Ju Jitsu, Judo, BJJ, Sambo..... what is the difference?


What the hell is Jujitsu and why should you care to know it? Before there was Judo, there was Ju Jitsu. Before there was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there was Ju Jitsu. Before Sambo, catch wrestling, and every other modern grappling art that can trace its roots to Japan, there was Ju Jitsu.


What does Ju Jitsu mean? Ju is translated as Gentle and Jitsu can be translated as art or technique. So Ju Jitsu is the Gentle Art or Technique. How can a Gentle art be combative? Ju Jitsu is not the art of cradling your opponent like a swaddled baby, it is the combative art of dealing with an attacker. The Gentle reference has to do with the going with the flow aspect of Ju Jitsu. In its highest form, Ju Jitsu redirects an attack against itself, using the energy of the attack to destroy an opponent. So gentle does not mean nice, it means using an attack against itself. Basically, you go with the flow.

Here is the quick answer to Ju Jitsu and its influence on the big 3 modern grappling arts of Judo, Sambo, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Judo was created by a master of Ju Jitsu. Ju Jitsu was taught in fractured manner which found certain schools doing certain things. There was a limited amount of training that brought it all together. The founder of Judo took modern education techniques after World War II and applied them to the Ju Jitsu arts he mastered. He created a sport instead of a combative art that had belts and competition. Hence, Judo comes from Ju Jitsu with an emphasis on education and sport.

Sambo is a Russian art that incorporates more Judo than Ju Jitsu but due to the lineage, Ju Jitsu is a major influence. How did this come about? The Communist Government of Russia sent people all over the world to learn diverse martial arts. They brought this knowledge home and created a hybrid style of Russian Combat Sport known as Sambo. Due to the reality that most fights turn into grappling affairs, Judo and Ju Jitsu are a major part of Sambo’s system plus a big emphasis on Western Wrestling.

Now on to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or more commonly known as BJJ. Brazil has the largest expatriate population of naturally born Japanese citizens in the world. Due to this, there is a lot of Judo going on in Brazil. Back in the 50’s, Judo did not allow its members to participate in Prize Fights. This meant you couldn’t represent Judo if you were fighting for money. A high level practitioner of Judo that lived in Brazil wanted to fight for money so he said he did Jiu Jitsu instead of Judo. He became good friends and the teacher for a wealthy group of Brazilians. These Brazilians adopted the Ju Jitsu name with a twist, using Jiu instead of Ju.

BJJ started off primarily a kissing cousin of Judo. Over time it evolved into something else. Judo emphasizes big dynamic throws and quick ground attacks. BJJ got away from the throws and focuses primarily on the ground fighting. Yes, BJJ has a vast system of throws and take-downs but they differ from Judo due to the different emphasis of each and the differing rule structure of each in sport form.

Quick fact: Even today, Judo has more practitioners in Brazil then BJJ.

So, there you have it, a quick down and dirty history lesson on Ju Jitsu as the catalyst for the big 3 schools of grappling in the world. As a martial artist I have trained in Ju Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, and BJJ. I use the Ju Jitsu definition for what we teach at Killer B because our style is an amalgamation of everything I have learned over the years. We train more like the freestyle Ju Jitsu players of old then we do anything. If you train with us you will get the dynamic throws of Judo, takedowns of Western Wrestling and Sambo, the Chokes, Armbars, and pins of Judo, the leg locks of Sambo, and an assortment of other skills courtesy of the great people I have been fortunate to train with for the last 30 plus years.

Open your mind, don’t be rigid about what you do, and go with the flow to truly embrace the Ju concept that makes Ju Jitsu so great as an art, self defense system, combat sport, and form of fitness.

Brian Wright

Killer B Combat Sports & Fitness Academy



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