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What's the Difference Between Nihon Jujutsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Ann Arbor Jujutsu
The founder of Nihon Jujutsu, Shizuya Sato Sensei.


Jûjutsu, which generally refers to systems of unarmed combative techniques, is one of the oldest branches of Japanese martial arts. Images of fighters using jûjutsu techniques can be found in a variety of early historical records.

Nihon Jujutsu is a modern Japanese martial art that focuses on practical, efficient techniques as originally found in both ancient and contemporary martial arts. Its principles and techniques come from Japanese unarmed combat and self-defense techniques from pre-1945 judo and aiki-bujutsu, as well as taihojutsu (Japanese police immobilization and arresting methods). The founder of Nihon Jujutsu, Sato Shizuya, established this system based on his extensive studies with leading Japanese budoka (traditional martial artists), many of whom introduced ancient bujutsu methods into modern budo.  John Gage Sensei is one of the world's foremost non-Japanese leaders in traditional, heritage martial arts. He is the current head of the Nihon Jujutsu system and is former Program Director at the US Embassy Judo Club in Tokyo, Japan. In 2015, Gage-Sensei returned to Ann Arbor and joined JMAC as a Senior Instructor.

Despite its name, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was originally based on the techniques of Kodokan Judo, a system created by Kano Jigoro. A student of Kano Sensei, Esai Maeda, later known as Conde Koma, visited Brazil, and his instruction formed the basis of today’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Ann Arbor Jiu Jitsu
Master Carlos Gracie and Master Helio Gracie sparring.



The techniques of Nihon Jujutsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu come from the same place, but evolved into different concentrations.

Comparing the curriculum proved by Shizuya Sato Sensei , the founder of Nihon Jujutsu, and the general Brazilian Jiu Jitsu curriculum leads to the following observations:



1. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu took the ne waza from Judo and developed the techniques into a comprehensive, innovative ground game.  Examples include the emphasis on ground drills, playing within the guard, and many more techniques that are clearly evolved from classical judo grappling.
2. Nihon Jujutsu utilizes striking, holding, falling, and throwing techniques, along with the different locks or chokes.
3. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players wear rash guards. Nihon Jujutsu players generally wear judogi's.
4. Nihon Jujutsu utilizes weapons, such as the tanto (dagger), tanbo (baton), and hanbo (4-foot staff).

Ann Arbor Jiu Jitsu
Dan L. demonstrates a defense against a standing chokehold.


1. In both martial arts, a smaller player can successfully use technique to overcome a bigger opponent.
2. Techniques that involve joint manipulations, joint-locks, and chokeholds are common in both martial arts.
3. Skills from both martial arts can be used for competition, combat or self-defense.

At the Japanese Martial Arts Center, the Nihon Jujutsu style is taught by both John Gage Sensei, the current head of the Nihon Jujutsu system and Nicklaus Suino Sensei, direct student of Sato Shizuya Sensei, the founder of Nihon Jujutsu. For more information, email info@japanesemartialartscenter.com.



The translation of Nihon Jujutsu breaks down in the following ways:
1. "Nihon" means "Japanese"
2. "Ju" means "gentle, soft, supple, flexible, pliable or yielding"
3. "Jutsu" means "art or technique"

However, given the variations of spelling and usage of terms related to ‘jûjutsu,’ as well as the confusion that arises as a result, it’s probably helpful to look at the origins of the term as it’s written in Japanese and English.

Jyûjutsu (noun) as written in Japanese can be translated as the ‘technique(s) of flexibility, softness et al’, and denotes a system of techniques including striking, throwing and joint manipulation as a means of combat or self-defense.


Jitsu (noun or adj.) as written in Japanese can be translated as truth; reality; sincerity; honesty; fidelity; content; substance; (good) result.



So you could argue that jyû-jitsu, or Jiu-Jitsu, is a spelling error – similar to the incorrect use of a homophone in English like there, they’re, or their – which later became established as "Brazilian jiu-jitsu" or "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" to differentiate the styles. When referring to the Brazilian counterpart, it is common to use the spelling "Jiu-Jitsu." Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is also often referred to as "jitz" or "BJJ".


Jujutsu Ann Arbor
Stephen M. demonstrates self-protection skills used with Nihon Jujutsu.

The JMAC Ann Arbor Difference

Why train at JMAC? 

