What is this person talking about on the relationship between judo and BJJ?

In this chat a person writing what to me looks like a very confusing thing they are saying, said:

Actually, Judo did branch away from Brazilian jiu jitsu in a manner of speaking prior to the Olympic games post-WWII. Prior to then, it had more emphasis on ground grappling. BJJ and Judo were once a lot more similar. That's actually what I originally thought you meant. BJJ branched off from Judo prior to then, but Judo also got away from BJJ-like practices. No big deal. I do think "Jiu Jitsu" is used enough to mean BJJ that it can be confusing to use it. Mostly I only see the British refer to Japanese jujitsu as "jiu jitsu"."

I replied:

I understand that modern judo focuses on takedowns, because of the Olympics and the rules made for television, but I'm not asking about modern judo. B) Judo got in the olympics and focussing on throws in the 60s, most people had not even heard of BJJ until the 90s. BJJ had nothing to do with the development of Judo.. let alone the bizarre claim you make about branhing off that you got backwards. BJJ branched off Judo, in no way was it the other way around at any time. Modern Judo focussing on throws had nothing to do with BJJ's influence or lack thereof.

Then they didn't really explain themselves.

Note- I'm not going to write just plain "jiu jitsu" because I understand that could be misinterpreted. As in the UK it means JJJ. And elsewhere (e.g. USA and Europe I suppose), JJJ is only spelt JuJutsu i.e. Japanese JuJutsu. So writing just plain "jiu jitsu" might be taken to just specifically BJJ. So I'll write JJJ and BJJ, "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu" and "Japanese JuJutsu"!

From what I understand, you have JJJ/Jujutsu, then Judo branched off of that and was known as Kano Jujutsu. And BJJ branched off of Judo, keeping just the Nawaza. And in the 1960s with the televised olympics, Judo dropped the Nawaza/ground grappling and focused just on throws.

I am a bit baffled as to what that person was talking about in the chat though?

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    Judo dropped newaza in the '60s? Someone had better tell these judoka Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 20:25
  • Blast from the past! That was me in that conversation. :) I guess we can make a whole new question out of that, if it hasn't already come up. Probably some BJJ + Judo historians would be better suited to answer. And yes, I agree with mattm's answer. He succinctly restated it. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 21:46
  • @DaveLiepmann so did Judo keep the Newaza but focus on it less? what exactly is it with Olympics and nawaza not being done? or being done less? Is it dependent on what organisation organises the Judo tournaments? Do most of them use Nawaza but just one of them doesn't much?
    – barlop
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:03
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    @barlop Many/most but not all Olympic judo players and clubs focus on throwing and only do a little newaza, but it is still part of the game and some players (Rousey, de Mars, Canto) specialize in it. There were a few recent years where the rules & referees discouraged groundwork quite a bit, but I hear that has been corrected. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:37
  • @barlop It was due to changes in the Olympic Judo rules over time that led to less emphasis on newaza. In Judo, referees stand people back up if they're not making progress on the ground. So judo people will often turtle on the ground, which causes an opponent to have to really work hard and long to get a hold. A ref can see a lack of progress and stand them up, or the other opponent might give up and request to be stood back up in order to conserve energy and to go back to stand-up where they want to be anyway. BJJ has the opposite focus. BJJ is fine with taking a long time on the ground. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:40

3 Answers 3


The person is perfectly correct, except with the last sentence.

I guess this is a semantical problem. You can say "X branched off from/of Y", which says X is a descendant of Y, or "X branched away from Y", which just means they share roots and developed in different directions. Steve said the latter (common root: classical Kodokan Judo, branches: BJJ and modern Judo), you read the former (modern Judo branching off BJJ) in the first sentence. That is not written there, though. Steve even specified that BJJ branched off of Judo after that. Also, you seem to have no idea what the actual diversity of techniques or histories of the two is, they are both quite old and consist of much more than you make of them, actually.

