Cross-Training: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Not sure if there will be a "cross training" series, but I wanted to get some thoughts out of my head about the good and bad side of BJJ from a Judoka's perspective.  This isn't one of those "Judo is soooo much better than BJJ" type articles.  I enjoy both, and practice both.  I'm not one of those guys that think that BJJ stands for "Basically Just Judo" either.  They are siblings...  fraternal twins, maybe.  They have the same genetic base, but they look and act differently.  Obviously, there is a huge overlap in the technique base, but the contest rule differences, both in terms of permissible techniques and encouraged/discouraged behaviors leads to make them cultivate different techniques and behaviors, and makes them distinct arts.

So, with no further ado, here are my thoughts on what a Judoka should and shouldn't take from BJJ, and vice versa.

Good things that Judo can take from BJJ:
  • Ground Defense:  You will generally see a broader range of attacks when rolling in BJJ than in Judo randori, and you'll get more groundwork in than your typical Judo class. Together, this allows you to really build a great "Spidey Sense" in your groundwork.  "Wait, Chad.  You meant groundwork in general, right?"  Well, yes, but read on... 
  • Ground Offense... ish:  To be sure, there is a wide world of offense in BJJ.  And despite what some "Judo is best at everything" people may say, the BJJ community does have a better-developed ground game than the Judo community.  But the Judoka must be selective here, because if something takes too long to develop, it may not be allowed to develop (you'll get stood back up), and therefore shouldn't be at the top of your list.  
  • Exposure:  While it won't all be directly applicable to your Judo, it will augment your martial skills, and can expose some holes in an area where you may feel very confident.  Leg locks and other joint locks and nobody to stand you back up... you'll see different stuff than in your average Judo class.
Good things BJJ can take from Judo:
  • Decisiveness:  There is certainly decisiveness in BJJ...  Lord knows I have been on the receiving end of some decisive chokes and arm-bars.  But if you are a BJJer that finds yourself consistently taking the long road to victory (or long road to defeat), Judo will force you to be snappy, both standing and on the ground.  That, to me, is the good side of getting stood up if you don't make constant progress on the ground (though I still don't like it).
  • Standing game:  Given that most of your time in BJJ is going to be spent doing groundwork (and in some places, more than 99% of the time is spent on the ground), Judo will help you develop a standing game.  But just like Judoka need to be selective about what ground techniques and habits they pick up from BJJ, BJJers need to be selective about what standing techniques and habits they pick up from Judo.  Because a Judo match can end with one good throw, Judoka can develop throws that don't leave them in a good position for groundwork.  So don't let that be you.
  • Position before submission:  In Judo, you can win with a 25-second pin.  This generally leads one in Judo to secure a sound pin as a first concern, and seek a submission secondarily.  This can have a down-side, of course, but I think it is generally a good practice to secure control of your opponent before attempting to tap the sucker.  Nothing really revolutionary there.
  • Safe falling:  Yeah, yeah... "Falling is not a reason to do Judo."  Blah blah blah.  If you are training to win the Olympics, sure.  Fine.  But I think it is one of the most useful self-defense techniques you will learn.  Most folks won't get in to a physical confrontation that really requires self-defense, but most folks will fall multiple times in their life.  And for the BJJer, you can take the stun-factor out of the big throws - that could lead to a loss - if you have been dumped a few thousand times...  =:>
But there are bad habits, too...  Bad habits that Judo can take from BJJ:
  • Reliance on slow-to-develop techniques:  As mentioned, you need to be decisive in Judo, and, especially when you are on the ground, you need to constantly make progress.  Accordingly, you need to pick which clubs are in your bag, so to speak - and make sure your go-tos are the ones that have a high chance of working, and working quickly.
  • Reliance on illegal techniques:  Leg locks, hands to the face, etc...  All quite useful, but, if you are planning to compete in Judo, you need to be mindful that these techniques aren't a linchpin in your game.  You'll likely hesitate, or worse, move forward with the technique and get penalized or kicked out, entirely.
  • Allowing roll-overs:  BJJ is A-OK with allowing a mounted opponent to roll over.  Because then you can take the back (getting more points), and have an easier time tapping them.  But in Judo, you may have just gone from a likely win (having pinned your opponent), to a situation where you will likely have to stand up.  I'm not the best in the world.  Lots of people can eventually submit me if they take my back.  But I haven't come across many folks that can tap me in a time frame that Judo would allow.  So fight for your pin, and don't let the bad guy roll.
Bad habits that BJJ can take from Judo:
  • Turtling:  It's related to my previous point.  Judoka are generally more worried about a pin than a submission, and so rolling over and turtling is a common "defense."  Personally, I would like to see this penalized in Judo, because it is an absolutely terrible habit from a self-defense perspective.  But it does make sense with the common Judo rule set.  So don't let yourself adopt this particular bad habit.  You'll get your back taken.
  • Throws that don't end well:  If a Judoka gets an Ippon (winning throw) in a contest, then it doesn't matter what happens next:  the guy who was just thrown could roll him over, pin him, and choke him out in less than a second - but the thrower still won.  And because tournament rules tend to dictate training behavior, many Judoka tend to train this way.  But you can't win just from a throw in BJJ, so you'd better make sure that you are positioned well for groundwork at the end of your throw.
  • Overcommitment:  Similar to the last point, but applied to the ground.  The Judoka is encouraged to take more risks than the BJJer  (BJJka?), because if he gets into trouble, he only needs to stop progress for a short time to get bailed out - stood back up by the ref.  In BJJ, if you get into trouble... you're in trouble.
  • Settling for a pin:  As mentioned, you can win with a pin in Judo, but not in BJJ.  Well, you can, sort of... if you are ahead in points, you could ride things out with your opponent.   And I am a big fan of not forcing things... let your opponent make the mistake in his attempt to escape your pin.  Just be ready to snatch that submission...
So... what did I miss?

