Can Learning Judo Help to Improve Your BJJ?

Can Learning Judo Help to Improve Your BJJ?

Can learning/ cross-training Judo help improve your BJJ? Journalist Lucy Wynne finds out for The BJJ Box, who also speaks with Great Britain Black Belt Judoka and BJJ Purple Belt, Conor Murphy to find out – and if so, how and why? This article isn’t to compare the two, but more to see how learning Judo can help to compliment your BJJ game.

Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu share a unique and connected history which continues to this day and cross training in both can be a great way to give you an edge over the competition. Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are both derived from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. Judo mainly concentrates on the takedown aspects whereas BJJ mainly concentrates on the groundwork. Of course, this is an oversimplification, but if you are a BJJ fighter who has ever been thrown around by a competent Judoka, you know that adding Judo to your repertoire can bring many benefits.

BJJ Neglecting the Stand Up Game

Wrestling and Judo are some of the best things you can do to improve your all-round BJJ game; they are the other pure forms of grappling. Judo and wrestling both implement far more stand up than BJJ. Some may argue that it is more beneficial to train Judo than it is wrestling given the fact that Judo practitioners use the Gi, however arguably you could testify that wrestling is more effective for No-Gi but nonetheless the theory is still the same – have a takedown game. Murphy says, “ Wrestling, Judo, BJJ – I hear a lot of conversations saying one is better than the other, but to me it’s important to understand the differences between the three. In grappling sports, identifying fighters’ backgrounds is easy through fighter stance, posture and behaviour. Identifying an opponent’s background allows you to know what you’re up against, what you can expect, in turn allowing you to build a strategy, and be one step ahead of your opponent; even highlighting if your opponent has no background whatsoever.”

John Danaher has mentioned the deficiencies in the stand-up game in Jiu-Jitsu and made a point in saying that some techniques in Judo and Wrestling are transferable and some are not. Techniques from both disciplines should be investigated and dissected to develop BJJ’s approach to the stand-up game. –

Much like wrestling, Judo will help you enhance your cardio, tenacity, explosiveness, balance, coordination, and most of all grip strength. Judo is obviously known for the throws, so it talks for itself –  your takedown game will improve with some Judo.

Having the Advantage

Reflecting on what Danaher mentions, the stand up game is somewhat neglected in BJJ, giving others with a background in takedowns (wrestling and judo) an immediate advantage. Murphy expands on this point, “If I fight someone who has a high level judo background and a high level in BJJ – it is rare. I enjoy that because then that means that we can play the whole game. Whereas if I go up against someone with no Judo background there’s certain ways they react – high level in BJJ or not – they can sometimes be quite predictable or easy to throw or they can’t stand up and fight because they don’t have the skill set.”

The rulesets of each martial art have developed different approaches and solutions to situations, but this does not mean that the moves are only applicable in their own world. Some of the top fighters in both sports have capitalized on combining their knowledge of both sports to become the best in the game. For example, British Judo black belt, and BJJ black belt IBJJF world champion Ffion Davies – who shows a compilation of short videos in a post on her instagram from blue to black belt, using her Judo skills in a multitude of BJJ tournaments.

Setting up a simple feint for a throw or trip can be enough to elicit the reaction you are expecting. Once you are one step ahead of your opponent, you are one step closer to a submission. Just look at Jeff Lawson putting that into action at Polaris 4.

How to Improve Your Submission Rate by Learning Judo

Yes, Judo does have submissions – it’s not all throws. Most of the submissions found in BJJ were part of the original Judo curriculum. Judo still allows a variety of submissions in competitions including chokes and arm locks. The arm bar is the most popular submission in Judo.

Murphy explains , “In ‘Randori’ (free practice/sparring) or a competition environment the aim is to break your opponents posture and balance to allow entry and execution of a throw. In failed throw attempts, Judokas transitions to ‘Ne Waza’ (ground techniques aka pins, arms bars/chokes), in an attempt to score points or end the contest via submission or pins. However, transitions to the ground can be a major part of a fighters contest plan, for example some Judoka may favour Ne Waza or be more competent at scoring or finishing contests from the ground as opposed to ‘Tachi Waza’ (standing techniques). Therefore a Judoka may attempt a throw which knowingly won’t necessarily score them Ippon (the highest score) but puts them in a great position to execute their favoured ground technique to end the contest.”

Murphy continues, “The idea is to come out and do a throw and if that goes wrong then you finish it with groundwork. From their posture or positions you can tell a lot about what a person is going to do and then that may dictate what you’re going to do.”

Judokas are experts at blending takedowns and submissions together. In Judo athletes only have a short time to attack submissions before the referee will pause the action and force the two athletes to stand. Due to this time constraint Judokas are very fast at transitioning from takedown to submission.

The fast paced rules of Judo can help BJJ players to become submission hunters on the ground, rather than playing for points. Judo does not hold a firm distinction between takedowns and submissions. This is a skill and mindset that BJJ athletes can probably learn from Judo. If BJJ athletes incorporate the ability to transition quickly and smoothly from takedowns into submissions they can catch a lot of their opponents off guard by being completely on the offense and consequently improve their submission rate.

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