Also, Europeans generally refer to BJJ and Jiu-Jitsu/Ju Jutsu as distinct arts, mostly meaning JJJ or descendents (like the German Ju Jutsu self-defense system) when saying the latter. The equalization of Jiu-Jitsu with BJJ is a rather recent and generational development prevalent mostly in the Americas due to the more widespread popularization of BJJ compared to JJJ there IMHO. With regards to spelling, Steve was only being picky there since ju jutsu and jiu jitsu are the same thing with different romanization. Thus, in that point, I'd say the call for specification is justified, the call for distinguishing by spelling is not.

Kodokan Judo as the martial art BJJ evolved from

The training of Carlos Gracie under Mitsuyo Maeda (7th dan Kodokan Judo) started in 1917. This is three years before the last major overhaul of Kodokan judo (systematization of Gokyo and several katas) under the supervision of Jigoro Kano himself and 13 years after Maeda left the Kodokan to go abroad, long before Judo and other Japanese martial arts were intentionally tamed and branched after WW II.

Yes, it is true that Jiu-Jitsu (Japanese Ryu) and Judo were not clearly separated terminologically back then. Actually not before 1925 even in Japan. But it is clear that Maeda was a Judoka - and not a Jiu-Jitsuka. He was one of the most renowned second-generation students and teachers of the Kodokan. He inspired people like Mifune (later 10th Dan and generally considered one of the all-time greats of Judo) while training and teaching there. He never in his life trained a Jiu-Jitsu Ryu of any kind (only Sumo) before or after joining the Kodokan. He founded a Judo academy in Brazil where he taught Kodokan Judo and was awarded a Kodokan Judo dan rank one day before his death in 1941. Thus, while Jiu-Jitsu as a term for Kodokan Judo was common back then, what the founders of BJJ learned was exactly what is today known as: Kodokan Judo. Only because Judo was not used regularly to refer to the art, it is called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and not Brazilian Judo. What the Gracies (just like Kodokan students) learned was much more open and fight-oriented in its applications back then, though. So saying that BJJ branched off of Judo, while Judo branched off of Japanese Jiu Jitsu Ryu (even if the terms were not coined this way back then) is perfectly valid.

Why is modern (Olympic) Judo so different from modern (sports) BJJ?

The confusion may arise due to Maeda's own take on Judo, which was actually common among first- and second-generation students of the Kodokan: He joined Judo because of reports of Judoka winning no holds barred matches against Jiu-Jitsu schools. His later sensei won against a fighter who was considered one of, if not the, strongest Japanese fighters of the time. Thus, Maeda considered all possible applications of Judo, in all ranges, as means to win a fight, no matter the ruleset, whether you fight with a jacket or without, how big your opponents are, or which martial arts background they have. He continuously challenged and fought fighters of various martial arts, including armed opponents, all around the world and further refined applications.

That Maeda's Judo revolved around a lot more groundwork than contemporary Olympic Judo is probably also due to him being relatively small and light for a fighter challenging people regardless of weight and style, ie. him playing his (technical) strengths and averting his (physical) weaknesses. But he won a lot of his fights by throwing his opponents and was feared (among students no less) for the power of his throws. In no way it is valid to say that BJJ only took the groundwork. Maeda practiced, applied, and taught the whole variety of grappling applications in all phases of combat (ranged, clinch, ground, even weapons).

(Kodokan) Judo (still) involves all aspects of fighting, including strikes and kicks, weapons, self-defense, and, of course, ground fighting (which is part of Olympic Judo as well, as beautifully exemplified in this video posted by Dave Liepmann in a comment). It is just not trained very often as it is not (an important) part of Olympic Judo as it evolved since its inclusion into the Olympic curriculum in 1964. There even was a change in rules which aimed at encouraging more groundwork in competition again recently.