In a few words: JMAC is dedicated to expertise and helping you build extraordinary character. Our instructors are highly trained and motivated to help you learn. Our facility is beautiful and helps inspire you to look inside yourself and learn. Our sprung floor will help keep you healthy. Our dues rates are reasonable. Our location is easy to get to. We have ample, free parking. We offer time-tested methods for helping you improve yourself, body, mind, and spirit! Contact us today at info@japanesemartialartscenter.com to visit a class!

JMAC Approach

People who practice budo are members of a special group. They are seekers of truth, people who want something more from life than a paycheck and a nice home. They make unique contributions to their communities and to the world. They seek the true Japanese martial arts experience.

Here at JMAC, we make ourselves better through consistent, long-term practice. We like being in shape, we like having a mission of personal improvement, and we like knowing that we have a place where our instructors are also devoted to a lifetime of self-improvement. 

The ideal martial artist:

  • Sets high standards for him or herself.
  • Abides by a code of personal conduct.
  • Values sincerity and politeness.
  • Is loyal, honor-bound, and courageous.

Training the whole person:

We help train the whole person through the traditional techniques and philosophies of the Japanese martial arts, with the goal of developing healthy, confident members of society. We strive to:

  • Strengthen your body with time-tested skills.
  • Train your mind through the discipline of kata.
  • Forge your spirit with focused repetition.

An exceptional training environment:

Our students love to practice. You will find that class is always enjoyable because you learn in an atmosphere of integrity, mutual respect and dedication.

  • Your training is systematic and safe.
  • You benefit from Ann Arbor's only fully sprung martial arts floor!
  • The techniques you learn are dynamic and based on proper physical structure.
  • You learn effective self-defense in judo and jujutsu.

Do you want to get started on your mission of personal improvement?

  • Observe a Class: If you're interested in Japanese martial arts, we'd love to have you come watch a class. Call us at (734) 645-6441 to arrange a time to visit or to talk more about which martial art you want to try!
  • Introductory Lessons: Participate in two 30-minute private lessons with an expert instructor (you can take the free intros with a friend).
  • One Year Membership: Sign up and lock in your low dues rate for one year. Pay only your first 2 months dues to start.  
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed: Try training at JMAC for two months. Discontinue your membership within 60 days if it's not for you!

Serving Southeast Michigan:

JMAC students come to practice from throughout Southeast Michigan, from such areas as:

  • Ann Arbor
  • Birmingham
  • Bloomfield
  • Brighton
  • Canton
  • Chelsea
  • Clinton Township
  • Detroit
  • Dexter
  • Dundee
  • Fenton
  • Fowlerville
  • Grass Lake
  • Howell
  • Inkster
  • Jackson
  • Lansing
  • Livonia
  • Manchester
  • Milan
  • Milford
  • Monroe
  • Novi
  • Okemos
  • Pinckney
  • Plymouth
  • Rochester
  • Romulus
  • Saline
  • Southfield
  • Tecumseh
  • Troy
  • Whitmore Lake
  • Wixom
  • Ypsilanti
  • University of Michigan
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Michigan State University
  • Washtenaw Community College
  • Oakland Community College
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Ann Arbor - Martial Arts Mecca

For the prospective martial arts student, Ann Arbor is a mecca in the Midwest. More than any other location in Michigan, Ann Arbor has a wide variety of martial arts styles taught by many well respected sensei (teachers). You can find training opportunities at community centers, college and university gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and dojos (training halls). Among the styles available are: aikido, iaido, judo, jiu-jitsu (also called jujutsu), karate, kendo, kung fu, MMA (mixed martial arts, sometimes called BJJ) tae kwon do, tai chi, and many westernized martial arts systems. At JMAC, we offer world class instruction in judo, jiu-jitsu, iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), and karate for kids.


Aikido is a martial arts descended from jiu-jitsu. It includes joint locks, throws, takedowns, and pins. The philosophy of aikido is a peaceful one - to use the attacker’s energy to neutralize his or her attack without causing injury. Aikido is taught in several forms, such as Aikikai, Ki Society, and Yoshinkan. Aikido was founded by Ueshiba Morihei, who studied with Takeda Sokaku, the most famous practitioner of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu. Its principles can be found in almost every Japanese martial art, especially jiu-jitsu and judo. Read more about the physical and philosophical principles of Nihon Jujutsu.

