nastula

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Helio Gracie vs. Yukio Kato

In November 1950, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder Helio Gracie was asked by a Japanese emissary if he would accept a fight with a Japanese champion. Gracie agreed. This led to three Japanese judokas visiting Brazil. The trio was led by the champion of all Japanese champions, Masahiko Kimura. The other two fighters were Yamaguchi (sixth degree black belt) and Yukio Kato (fifth degree black belt). Because Kato and Gracie were similar in size (Kato weighed about 154 pounds), Gracie fought Kato instead of Kimura. The Japanese were reportedly afraid that if Gracie lost to Kimura, he would simply blame their weight differential.

On Sept. 6, 1951, Kato and Gracie met at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a three-round draw. Kato reportedly dominated the early goings, with Gracie taking the later stages of the fight.

Kato then challenged Gracie to a rematch, which took place 23 days later at Pacaembu Gymnasium. Early on, the Japanese fighter threw Gracie hard. He also tried a choke with which Gracie had trouble. Before long, Gracie regained his strength and won the match, leaving Kato fell unconscious.

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Helio Gracie vs. Masahiko Kimura

Courtesy of Wikipedia

On Oct. 23, 1951, judo's Masahiko Kimura fought Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's inventor Helio Gracie at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Just about a month earlier, Gracie had defeated one of the best judo fighters in the world, Yukio Kato, by choke. Hence, there was a lot of pressure on Kimura, who had a 40- to 50-pound weight advantage on his smaller adversary.

Kimura was widely considered to be the greatest judo fighter in the world, so the Japanese people were counting on him. Coming into the match, Kimura indicated that he would knock his opponent out with a throw and that if Gracie were to last more than three minutes, he'd consider himself the winner.

Kimura dominated the match from a throwing perspective, continually slamming Gracie into what was apparently a somewhat soft mat. Since these moves did not stop Gracie as he thought they might, Kimura then began looking for submissions. After roughly 12 minutes, Gracie had been rendered unconscious by a choke but somehow persevered.

Kimura sunk in a reverse ude-garami (shoulderlock), but Gracie was so tough that he refused to submit, having his arm broken instead. Eventually, his corner threw in the towel, and Kimura was rightfully given the win.

Judo won out here. But in the process, Gracie and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu certainly gained some respect.

Here's how Kimura described the event:

"As soon as Helio fell, I pinned him by Kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame. I held still for two or three minutes and then tried to smother him by belly. Helio shook his head trying to breathe. He could not take it any longer, and tried to push up my body extending his left arm. That moment, I grabbed his left wrist with my right hand, and twisted up his arm. I applied Udegarami. I thought he would surrender immediately. But Helio would not tap the mat. I had no choice but keep on twisting the arm. The stadium became quiet. The bone of his arm was coming close to the breaking point. Finally, the sound of bone breaking echoed throughout the stadium. Helio still did not surrender. His left arm was already powerless. Under this rule, I had no choice but twist the arm again. There was plenty of time left. I twisted the left arm again. Another bone was broken. Helio still did not tap. When I tried to twist the arm once more, a white towel was thrown in. I won by TKO."

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Royce Gracie vs. Remco Pardoel

When BJJ fighter Royce Gracie faced off against judo fighter Remco Pardoel at UFC 2, the 170-pound fighter had already won the UFC 1 tournament. Sure, Pardoel had a jiu-jitsu background as well; but who in judo didn't at the time? The bottom line is that he was not a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu superstar, like Gracie, son of Helio.

It took Gracie some time to get Pardoel to the ground, as the big man outweighed him by 84 pounds. Once he did, Pardoel went for a kimura and missed. Gracie then used his gi to sink in the lapel choke, winning after only 1:31 minutes in round one.

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Royce Gracie vs. Hidehiko Yoshida

When Royce Gracie faced off against Hidehiko Yoshida, he hadn't fought since his famous loss to Kazushi Sakuraba at the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals. So, his 2002 PRIDE fight against Japanese judo gold medalist Yoshida garnered a lot of attention.

During the match, Gracie quickly found himself on his back, with Yoshida on top. The two eventually came to their feet and went back to the ground, where Yoshida sunk in a gi-choke which resulted in the match being stopped. Gracie immediately contested the loss, indicating that he could've fought on and was completely conscious when the referee chose to stop the bout.

Afterward, the Gracies demanded the match be turned into a no contest, and an immediate rematch ​be booked (with different rules for next time). If their demands were not met, the family vowed to never fight for PRIDE again. PRIDE accepted their demands.

On Dec. 31, 2003, the two squared off at PRIDE's Shockwave 2003 event. Interestingly, Gracie entered the fight without a gi on and would've clearly won the match by decision, had the rules allowed judges to get involved. Instead, after two 10-minute rounds did not result in a stoppage, the bout was declared a draw.

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Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Pawel Nastula

Pawel Nastula made his MMA fighting debut at Pride FC - Critical Countdown 2005 against former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. This wasn't a true Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. judo match. Though Nogueira's first love and strength was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (he was a black belt in it), he was also a high-level striker and overall MMA fighter. On the flip side, Nastula was a true judoka, having won the 1995 and 1997 Judo World Championships and winning a 1996 Olympic gold medal in the sport.

That said, the bout sure did have a BJJ vs. judo flavor to it. Nastula immediately took Nogueira down and controlled the majority of round one. But he fatigued without doing much damage, and once Nogueira got on top, the end was near. Eventually, Nogueira's cardio allowed him to pound away on his opponent until the referee stopped things at 8:38 minutes of round one (TKO).