    btemplates

    4 comments:

    ward said...

    Just an observation, when I started training it seemed to me that they were the same just with different rules but now I realize they are separate similar disciplines. I think of them as analogous to Tennis and Squash. Recreational players who do both get better at the one they are naturally better at. Squash is much faster. Tennis involves more endurance and strategy. It also seems to me that the spidey sense is something that only comes from grappling arts; judo, bjj and all forms of wrestling and probably from nothing else.

    kodokanjudo said...

    There is no doubt in my mind that bjj training is beneficial for judo practitioners and I'm sure that most bjj practitioners feel the same about judo.
    Both today's judo and bjj have a common ancestor in pre 1920's judo, all before Kano started omitting what he considered too dangerous or what did not fit into his "Maximum use of energy" or "Mutual Benefit".
    Sambo or sombo (Russian unarmed combat system) is another martial art that sprung from this time period.

    Chad Morrison said...

    Wanted to share this comment that a judo friend shared on FB, because he makes a great point:

    Good post and I agree, under the caveat that the instructors are qualified to instruct (which isn't always the case) and the student enters into each different art to learn that art.

    I've seen similar benefits from cross training between judo and amateur wrestling, judo and aikido, etc.

    Other than qualified instruction, I think the key component is an open mind and an approach to learn what there is to learn from the art or sport in which you cross train. All too often, I've seen the approach, "I'm going to go in there and show them why judo/wrestling/aikido/bjj/​tiddlywinks is better." That closes the mind and takes away the educational benefit of cross training.

    A similar problem is when a person can't "let go" of their "first" art and keep trying to apply it in the new class. An example is when I was teaching judo I'd often have high school wrestlers join the class. The problem is they would come to judo and wrestle instead of do judo. Once a foundation and a level of understanding is developed in BOTH arts one can start to figure and learn how to merge the two or adapt aspects of the one you consider the cross training.

    kodokanjudo said...

    Good points!
    Without an open mind about other arts we will never be "flexible": The "JU" as in JU-do and as in JU-jutsu (Japanese spelling).