Most people, including myself, who train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as their first grappling martial art end up realizing at some point that their take-down game is pretty lacking. For people who primarily train in a gi, picking up some Judo is a great idea. So I wanted to investigate for myself if I could effectively cross-train these two disciplines.
You can train both Judo and BJJ at the same time and will find that benefits for each grappling discipline transfer to the other. In order to do this most effectively, set clear goals on what skill sets you would like to develop most, and select techniques that can be used in either martial art.
I took a close look at both disciplines holistically and wanted to find the sweet spot for myself to add some Judo into my primarily Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappling game. These martial arts are related and very complementary disciplines. Let’s take a look and see how we can effectively blend training these arts.
How Do BJJ and Judo Complement Each Other?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo are complementary arts since BJJ mostly focuses on control and submissions after the match hits the ground, and Judo primarily focuses on the standing part of the match in which the goal is getting a dominant trip or throw called an ippon from the standing position.
In Judo, the whole ruleset is tilted towards making the match about the throws. In fact, you get penalized for stalling on your feet and don’t get penalized for stalling on the ground. In fact, Judokas can strategically stall the action on the ground and just get set back on their feet. Judo has pretty much the opposite bias to BJJ, in that groundwork gets comparatively little training time and attention.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes do not spend much time working on their takedowns in normal class settings. In fact, it is very common that BJJ matches will start standing and one or both of the competitors will sit down or pull guard without any penalties. Most of the best competitors will fight for takedowns, so it is a good idea to train your stand-up game for competitions.
So with Judo slanting heavily towards standing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu slanting towards ground fighting, it isn’t a difficult leap to make to combine the two to create a more complete grappling game, especially when you are mostly a gi grappler.
In order to make sure that you make these two martial arts mix well, you need to pick your primary Judo game carefully. If you cherry-pick your Judo techniques for jiu-jitsu situations that you want to create, you can make sure everything carries over and doesn’t translate poorly between the two martial arts.
If you are a guard player, you can select sacrifice throws that are likely to put your opponent into your guard for instance. I tend to play a lot of open guard and deep half guard, so the primary throws I’ve put time into in Judo are the Uke Waza and the Yoko Guruma.
Both the Uke Waza and the Yoko Guruma are covered beautifully in the video below:
If you are more of a top game jiu-jitsu player, I would look at throws that put you directly into side control or at the very least, will be more likely to keep you on top if you fail the technique.
When I feel like playing my top game and I’m starting standing I like to go with this Judo combination that Olympic Judo Champion Satoshi Ishii and IBJJF World Champion Bernardo Faria go over in this video:
How Many Times a Week Do You Need To Train Judo and Jiu-Jitsu To Learn Effectively?
If you want to make progress in both Judo and BJJ as independent martial arts you’ll need to be training at least 2 times a week in each. Prioritize one of them if you want to progress more in that art. If you can train more, that could also help with learning speed.
To get some idea of how long it takes to get some level of proficiency in martial arts, take a look at this 2011 study.
Researchers tested how long it took beginners to reach some proficiency in 21 different martial arts. Specific techniques they observed included chokeholds, palm strikes, punch and kick blocks, and elbow strikes.
To test how long it took the test subjects to learn these techniques, they selected 15 individuals who had never had martial arts training and trained them using two black belt instructors.
The results showed that it took participants an average of 29 hours of training to learn these techniques proficiently and effectively. Most BJJ and Judo classes are between 45 minutes and an hour. So extrapolating from there you can see that basic proficiency would take between 29 and 38 classes.
This study doesn’t tell the whole story of what it takes to really master a martial art or a set of techniques, but it does give you an idea of how much time it would take to get good at a skill. If you have to split your total training time between Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you will take about twice as long to achieve proficiency in the associated skills.
This proficiency development dilemma is why I think that trying to pick the right Judo moves and BJJ moves to focus on is important since it will allow skills to transfer between each art.
Judo competitions focus on ending through in an ippon, a fully controlled throw that puts your opponent on their back. Judo does not allow stalling and athletes are reset to standing if no visible progress occurs. BJJ focuses on dominating positions and finding submissions with no stalling penalties.
