Today we’re talking about the benefits of training Judo to improve your Jiu Jitsu skills. I want to talk about some of the benefits of cross-training to enhance your Jiu Jitsu, and some of the things that it can offer that will help you in that area. One thing that is very important is that people need to keep an open mind about training in Judo, and not look at it as a completely different martial art. I’ve told some of my Jiu Jitsu students here in Houston that I recommend training takedowns and throws as well, and some of the feedback that I’ve heard is “I don’t really want to learn Judo, I want to learn Jiu Jitsu.” But they’re really one in the same art, they just have different rules and sport specifics. When you break it down and think about getting good at Jiu Jitsu, a BJJ match starts on the feet. Right now there’s not a lot of Jiu Jitsu schools that focus a lot on the stand up game, and if they do, they’re often times incorporating Judo. I think that’s a very important part of the game. The stand up game, the throws, the takedowns, are just as much a part of the game as the grappling on the ground.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of training. First of all, grappling matches start on the feet. You have a definitive advantage when you start on the feet and you have confidence with your throws and your takedowns. If we have a match together, and we’re equally skilled as far as the grappling is concerned, then there’s not going to be a big chance of one person dominating the other. But suppose my Judo background has made my takedowns and throws very good and I have the opportunity to throw you and take you down. Not only do I get ahead on points, but my confidence is going to go up while I execute the throw, the same time that your confidence is going to down. So by me having the skills to get the fight to the ground on my terms, I have a huge advantage, not only in getting the points by establishing dominance and position early on, but it’s a huge mental boost as well. Where as it can take your opponent out of the game when they suddenly realize they’re loosing. So there’s a huge advantage immediately starting off, because the fight starts on the feet.
Let’s look at a couple of other things that throws can do to help your Jiu Jitsu game overall. You will improve your stamina. Judo is a very, very physical workout. It’s going to get you in really great shape. Grip strength; you’re constantly working on getting the dominant grip, which is something that I think is sometimes overlooked in BJJ. The gripping game (gi specifically) is important standing up and on the ground. A keen sense of balance is very important in Jiu Jitsu. Judo is definitely going to help your balance. Foot placement is going to help you recover from being thrown. These are all things that come into play while you’re grappling. You have to recover from sweeps, you have to recover from reversals, you have to have balance. Core strength; in Judo you use your core as much as any sport out there. Your core muscles that are involved in the throws and takedowns, are going to see the benefits of that. You’re going to have much better core strength, which is very important to your grappling game.
Of course, your confidence is going to go up, with the stamina, and with this new found core strength. And the more confidence that you have, the more you are going to progress. So when you can find something that gives you a higher sense of confidence, your grappling will improve as a result.
People still look at BJJ and Judo as two different arts. They don’t necessarily want to cross-train both. That goes both ways. There are Judo guys that don’t want to train BJJ, even though in a Judo match you’re allowed to choke and arm-lock your opponent. So many of the moves that you’re allowed to do in Jiu Jitsu, you’re allowed to do in Judo as well. Judo players focus a lot of time on the throws, which they should because they aren’t given a lot of time to grapple, but it can’t be neglected all together. And of course some of the BJJ guys don’t want to do it, they say they don’t like it. They don’t want to do throws, they want to do grappling. But if you want to compete and you want to excel in what Jiu Jitsu is, overall, then Judo is going to help you. You absolutely have to make it part of your training, at least part time.
Some of the top fighters in Jiu Jitsu right now, if you look at the World Championships, the Pan Ams, Abu Dhabi, all of these guys are training Judo. Xande and Saulo Ribero, Roger Gracie, Jacare, “Margarita”, Leo Viera, these are handful of names that are all proficient in Judo. They all have excellent takedowns and throws, and they’ve all incorporated them into their competition training and it’s shown by the advantage that they have in the stand up and the takedown game.
Don’t forget to train sport specific. Some people say “I don’t like doing those throws. Look where you land. You’re giving up your back” or “look at that throw. You’re completely exposed, you’ve landed in a choke position.” Answer to this problem: modify the techniques. It’s all a matter of modifying it to make it sport-specific. Anything you train should be specific to your goals. If you want to be a good wrestler, then your goal is to not get pinned on your back. You’re not allowed to choke in wrestling, therefore you can give up your back more. In Judo, you’re main goal is to throw your opponent on their shoulders. You throw your opponent, you win the match, the match is over and there’s no need to worry about being choked or anything like that. So of course you’re going to do everything you can to get to that position, even if it means giving up your back, because if you accomplish your goal then it doesn’t matter. The match is over. My advice to someone wanting to add takedowns to their game, who may be worried about putting themselves at a greater risk: You modify the techniques. That’s all you have to do. You pick out the techniques that don’t involve the risk of putting yourself in a bad position, because obviously in a BJJ match you don’t win the match on a throw. You just get points for the throw and put yourself in a better position. And the throws that typically put you in a bad position, you simply modify them, work them out with your partners, and you find a way to do them that does not risk exposing your back quite as much, or that does not risk putting you in a compromising position. That’s what you have to do and that’s what BJJ is all about, finding the most efficient way to win. It’s not a matter of “I can’t do this.” It’s a matter of eliminating or taking out some of the stuff that you don’t want to negatively affect your game, and keeping everything that is positive for your Jiu Jitsu.
The bottom line is, it’s all grappling, and it’s all fighting. Everything goes well together. Even with some of the striking arts, a lot of the concepts go along with martial arts in general, from one martial art that’s all striking to one martial art that’s all grappling, so many of the concepts go well together. And don’t forget to analyze and modify the techniques to make them specific to what your goals are. You’re going to find that you can learn a lot from being open minded, listening to people that offer advice and not being closed minded to learning something new. I think Judo for Jiu Jitsu is one of the best things you can add, if you are a serious Jiu Jitsu player and you’re serious about improving your grappling over-all.