What Came First Judo Or Jiu Jitsu? [Explained]

When it comes to the world of martial arts, there are two disciplines that often find themselves in the spotlight: Judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). Both are immensely popular, but their origins and techniques are distinct.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing history of these two martial arts, comparing Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to understand which one came first, their historical significance, and how they have evolved over time.

Did Judo Come Before Jiu-Jitsu?

To answer the question of whether Judo or Jiu Jitsu came first, we need to explore their historical timelines.

Judo, as it is known today, was developed by Jigoro Kano in the late 19th century. It originated from the Japanese martial art of Jiu Jitsu (or Jujutsu), which had been practiced for centuries. Traditional Jiu Jitsu focused on techniques for self-defense and hand-to-hand combat, often incorporating joint locks, throws, and strikes.

jujutsu origin

The evolution from Japanese Jiu Jitsu to Judo is an interesting journey.

Jiu Jitsu was a martial art primarily designed for combat on the battlefield and self-defense in ancient Japan. The techniques were often kept as closely guarded secrets within samurai families. Over time, various schools of Jiu Jitsu emerged, each with its own unique set of techniques and principles.

Jigoro Kano, a martial artist and educator, saw the potential for transforming Jiu Jitsu into something more. He believed that martial arts could be used as a tool for physical education and character development, and he was determined to make it accessible to a broader audience. Thus, he embarked on a mission to create a safer and more structured martial art, leading to the birth of Judo.

judo origin

The birth of Judo can be traced to Kano’s experiences in Jiu Jitsu training. He observed that many of the techniques used in Jiu Jitsu were not suitable for safe practice in a training environment. To address this, he meticulously selected and modified techniques, emphasizing throws, pins, and joint locks, while minimizing strikes and dangerous moves. This transformation laid the foundation for what we now know as Judo.

Kano also introduced the concept of randori, which allowed practitioners to engage in live, full-force sparring while minimizing the risk of injury. This innovation was a crucial step in making Judo more accessible and practical for individuals of all ages and physical abilities.

Is Judo the Oldest Martial Art?

While Judo has a relatively recent origin, it is not the oldest martial art.

Traditional Jiu Jitsu (Jujutsu), from which Judo evolved, holds that distinction. Jiu Jitsu traces its roots back to samurai warriors in ancient Japan who needed effective combat techniques for self-defense and battlefield situations. The term “Jiu Jitsu” itself translates to “the gentle art,” emphasizing its focus on using an opponent’s energy and leverage to achieve victory.

Brief History Facts of Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


  • Founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882.
  • Emphasizes throws, pins, and joint locks.
  • Developed as a safer form of Jiu Jitsu.
  • Recognized as an Olympic sport in 1964.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ):

  • Derived from Judo and Jiu Jitsu.
  • Developed in Brazil in the early 20th century.
  • Focuses on ground fighting and submissions.
  • Popularized by the Gracie family starting in Brazil.

Was Judo or BJJ First? – Reddit and Forum Discussions

Online discussions and forums have often debated which martial art came first. While historical records provide a clear timeline, these forums offer valuable insights from practitioners and enthusiasts.

Many agree that Judo predates BJJ, but the evolution of the latter has led to distinct differences in their techniques and philosophies.

In these discussions, participants often delve into the intricacies of each martial art, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. Judo is celebrated for its throws and takedowns, which can be devastating in the hands of a skilled practitioner. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu enthusiasts, on the other hand, emphasize the effectiveness of ground fighting techniques and submissions, which can render an opponent helpless.

Some practitioners choose to cross-train in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to gain a well-rounded skill set. This cross-pollination of techniques has led to the growth of hybrid grappling styles that incorporate the strengths of both arts.