As a matter of fact, we now have a similar development of narrowness within BJJ itself, where sports BJJ starts to focus solely on pulling guard and groundwork, completely dismissing the original MMA and self-defense perspectives the Gracies inherited from Maeda. BJJ was much more multi-faceted and still includes throws. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is still much wider with self-defense and all aspects of fighting trained. But this development towards groundwork "only" within BJJ is actually very recent, more like not before the late 90s. I think the reason why sports BJJ so excessively concentrates on groundwork is that it is the furthest away from striking distance, in which the founders of the style and their teacher naturally felt least comfortable. The famous early Gracie MMA fights, therefore, took place on the ground after distance was covered: To be in the phase of combat strikers - their most common opponents - feel least comfortable. Thus, groundwork became linked to BJJ and vice versa. It is mistaken to think that it has always been that way, though. And there are voices which call for a change of rules to make throws more versatile in competition. But truth be told, I expect that the groundwork focus remains exactly in order to make it a sport distinct from Judo beyond "we also do no-gi".

Intersections between BJJ and Judo

We do have a lot of mutual exchange between BJJ and Judo. Just think of Travis Stevens, who was awarded BJJ purple belt after a few lessons due to his world-class Judo expertise. Grappling is grappling is grappling, so there are quite a few BJJ people training Judo to up their standing game, as well as Judo people training BJJ to up their ground game. Both is part of both sports branches, but both BJJ and Judo (originally) are more than sports and very similar in their technical philosophy of efficiency. Therefore, both techniques, and strategies are repeatedly going both ways.


Traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is, in fact, a descendant of Kodokan Judo. Nobody ever stated anything other than that. It has evolved differently as it focused on applicability in all possible fighting situations - with and without a jacket - while Olympic Judo started to focus on throws and very few ground techniques as direct follow-ups when going to the ground without an ippon, fighting in jackets only. They both share the focus on grappling and the omission of striking in order to be able to use full-intensity randori in training. They both are based on the technical use of body mechanics, efficiency, and positioning. Both classical Gracie BJJ and Kodokan Judo still are more multi-faceted than their sports counterparts and are, as a matter of fact, very similar up to this day, all things considered. Actually, the most extreme differences of technical content besides training focus are a) BJJ training without gi and b) Judo training kata, as far as I am aware.

Judo was just internationalized much earlier (start of 20th century) and is decades ahead with regards to diluted expertise in all aspects of the art, may it be to it spreading fast or being a codified sport. As a matter of fact, many Judo federations have projects to encourage self-defense and groundwork to be integrated into the training more regularly, including above-mentioned changes of competition rules. BJJ is still in the process of developing as a sport and there already are intentions to establish awareness of the breadth of the original BJJ and train more diversely.

Generally, you seem to have a biased view based on the very "sportified" aspects of the arts you get to see in competitions and are propagated as simplified labelling of the arts: Judo - throws, BJJ - groundwork, Muay Thai - clinch/knees/elbows, etc. It is where they excel in average, not all they are able of.

Asking to use "jiu jitsu" for BJJ only is unwarranted in any case, though.

(Sources can be found in this surprisingly good and well-sourced Wikipedia article on Maeda)

  • Thanks.. So Sibling nodes in a tree branch away from each other. Whereas when it comes to Branching off, that is a relationship between parent and child nodes. I didn't read branching away correctly. That makes sense
    – barlop
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:14
  • What about this thing he said "prior to the Olympic games post-WWII" The Olympic Games started in 1896. WW2 was 1940-1945 Does he mean prior to the Olympic games that followed WW2. So he's referring to the 1948 Olympic Games? 'cos google says "The 1948 Summer Olympics were an international multi-sport event held from 29 July to 14 August 1948 in London, United Kingdom. Following a twelve-year hiatus caused by the outbreak of World War II". So he's saying that something happened between 1945, and the 1948 Olympic Games.
    – barlop
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:21
  • @barlop As I said in this answer, Judo became Olympic in the Tokyo games of 1964. As I sourced in the answer of mine linked under the second header, it was mainly after WWII that Japanese martial arts became more sports-oriented and narrowed their focus. Steve clearly refers to the time between the end of WWII and Judo becoming Olympic, which is 19 years long. It is indeed this time in which Judo changed a lot and training started to focus on Judo "specialties", ie. throws and groundwork. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 16:44