In Judo, your goal is to win by Ippon, which occurs when your opponent is controlled in a grappling hold on the ground for 20 seconds, your opponent taps out, or you throw them on their back with controlled considerable force. For more specifics, you can take a look at the Olympics rules here.
In BJJ competitions you win through points or submissions. Rulesets differ from tournament to tournament since there is no definitive governing body for jiu-jitsu. The closest we can get is the IBJJF where you get points from takedowns, sweeps, and positional dominance. Submissions result in victory in all major rulesets. I think that WBBJJ does a good job explaining the basics here.
Many Judo takedowns are excellent for use in BJJ. Choosing the right Judo throws for your BJJ game is of critical importance because some Judo moves risk giving up your back, and choosing takedowns that put you in a reasonable position if failed can really help your overall results.
This is a great example of how BJJ and Judo can complement each other. An athlete that is regularly training in both disciplines will be familiar with these takedowns and have an advantage over his opponent since they are a more balanced grappler.
These Judo takedowns have an excellent transfer to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:
- Uke Waza (similar to a lateral drop in wrestling)
- Yoko Guruma (similar to a deep half guard sweep)
- O Ouchi Gari (the major inner reap, lands you in their guard)
- O Soto Gari (the major outer reap, easy transition to side control)
- O Goshi (the major hip throw, easy transition to side control)
I would avoid any techniques that give your opponent any chance of taking your back. Techniques I avoid for BJJ or MMA type situations for this reason are:
- Koshi Guruma (head and arm throw)
- Drop Seoi nage (shoulder throw)
The best way to make use of your BJJ skills in Judo competitions is to capitalize on any situation in which ne-waza can happen. Every failed throw is an opportunity. BJJ-focused grapplers will have an advantage on the ground so attack your submissions quickly before you get reset to standing.
The other option is to simply enter the ne-waza side of the tournament that can occur at most major Judo tournaments. This basically plays out like a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu match, but in my opinion, it isn’t really very sporting if you are competing in a lower Judo belt bracket and you have a brown belt in jiu-jitsu.
Judo is harder on your body due to the high amplitude throws from a standing position. With proper falling training, you can keep yourself safe in Judo even with repeated impacts from throws to the mat. BJJ doesn’t typically include many high-impact situations.
If you think about the goals of each martial art, it does make some sense that Judo would be harder on the body, since the main goal is an ippon which is a throw with “considerable force.” Contrast that directly with the self-proclaimed “gentle art of jiu-jitsu” and you can see why jiu-jitsu might be less hard on the body.
Judo has a higher injury risk. In Judo, injury rates are more than 12 times those of BJJ. A study of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games revealed that Judo athletes get injured at a rate of about 11%. This can be contrasted with a 2014 study that shows that BJJ had a rate of 9.2 injuries per 1000 matches.
For Judo, the most common injuries are sprains, strains, and contusions of the knees, shoulders, and fingers. Not surprisingly, the most common way in which people got injured as a result of being thrown during a competition.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a similar injury profile of sprains, strains, and contusions all over the body, but the frequency and severity of injuries are likely lower due to the nature of it being on the ground and using less dynamic force.
Judo will usually require more recovery time than BJJ. Judo will usually be more competitive and the nature of the exercises and techniques take a greater toll on your body. By contrast, BJJ schools can be very laid back, and with jiu-jitsu, you can always tap out. You can’t tap mid-air in Judo.
Between the overall difficulty in terms of intensity for Judo training and the increased injury risk, you are going to spend more time prioritizing recovery overall. Getting sleep and getting your body restored and recovered is paramount to a long career in either martial art.
Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu complement each other nicely if you approach it in the right way. If you’re primarily a gi competitor this is especially true. I might lean more towards wrestling if you mostly train no-gi jiu-jitsu.
If you are like me and just want to incorporate some Judo into your jiu-jitsu you don’t have to go out and train in a really tough Judo environment. I have personally enjoyed signing up for private lessons with judokas at my home jiu-jitsu school since it allowed me to get quality learning with less exercise recovery cost and injury risk.
For more check out How Many Martial Arts Can You Learn at the Same Time?