Judo and BJJ are both incredibly popular martial arts, with millions of fervent practitioners all around the world. Quick, potent, and impressively efficient, they are practiced and studied by casual hobbyists, martial arts enthusiasts, and even professional fighters in the UFC.
Although both are relatively young in comparison to other combat sports, their surge in popularity was nothing short of meteoric, and they've cemented their position among the most well-respected of martial arts.
But just like any other sport, you can't always guarantee that you won't get a good bruise or two--which is tough, considering safety should always be your number one concern. So if you're eager to learn which sport is safer for you to get into, then this article is for you.
Comparing Judo and BJJ
Although judo and jiu-jitsu are different fighting styles in their own right, a fair amount of overlap between them can still be found. This should come as no surprise to those aware of their history, as both styles drew heavy inspiration from the original jiu-jitsu.
For example, both incorporate a plethora of throws to immobilize an opponent and pin them down. The use of various locks and holds is also commonplace. Even their rules and guidelines during competitions share many similarities.
The key difference lies in what they favor: judo places more emphasis on throwing techniques, such as the osoto gari and the ever-popular uchi mata. At its core, it aims to throw opponents off-balance in order to take them down.
BJJ, on the other hand, focuses on ground fighting and submission holds. They rely more on leverage-based techniques, like joint locks and chokeholds, in order to control an opponent.
Self-defense: which martial art is more dangerous... for your opponent?
In terms of self-defense, arguments can be made for either styles. Judo is often seen as superior due to its ability to quickly incapacitate an attacker with a throw or sweep, especially since the average person doesn't know how to cushion against a fall.
Judo also benefits from the fact that street fights happen, surprise surprise, on the street, which isn't exactly conducive for combat, to say the least.
Being thrown or swept in a street, especially one with rough concrete or pavement, can lead to serious concussions that'll do more than take your enemy out of the fight. Depending on where they land, these throws can even be lethal.
However, BJJ has a stronger focus on protecting from attacks, and it can allow a smaller, weaker fighter to fend off a stronger opponent.
In fact, a key tenant of BJJ is precisely that: using careful ground work and weight distribution to allow a physically inferior combatant to fend off a superior one.
Plus, while BJJ combatants always start on their feet, it's hard to tell just where a bout will go afterwards, which is useful for the hectic nature of street fights.
Overall though, both are excellent options for self-defense. You'll feel right at home regardless of which you pick, and you really can't go wrong with either (or even both!).
Most Common Injuries in Judo and BJJ
Because of the overlap in the techniques and principles used, judo and BJJ have a tendency to injure the same body parts, namely the elbows, knees, hands, and fingers.
It should come as no surprise that elbows and knees are among the most commonly injured body parts in judo, a consequence of its reliance on throws. They often unintentionally take the brunt of a landing, causing lots of painful sprains or contusions.
The same is also true for BJJ. Because various submission holds require preventing your opponent from using their limbs, Brazilian jiu-jitsu injuries often involve elbows and knees. You'll likely see them for yourself every now and then, or maybe even experience them firsthand.
Hyperextensions in the hands and feet are also very common. Whether in a casual, competitive, or training setting, fingers and toes are often pushed into unnatural angles, moving beyond their normal range of motion and causing pain and swelling in affected areas.
How often do injuries happen?
Overall, if competition results are anything to go by, then we'll have to say that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the safer sport. The issue is a bit more nuanced than that though, with a few caveats you'll have to keep in mind.
The bad news: injuries are fairly common in both martial arts. A study conducted during the London Summer Olympic Games showed that Judo possesses an injury rate anywhere from 12.3% to 30%.
Another study conducted over a 15-year period explained how out of 28,297 practicing judokas, 699 required medical attention at some point because of damage taken while training. That's an injury incidence rate of 2.5%.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu doesn't fare much better either. The research tends to be volatile, with some studies showing an injury incidence rate as low as 9.2 out of 1,000 exposures, and others going as high as 59.2% of their respondents reporting damage done to their bodies.
The good news: most injuries don't tend to be serious. McDonald et al. points out that the most prevalent BJJ injuries are sustained by the hands and feet, and they're typically hyperextensions that are not too alarming and won't hinder the average person's day-to-day life.
As for judo, because it involves lots of explosive throws and high-impact moves, it isn't uncommon for athletes to suffer sprains, strains, and contusions, or even to just go home feeling sore and beaten up. Just like in BJJ, majority of these aren't serious enough to warrant drastic medical attention.
So if you're looking to enroll on the basis of which may be safer for you, then BJJ may be the right call. After all, its submission holds may be a huge pain to be stuck in, but at least you have the option of tapping out. Good luck stopping a judo fall midway though!
Still, both are overall safe, fun, and fantastic options for athletes and practitioners. If you find yourself some proper guidance and adequate gear, then you'll have very little to worry about regardless of which choice you make.
- Similar techniques and principles
- Focus on ground work and submission holds
- Mitigable risk of injury
- Similar injury sites: elbows, knees, hands, and feet
- Similar techniques and principles
- Focus on throws
- Mitigable risk of injury, but higher than in BJJ
- Similar injury sites: elbows, knees, hands, and feet, and more injuries overall
- Can do serious damage to an untrained opponent
Judo and BJJ are two distinct martial arts which possess many unique differences between one another. Chief among them are that judo places more emphasis on throwing techniques, while BJJ focuses more on ground-based submission holds.
Based on competition results, BJJ edges out as being somewhat safer. Whichever you pick, however, there will always be significant risks that you'll always need to keep in mind.
Either way, both sports are enjoyable and offer their own merits, depending on what it is you want out of your sport. They share many similarities, from the techniques employed to the rules followed, but they each provide unique and fulfilling experiences for anyone eager to try them.