Iaido in Ann Arbor

Iaido is Japanese sword drawing. It was created by the Samurai to defend against surprise attacks by an armed opponent. Most iaido involves the practice of pre-arranged forms, which are excellent tools for training the body, improving concentration, and entering into a meditative state. Finding a talented instructor in iaido with legitimate credentials is rare … in the Midwest it’s practically unheard of. For those with a desire to compete in swordsmanship for sport, kendo is the activity of choice. Those who are willing to endure an occasional whack on the head may pursue bokken kumite (sparring with wooden swords) with our director’s authorization once they reach black belt at JMAC. Read more about iaido at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Judo

Judo was founded by Professor Jigoro Kano. It is both a martial art and an Olympic sport. It includes throws, pins, joint locks, and chokes. It is among the most vigorous of martial arts and is very popular with children as well as adults. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers classes in judo for children as young as 6 years old, and for adults (starting at age 16). One fact not widely known is that sport judo is a narrow cross section of the complete art of judo. Proponents of the entire art, such as Satoh Tadayuki Sensei of Waseda University in Tokyo, recognize that the founder’s vision encompassed not only “judo” throws, but joint locks, takedowns, redirection, strikes, vital points, dynamic ukemi, kata, and weapons. Judo training at JMAC includes many of these opportunities. Read more about Judo at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Jiu-Jitsu (Jujitsu / Jujutsu)

Jujutsu - which is also written "jujitsu" and "jiu jitsu" - is the ancestor martial art of aikido and judo. Although it includes many of the techniques found in aikido, as well as many more combative techniques that did not find their way into aikido, the philosophy of jujutsu is more practical. Techniques are applied more directly, with a greater emphasis on pain compliance. Those who study jiu-jitsu over the long term improve their fitness, concentration, and ability to defend themselves. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers serious jiu-jitsu classes for adults starting at age 16. You can learn more about the differences between Japanese jujutsu and Brazilian jiujitsu.

Karate – Kids Karate in Ann Arbor

Karate involves mainly strikes, kicks, and blocks. It was originally developed in the Ryukyu Islands (now Okinawa), and was later exported to Japan before finding its way around the world. Karate is an excellent martial art for those who prefer striking, and helps develop physical strength, stamina, and confidence. There are many forms of karate taught around the world today, including Shotokan, Shorin-ryu, Chito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and Kyokushinkai. If you’re looking for a way to help your child learn enthusiasm, fitness, discipline, and manners while having a lot of fun, consider the kids karate program at JMAC. We have an incredible core of talented instructors who have made it their business to inspire kids to be their best. Read more about our karate program for kids.


Kendo is a sport descended from Japanese swordsmanship. In Kendo, participants wear padded armor and attempt to score points by striking vital points with bamboo swords called "shinai." Practice is fast paced, involves much spirited shouting, and is a lot of fun. The Japanese Martial Arts Center does not offer kendo, but can refer you to a reputable kendo instructor in the area.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art that actually includes many sub-styles. Like karate, kung fu involves strikes, kicks, and blocks, but also includes many esoteric motions that can be applied to take down or otherwise defeat an opponent. Kung fu often appeals to imaginative people because of the many references to animal forms, but it is also a very challenging and practical martial art.

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA (mixed martial arts) to a modern competition-based collection of techniques. Most MMA schools teach striking as well as grappling. Although not a traditional martial art - and thus lacking many of the character development and spiritual aspects of ancient Asian arts - MMA is nevertheless a fantastic form of exercise and a lot of fun. Because many MMA fighters have employed judo and jujutsu successfully, the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers private instruction to top-level competitors as well as occasional workshops for our members.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is the Korean counterpart to Japanese karate. As a striking art, it includes punches, kicks, and blocks, but typically Tae Kwon Do emphasizes more kicking than does karate. Competition (usually for points rather than full contact) is very common among Tae Kwon Do practitioners. It is an excellent form of exercise, but seems more susceptible to commercialization than more traditional arts such as aikido and iaido.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is another form of Chinese martial art. It is usually taught with slow, controlled movements and deep stances. There are many health benefits associated with Tai Chi, including strong bones, cardiovascular health, and calmness.

Getting Started in Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

If you are considering taking up martial arts, you will find many superb opportunities in and around Ann Arbor, including outlying cities such as Brighton, Canton, Howell, Northville, and Plymouth. Students from the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, Cleary College, and even Michigan State University have supplemented their education with martial arts and found that the physical activity helps them concentrate on their studies. We think the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers the best programs in Michigan, but we’re interested in people who are willing to work hard and do what it takes to become truly accomplished. We encourage you to look around to find the martial arts club or school that best meets your needs.