Main Points
– Judo grew out of informal intramural randori competitions in Japan.
– Judo and Jiu Jitsu were used somewhat interchangeably initially.
– Jiu Jitsu originated in medieval Japan primarily for soldiers.
– Japanese judoka traveled to London and the US, spreading Judo.
– Maeda settled in Brazil, where Brazilian Jiu Jitsu developed.
– Brazilian Jiu Jitsu closely resembles Judo with a focus on ground grappling.
– Highlighted the difference between Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
– Explained that the term “Jiu Jitsu” is a western spelling of the Japanese word 柔術.
– Mentioned the lineage: Jiu Jitsu -> Judo -> Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
– Described Judo as having throws, chokes, locks, pins, and values.
– Emphasized Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s focus on groundwork.
– Mentioned the cultural shift in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
– Described Judo as evolving to preserve its character, focusing on throws.
– Mentioned Kosen Judo and the development of ground techniques.
– Discussed the Gracie brothers’ role in the development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
– Highlighted the difference between Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
– Speculated about the rejection of the Kodokan by the Gracies.
jiu jitsu kanji
Jiu Jitsu Kanji print

When Did Judo Become a Sport?

Judo’s transition from a martial art to an organized sport occurred under Jigoro Kano’s leadership. He introduced rules and a grading system, transforming Judo into a competitive sport. The International Judo Federation was founded in 1951, and the sport made its Olympic debut in 1964.

The inclusion of Judo in the Olympics marked a significant milestone, solidifying its status as a global sport. It also prompted further developments in Judo’s rules and techniques to make it more exciting and spectator-friendly.

Judo competitions are a breathtaking display of strength, agility, and technical prowess. Athletes aim to score points through throws, pins, and submissions while adhering to a strict set of rules and regulations. Matches can be won by accumulating points or achieving a successful ippon, a decisive and flawless throw that instantly ends the contest.

Why Is Judo More Popular Than Jiu Jitsu in Japan?

It might seem paradoxical, but Judo is more popular than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Japan, the birthplace of both martial arts.

This contrast in popularity can be attributed to several factors deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.

  1. Cultural Significance: Judo has a strong cultural significance in Japan. It is often taught in schools as part of the physical education curriculum, exposing generations of Japanese students to the sport from a young age. This early exposure contributed to Judo’s popularity.
  2. Olympic Recognition: Judo’s inclusion in the Olympics has greatly contributed to its prominence in Japan. Japanese Judo practitioners have consistently performed well on the international stage, further elevating the sport’s status.
  3. Community and Tradition: Judo is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition and ethics. It promotes values such as respect, discipline, and perseverance, which resonate with Japanese cultural norms.

While BJJ has gained popularity in Japan, it has not reached the same level of mainstream acceptance as Judo. Its focus on ground fighting and submissions may also be perceived as less accessible to a broader audience.

Role of Ground Fighting in Both Martial Arts

One of the most significant differences between Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lies in their approach to ground fighting. Judo places a greater emphasis on throws, pins, and joint locks executed from a standing position.

Throws in Judo are often swift and explosive, requiring precise timing and balance-breaking techniques.

On the other hand, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses extensively on ground fighting, with practitioners seeking to submit their opponents through techniques such as chokes and joint locks. BJJ practitioners, also known as “jiu-jiteiros,” often engage in ground sparring (rolling) to refine their skills in a controlled environment.

Ground fighting in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a strategic and technical affair. Practitioners use their knowledge of leverage and weight distribution to control and ultimately submit their opponents. The emphasis on ground fighting has made BJJ an essential skill for mixed martial artists (MMA), where the fight can transition from standing to the ground seamlessly.

Influence of Judo on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu owes a significant debt to Judo. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Judo master, played a pivotal role in introducing Judo and its techniques to Brazil in the early 20th century.

Maeda’s travels took him around the world, where he engaged in challenge matches and showcased the effectiveness of Judo.

In Brazil, Maeda taught Judo and ground fighting techniques to Carlos Gracie, a Brazilian martial artist. Carlos, along with his brothers, adapted and expanded upon these techniques to create Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The Gracie family played a crucial role in popularizing BJJ and demonstrating its effectiveness in a series of challenge matches known as the “Gracie Challenges.”

