Judo has a lot to offer to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. And vice versa. Judo places more emphasis on throwing, of course, and BJJ is more ground-oriented, but Judo groundwork (known as ‘newaza‘) isn’t entirely dissimilar to BJJ groundwork.
For one thing BJJ evolved from pre-World War II Judo: Mitsuyo Maeda who taught Carlos Gracie was a Kodokan Judo black belt. And when it comes right down to it, anytime people wearing gi pants and jackets try to pin, choke, and joint-lock each other on the ground, then they’re going to come up with some similar-looking moves.
But the differences between Judo and BJJ groundwork are also interesting. The rules of the two sports have driven the evolution of different strategies, concepts, and techniques on the ground.
Some of those different approaches are very specific and can’t really be imported into the other sport. For example, using the kneebar in Judo competition, or rolling to your belly in hopes of getting stood up to your feet in a BJJ competition, are both strategies that are going to end in disaster!
But many techniques and concepts ARE portable between the two arts. In fact, some of the bread and butter techniques from one art become even more effective if used in the other art.
This is because these techniques are unusual, unexpected, and will take take a lot of people by surprise. Cross-training and cross-pollination is good for BOTH arts.
Now I’m not saying that all BJJ practitioners should cross-train in Judo. Not everyone has the time to train in more than one martial art at a time. And Judo is an undeniably dangerous art with a lot more potential for traumatic orthopedic injuries (I speak from sad personal experience here), making BJJ a lot safer than Judo.
Let’s look at some concrete examples of the benefits of cross-training.
The rest of this article will introduce you to some of the best techniques, concepts and strategies that are cross-applicable between Judo and BJJ.
The following videos were filmed at a joint seminar I taught with my friend Mike Lee. I met Mike back in the day when we were both training at the UBC Judo club. Mike is a Judo black belt and a BJJ black belt under Bob Bass in California. Mike now teaches in Montreal, Canada, where he has worked with high-level competitors in both sports. So his pedigree is impeccable, and I was very happy to recently reconnect with him.
This footage is from the Q&A portion of the seminar. They’re a series of short videos that might just give you an edge the next time you step on the mat!
In the first video Mike talks about some of the ways he’s adapted his Judo to work in a BJJ context. He shares how he maintains mobility on the ground, and uses that mobility to avoid getting dummied by his training partners (plus check out the cool butterfly guard pass straight into an arm bar).
Then he addresses a common problem in BJJ competition: opponents who bend over at the waist and stiff-arm you, refusing to engage. As you’ll see, there is an effective solution that can dump your opponent flat on his back and put you into a dominant position.
In the next video we discuss some of the differences between BJJ and Judo groundfighting. One thing I thought was really cool in this video is that Mike talked about some BJJ techniques that his guys have had success with in Judo competition.
Now Mike breaks down his side control (known as ‘Yoko Shio Gatame‘ in Judo). In Judo if you pin someone for 25 seconds you win the match. As a result Judoka with good groundwork often have ferocious pins. Since I outweigh him by 80 lbs, Mike placed special emphasis on the adjustments needed to control someone much bigger than himself. I can vouch for the fact that these adjustments make his side control super tight!
Finally, as I said at the beginning of the article, Judo and BJJ rules are different. In Judo competition if someone stays in the turtle position for a few seconds then the referee stands both people up. As a result most Judo players have very tight turtles, and some have also developed some very powerful turtle attacks.
Here are some basic attacks from, and against the turtle. At the end of this video Mike takes you through Yoko Sangaku-jime, the Judo side triangle choke, which I’ve always thought was a hugely under-used technique in BJJ. Maybe after this video gets out that will change….