Is BJJ Better Than Judo?

A comment recently made was "...that judo's biggest weakness in newaza is the lack of attention paid to positional grappling." I think that virtually everyone who trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can agree with this statement. Unfortunately, it's wrong.

An equivalent statement by Judoka might be "BJJ's biggest weakness is their 'standup' game..." And although most Judoka would probably subscribe to it, that statement is just as wrong.

Now that I've got both BJJ'ers and Judoka's mad at me, let me make my point, and perhaps we can still learn from each other. The reason that both of these statements are wrong, is that they both carry a hidden assumption. Both statements assume that you can directly compare the two arts. You cannot. They have both different rules (and most everyone immediately understands that), but also different strategies.

It is in the area of strategy where tactics evolve. If your underlying strategy is different, then your tactics will also be different. As an example, let us make the judgment that legs are stronger than arms... Can anyone argue with that? Let us further make the judgment that legs have a further 'reach' than arms... again, a perfectly permissible thought. Does this suggest a strategy? It certainly does, it is the basis of the strategy followed by Korean Tae Kwon Do styles.

Now, what is the underlying strategy of BJJ? (Disclaimer here: I do not study BJJ, my knowledge comes only from talking and practicing with BJJ'ers.) Might I suggest that the judgment might be made that most fights end up on the ground? Might I further suggest that an apparently good strategy might be to be better than anyone else at the place where you'll end up anyway? Someone following this strategy will not evolve complicated tactics for getting someone else down on the ground, under the strategic guidelines, most everyone ends up there anyway. So any tactics for getting someone to the ground will be basic ones, and not emphasized. What will evolve, would be the best methods for stopping someone from continuing to fight when on the ground. Complicated, highly trained methods of taking someone to the ground has rather limited value to BJJ's strategy.

The comparable underlying strategy of Judo is just as focused. It is to gain control over an opponent by putting him off-balance. Kuzushi is always the start of anything in Judo. Once placed off-balance, a Judoka would like to throw his opponent, and then maintain the control already achieved with a 'triangle' of tactics. That triangle being pins, armbars, and chokes. Since the Judoka wishes to maintain a control already achieved, what need does he have of positional grappling? If control is lost, a Judoka probably prefers to begin again where he has been trained to gain that control, standing up. Complex highly trained positional grappling is of limited value to the Judoka's strategy.

Once the hidden strategies of both arts are examined, can the tactics be understood? I know I cannot be alone among Judoka when I think about the the rather slender grasp of standup skills that many BJJ'ers have... but in view of their strategy, it makes sense. Just as Judo's tactics make sense when their strategy is examined.

Can the two arts learn from each other? Certainly! But learning from each other is a far cry from believing that the respective arts have 'holes' that can only be filled from the skills of the other art.

In a recent interview, a Judoka who's moved over to BJJ commented "Why doesn't someone when they see something better come along open their eyes to it and change? I don't get it." Might I suggest that this person has changed strategies? And is now comparing both arts with the same strategy?

If you'd like to ask the question, which is better, Judo or BJJ... all I have to say is what is better, an apple or an orange?

And better at what?