BJJ’s emphasis on ground fighting, submissions, and positional control reflects its Judo lineage. However, it evolved to suit the specific needs of Brazilian martial artists, with a focus on smaller individuals effectively defending themselves against larger opponents.

Growth and Popularity of Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Both Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have experienced substantial growth and popularity on a global scale.

Judo’s inclusion in the Olympics has boosted its international presence, attracting practitioners and enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds. The sport’s appeal lies in its dynamic throws and emphasis on technique, making it an exciting discipline to watch and practice.

Judo has also gained recognition in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Fighters with a Judo background often use their expertise in throws and takedowns to control their opponents in the cage.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, on the other hand, skyrocketed in popularity due to its effectiveness in submission-based competitions and MMA. BJJ practitioners demonstrated their prowess in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where Royce Gracie famously won several tournaments using BJJ techniques.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community is known for its camaraderie and dedication. It has a belt ranking system that signifies a practitioner’s skill level, with black belt being the highest achievable rank.

BJJ gyms and academies can be found worldwide, fostering a global community of practitioners who share a passion for ground fighting and submissions.

Here’s a table highlighting some key differences between Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

AspectJudoBrazilian Jiu Jitsu
FounderJigoro Kano (1882)Derived from Judo and Jiu Jitsu
TechniquesThrows, pins, joint locksGround fighting, submissions
OriginJapan (Tokyo)Developed in Brazil
Olympic SportYes (since 1964)No
Ground Fighting EmphasisLimitedExtensive
Historical RootsJiu JitsuJudo and Jiu Jitsu
Popularization FactorsOlympic inclusion, schoolsMMA, Gracie family


In the eternal debate of “Judo vs. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,” it’s clear that Jiu Jitsu, in its various forms, predates Judo. However, Judo’s evolution into a sport and its inclusion in the Olympics have propelled it to global recognition and popularity, especially in Japan.

The distinction between these two martial arts lies in their techniques and philosophies. Judo places an emphasis on throws, pins, and standing techniques, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses on ground fighting and submissions.

Despite their differences, both Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have made significant contributions to the world of martial arts and self-defense. Whether you choose one over the other or appreciate both for their unique aspects, both have much to offer to practitioners and enthusiasts alike.


Can Judo Beat BJJ?

The outcome of a match between Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners depends on various factors, including skill, strategy, and rules. Each martial art has its strengths, with Judo excelling in throws and takedowns and BJJ specializing in ground fighting. In a Judo match, a Judoka might have the advantage, while in a BJJ competition, a BJJ practitioner is likely to be more successful. It ultimately comes down to the individual’s proficiency and the context of the match.

What Is Harder, Judo or BJJ?

The difficulty of Judo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is subjective and depends on an individual’s preferences and physical attributes. Judo often requires explosive strength and precise timing for throws, which some may find challenging. On the other hand, BJJ demands endurance, technical knowledge, and adaptability on the ground. Both martial arts have their unique challenges, and what’s harder depends on your personal aptitude and goals.

Why Is Judo Called the Gentle Way?

Judo is often referred to as the “gentle way” because it emphasizes using an opponent’s energy and force against them rather than relying solely on brute strength. It embodies the principle of maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Judo techniques focus on balance, leverage, and timing, allowing a practitioner to control or defeat a stronger adversary without causing unnecessary harm, making it a more “gentle” approach to self-defense.


In summary, the history of Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a fascinating journey through time, culture, and martial philosophy. While Jiu Jitsu predates Judo, it was the transformative vision of Jigoro Kano that gave birth to the sport we now know as Judo.

These martial arts have found their unique niches in the world of combat sports and self-defense, shaping the way we perceive and practice martial arts today. Whether you’re drawn to the dynamic throws of Judo or the intricate ground game of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, both offer valuable lessons in discipline, technique, and the pursuit of mastery.

So, whether you choose the “gentle way” or the path of ground fighting, the world of martial arts has something to offer everyone.

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