If you think of martial arts as a tree, we have Judo(old) with descendants Judo(today) and BJJ(today). The other person is saying that Judo(today) is not the same as Judo(old). The groundwork in Judo(old) looks more like the groundwork in BJJ(today) because Judo(today) has changed.

You seem to be focused on the precise wording, which could be improved perhaps, but the idea is sound.

  • I just realised that a major part of the disagreement was sparked by Steve's insistence that jiu jitsu should be used for BJJ exclusively and ju jutsu for JJJ in order to get the what branched off this and that better specified. So there is both a semantical and concextual problem at work contributing to the confusion. Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 12:05
  • Thanks. So what exactly is the change re Judo. I had thought that it was that "in the 1960s with the televised olympics, Judo dropped the Nawaza/ground grappling and focussed just on throws.".. But I see that Nawaza is still done so do most Judo organisations still do lots of Newaza and just one organisation the one involved with the Olympics that doesn't? What's the change from old judo to modern judo?
    – barlop
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:06
  • @barlop That is better answered in a new question, if the other existing answer here is not sufficient.
    – mattm
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 15:20

Technically speaking, Judo prior to WW2 was called Kano Jujutsu, as it was Jogoro Kano's style of Traditional Jiu-Jitsu. As some of you history buffs may know, Japan prior to and during WW2 was very nationalistic and very aggressive in the international arena. The Japanese people felt disillusioned and cheated by the military who ran the country during these times, and the adopted narrative was that the emperor was cheated himself by the military. Long story short, Japan took a 180 turn and adopted a pacifistic approach that's still maintained today. At that time, many martial arts styles changed their suffix from Jutsu (skill) to Do (way). So Kenhutsu to Kendo, Aikijutsu to Aikido, and Jigoro Style Jujutsu - to Judo. This projected a holistic way of life rather than a skill needed to be used in combat, and practitioners' approach became that. Once a martial way, needed to be mastered in a short time in order to win battles, became a way of life to keep in good health and cultivate the spirit.

So when Count Maeda came to Brazil, he actually taught the Gracies Judo, and in particular, Kosen Judo - still practiced in Japanese universities. It's a Newaza (ground technique) emphasized Judo. So why did Count Maeda introduced his style to the Brazilians as Jujutjsu (Jiu-Jitsu)? The simple answer is due to copyrights. He couldn't use the name Judo for what he taught without permission from the Kodokan. And this is how BJJ got its name.

From there BJJ developed and evolved, and though you'll see many similarities between Kosen Judo and BJJ, there were a lot of techniques that were created and added, different styles and different competition rules that shaped them, and also the development of No Gi Grappling, BJJ with no Kimono, or Pants, and MMA shorts/spats instead, and shirtless/rash guard

  • Thanks. According to etymonline.com/word/judo kano jiu jitsu came in 1882 and maybe it seems that link is saying it became called judo in 1889? interesting to know exactly when the term judo was used to refer to it
    – barlop
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 15:10
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    @barlop The things Dan writes here are not really correct. He mixes a lot of different historical periods into inaccuracies up to plain falsehoods. For example, Kano named his system Nihon-den-Kōdōkan-Jūdō directly in 1882; it is written on the koryū scroll (kind of official martial arts license of the time) of the kodokan. That is because traditional martial arts (jutsu) were disregarded after the meiji restauration of 1868. Judo just wasn't widely used before the late 19-twenties even in Japan. Also, Maeda did not teach "kosen judo". Kosen was a ruleset of Judo back then, nothing more. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 18:08

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