A Closer Look at the Differences Between Traditional Japanese and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu is a martial arts form that has advantages for practitioners of all ages and strength levels. But the art form as we see it today has evolved much from its origins many hundreds of years ago in Feudal Japan. It wasn’t until the end of the last century when the Gracie family took the concepts of an age-old art and reinvented them for practical use in this modern day and age.

This has become known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is practiced and taught across the world as one of the most effective forms of personal defense.

What is the Difference between the Traditional and Brazilian Forms of Jiu Jitsu?

Traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu was founded in the Sengoku period of the Muromachi Era in ancient Japan.

Several contemporary martial arts were conceptualized and developed over many centuries by the mighty Samurai Warrior Class in Medieval Japan and soon fell into a single art form called, Jiu Jitsu (JIU jitsu). This martial form was designed for an armor-clad Samurai rushing headlong into the thick of a melee on the battlefield where many types of sharpened metal devices were being swung haphazardly. Therefore, it had special considerations for the type of combat that would be experienced here.

It was assumed the practitioner would be wearing heavy armor, armed with a slashing weapon – called a Katana – and most likely fighting opponents in the similar gear.

The practice was obviously effective because Jiu Jitsu training was passed on through written and word of mouth records from generation to generation. As time went by the practices on the battlefield changed, other martial arts lent their distinctive flavors to the mix and different philosophies worked to change the underlying values of Traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu.

Where much of the original goals of Jiu Jitsu were barbaric battlefield techniques meant to shatter bones, break necks and cause deep internal hemorrhaging, the practice was adjusted to suit a different sort of engagement.

For example, many of the original grappling throws were executed to land the opponent on their heads and, with any luck, snap their neck. As time went on, this became impractical to everyday use; you can’t have every drunken brawl ending in murder. So, these throws were adjusted to drop opponents to the floor in ways that would effectively incapacitate them, rendering further assaults ineffective and allowing the revelry to continue.

So, Japanese Jiu Jitsu lives on happily and has become a sort of boiling pot for many other martial arts techniques and philosophies. You will find many elements of Judo in the way an opponent’s weight is manipulated against them. You will see a flash of Aikido in the way impact is redirected and you will certainly feel a “Karate-flavored” impact, from many of the strikes in the Japanese Jiu Jitsu arsenal.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was taken by the Gracie Family at the turn of the century and transformed into a precision tool for a specific task. Built off the strong foundation of traditional concepts and centuries old teachings, Brazilian, Or Gracie, Jiu Jitsu has approached the route to the traditional JJJ goals from a distinctively Brazilian perspective.

It could be said that in many ways, BJJ is a more efficient and less classical martial art than its predecessor. One way this is very evident is the grappling concepts seen in BJJ which are a far more focused and evolved category of the throws seen in Traditional Jiu Jitsu

Another important constituent of BJJ, is the Brazilian approach to training, fighting and even studying your opponent. Where Japanese training is largely centered around expert instruction, precision execution and rigid adherence to established kata – which is a sequence of form and motion, BJJ is all about practice and evolving your technique to match yourself and finally when the time comes, your opponent.

You will notice the differences when watching the different martial arts in serious application. A practitioner of BJJ will solve the challenges of an encounter with a fluid set of principles that can be applied in a vast number of ways. This allows for an unparalleled serenity, boundless resourcefulness and delicate cadence in every engagement, like the legendary Anderson Silva.

A Traditional Jiu Jitsu expert, on the other hand, will work with a clearly defined set of practices, responses and engagements that can be tight on creativity when it comes time to swap blows with an aggressor. This usually leaves the JJJ fighter with one recourse to a desperate situation, do the same thing but faster and harder.

JD Lopez
JD Lopez
JD Lopez is owner and operate of Fabin Rosa Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With almost 20 years of martial arts experience, including 10 in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, JD has developed a passion for the art of self defense.