Judo Olympian: BJJ Not Enough To Help Your Judo Ground Game

Judo Olympian: BJJ Not Enough To Help Your Judo Ground Game

Guest pots by Matt D’Aquino, a multiple Australian and Oceania Champion and a 2008 Beijing Judo Olympian. He has been studying Judo for over 23 years. He is a 3rd Degree Black belt and a black belt in BJJ.  Matt has also come out with great new DVD sets for BJJ players: Judo for BJJ 

I started Brazilian Jiujitsu about 8 years ago and at the time I didn’t really know much about it. The only real run ins I had with BJJ guys was when I saw Dave Camarillo Flying armbar my coach at the US open. This one event changed my view of BJJ. Before that I had been sucked into the overly common Judo mindset that BJJ is Basically Just Judo. On one hand it is, we wear the same clothes, we have similar belt systems, we have techniques, we do takedowns, self defences, submissions etc. But on the other hand it is completely different. I got told that Judo guys are way better at the ground game then BJJ guys. I got told that the only Judo newaza you need to do is Judo newaza and no BJJ.

But I now know how silly my thinking was. I can stand here today and say that if I never did BJJ then I would have nowhere near as many fights overseas when I was competing.

The BJJ ground game has evolved so much and if you are a Judo practitioner who does not have a BJJ class scheduled in your weekly training regime then you are missing out on a lot!

For example when I first started BJJ I started it so that I could get a better understanding of fighting on the ground. I found that in competition Judo I was always a bit slow on getting an armbar, turnover or strangle. I knew ground work, but I didn’t fully understand ground work.

I was always a half second too slow to secure most of the moves I knew.

So I began BJJ. And I started getting pretty good at it, but I still couldn’t win any Judo fights on the ground. And this is because the BJJ ground game is one thing, and the Judo ground game is something different.

It’s the same as takedowns. You can’t do straight Judo takedowns in BJJ comps, because you risk getting crucifixed or your back taken etc, and the ground game is no different. You need to modify your takedowns for BJJ. Yes there are times when you can pull out a nice smooth Kodokan style takedown in BJJ but often (I find) that you need to modify your takedowns. And this means you will need to modify your ground game to suit Judo.

I found that after doing BJJ for a few years I still wasn’t winning much on the ground. Then one training camp I figured it out. Although I am good on the ground, I was terrible at the transition part of Judo. And it makes sense doesn’t it? We all know BJJ guys are are killers at BJJ, but they enter a Judo comp and can’t submit anybody. Many Judoka then turn around and say the old, “That’s because they aren’t that good on the ground,” but the main reason why is BJJ guys, just like so many Judoka, don’t focus on the transition aspect of Judo.

The Transition is everything!!


The transition is the part that links the throw to the ground game. So rather than doing straight BJJ, I began focussing on newaza transitions, and I did this in two ways.

The first way is I began looking at my throws as a way to open up people on the ground, and then I began practicing that.

Check out the video below to see what I mean:


And the second way I began looking at transitions is by continuing to fight about 15 seconds after a throw in randori (sparring). So if I threw my opponent for a score, I wouldn’t stop fighting, but instead I would continue on the ground for an additional 15-20 seconds or so. This helped develop my understanding of the scramble and transitional aspect of Judo.

Once I began doing this, I started winning more and more fights on the ground. In my last 11 fights internationally I won 10 on the ground! That’s because my awareness of the ground game (through BJJ) and the Judo transitions I chose for my Judo meant that I had a massive advantage compared to other Judoka.

So the danger I find with a lot of Judoka around the world is they think that few BJJ classes per week is all you need to be good on the ground. And yes it will get you good on the ground, but it wont help you in a Judo competition. Judoka need to focus on Newaza transitions and by doing this you will become a force to be reckoned with on the mat.

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