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The difference between Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Jujitsu
Japanese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
“What is the difference between Japanese (classical) Jiu-Jitsu (jujutsu) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?”
The first and most important reason can be found in the history of art and is primary to all others discussed subsequently. When you research the history of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you will understand that it came from “Judo” in its renaissance period. In the early 1900s, Judo was developed from a variety of Jiu-jitsu styles to make it the most complete and effective martial art in the world. Some older schools of Jiu-jitsu focused on only one fighting area (some practiced primarily standing techniques) and had been without a realistic testing ground on the battlefield for hundreds of years. If you remember the history of Judo’s beginnings, you know that it first consisted of standing techniques from Kito Ryu Jiu-jitsu and a few other styles. This alone was not enough, so the basis of Fusen Ryu was added, making it more complete. When you say “traditional” or “Japanese” Jiu-jitsu, you are referring to only one of these Jiu-jitsu styles, which alone are incomplete. When you say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you are referring to the best techniques from a wide variety of styles.
Our Jiu-Jitsu in the United States was underdeveloped compared to Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil. Only now are we starting to catch up and we still suffer from the inadequacies of the ‘older’ and more traditional Jiu-Jitsu schools in this country. To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ll tell you a little about my training. I got a black belt in a classic Jiu-Jitsu style, learning all the Judo throws from the Kodokan and Aikijitsu (the granddaddy of Aikido). It was a great art, but one that could not be used on anyone with skill effectively until complete mastery. I was subsequently defeated by a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who was only at the level of a blue belt, while I was a black belt in traditional Jiu-Jitsu. Why? Lack of realistic practice is the reason. There was too much of: “you stay completely still while I try an extravagant technique on you and you play along.” There are many techniques in which Judo is great, and some traditional schools teach techniques that were designed thousands of years ago, the applications of which have not been changed or thought about since. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is simple to learn, so simple that a dedicated one-year student can easily beat martial artists of other styles who have years of experience.
Some martial arts styles spend hundreds of hours working on a rigid stance and a hundred standing techniques that cannot possibly be mastered in a reasonable amount of time. I once interviewed Royce Gracie and he gave an answer that supports this point quite well:
“We don’t believe in teaching a ton of moves every class and the student leaves with limited knowledge. We’d rather our students know 20 techniques at 100% than 100 techniques at 20%.”
(Interview with Gene Simco for http://www.jiu-jitsu.net)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on techniques that are easy to learn in a very short time. The techniques taught in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are also effective and have been tested on skilled non-cooperative martial artists. A small amount of simple but high percentage techniques make all the difference. If all you do is practice five or six techniques, you’ll be very good at them in a year or so, but if you have to split your time between a hundred or more techniques, you’ll most likely be a flop at everything and a master of none in a year’s time.
The differences in the two styles of Jiu-Jitsu are not necessarily in technique, but in practice and application. First of all, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a very sophisticated ground game, where Japanese Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes standing techniques, just like judo. Judo as a sport does not allow leg locks where Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does. Sports rules of Judo dictate that if a player has been pinned by his opponent for twenty-five seconds, he or she will lose the match. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has no time limits on ground positions and stalling is most often done while standing. Older styles of Jiu-Jitsu (often spelled jujutsu or jujitsu) are usually preceded by their style name or Ryu (the Japanese word for “style”). These Ryu of Jiu-Jitsu were developed a long time ago and have no sports application that allows them to develop technically. The lack of realistic practice is what makes some styles ineffective or obsolete.
To truly understand the differences between Brazilian and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, one must research the history of both arts. In particular, the birth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Carlos Gracie, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s founder, who was an avid boxer. Most Japanese Jiu-Jitsu fighters studied traditional karate strikes, which are very different from a boxer’s. Maeda, the man who introduced Gracie to Jiu-Jitsu, was also a student of Judo, which at the time was considered an updated version of Jiu-Jitsu, or Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu. As discussed earlier, the judo to which the Gracie family was introduced was a judo whose focus had turned to ground fighting in recent years. This ground fighting came from only one style of Jiu-jitsu (Fusen Ryu), the other styles that made up Judo had not focused on ground work, so as their practice continued they stuck to their traditional roots which mainly considered standing techniques . While older styles of Jiu-jitsu stuck to their core curriculum, Judo quickly forgot all about experience and turned its attention to gaining worldwide exposure as an Olympic sport, which would eventually limit the once great art and bring it back into focus on primarily standing techniques. Maeda was also exposed to western wrestling, having met one wrestler in particular at the West Point Military Academy in New York, and had more experience fighting throughout Europe and America than any other Japanese fighter at the time.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a progressive style of Jiu-Jitsu; once a technique is developed and used in competition, other Jiu-Jitsu players begin to design counters to that technique, and counters to those counters, allowing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to develop freely. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players do not prepare for the untrained opponent; they assume their opponent may be more technical.
The problem with some ‘older’ styles of Jiu-Jitsu is the same problem with old cars or anything that hasn’t been updated or modified. I earned a black belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, and now that I’m at an advanced level in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I notice the similarities and differences. Some of the self-defense moves are identical; it is typically in the ground work (ne waza) where the judo or Japanese jiu-jitsu practitioner lacks skills. That’s why I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Comparing “old” Jiu-Jitsu to “new” Jiu-Jitsu is like comparing old cars to new ones. Both a Ford Model-T and a Ferrari will do the same job, but a Ferrari will do it more efficiently. The skills of the Jiu-Jitsu teachers are comparable to mechanics certified to work on these cars; if you take a mechanic from 1910 and show him a Ferrari, some things would look familiar, but he wouldn’t understand the new design and complexity of the modern variation without proper training.
In the style of “Japanese” or traditional Jiu-Jitsu, I learned, not much is technically different. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has more techniques on the ground, while Japanese Jiu-Jitsu has more standing techniques. What I like now about having lots of experience in both styles is that I feel it has brought my technical level to a higher level of understanding. I know lots of little details and “tricks” or “secrets” in the techniques that you don’t see anywhere. I think that although things improve in the development of Jiu-Jitsu, you also lose some details that the “old” schools sometimes keep “secret”. Without proper modification, these “secrets” don’t mean much, but when you combine them with the refined practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you’ve really got something. As I move up the ranks of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’m starting to appreciate the Model T. I’m not so embarrassed by my “old” black belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu anymore, I’m actually learning to apply it. I know details about armlocks and chokes that I can’t see anywhere else. However, it is important to note that I attribute my ability to apply ancient Jiu-Jitsu to my advanced level in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
For more on Jiu-jitsu, visit www.jiu-jitsu.net.
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