Kosen Judo VS BJJ: 6 Reasons To Stop Saying It’s The Same

Kosen Judo and BJJ share similar origins, techniques and philosophy. Both martial arts have a distinct focus on ground grappling techniques. These similarities lead some to wonder whether Kosen Judo and BJJ are the same. In this Kosen Judo vs BJJ article I will tell you about the similarities and differences between Kosen Judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Contents of this article

Kosen Judo vs BJJ

What is Kosen Judo?

Kosen Judo is an abbreviation for koto senmon gakko Judo, which means higher school or college judo. It was primarily practiced in Japanese colleges at the time. Kosen Judo is a form of Judo that emphasizes ground fighting, or ne waza in Japanese. 

There are still Kosen Judo tournaments in Japan today. But Kodokan Judo is the dominant form of Judo. Also internationally Kosen Judo has not caught on, and it’s unlikely that this will happen now that BJJ is already so popular worldwide.

Kosen Judo - Volume 1 by Masahiko Kimura

What is BJJ?

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a form of martial arts that emphasizes ground fighting. If we compare Judo and BJJ there are many similarities and overlapping techniques, but the focus is ultimately different. The goal of BJJ is to control and submit an opponent, whereas the goal of Judo is to throw or pin the opponent.

BJJ was first brought to Carlos Gracie of the Gracie family in Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda, who was a Judoka. So there are some shared origins between Judo and BJJ, but we have to keep in mind that both martial arts have change a lot since then.

Similarities between BJJ and Kosen Judo

There are some important similarities between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Kosen judo. Similarities include:

  • Emphasis on the ground game. Like BJJ, Kosen judo did not restrict time on the ground in competitions, which meant that the majority of a match took place on the ground.
  • Leg locks were allowed. Like in modern BJJ, leg locks were allowed in Kosen Judo, at least in the beginning. 
  • Guard pulls were common. Guard pulls were common practice in Kosen Judo, just like they are in Brazilian jiu jitsu. The Kosen Judoka used guard pulls to attack submissions of their back, as well as sweeps and sacrifice throws.
BJJ VS Kosen Judo (Structural Breakdown)

Differences between Kosen Judo and BJJ

Despite these similarities, there are also many differences between BJJ and Kosen judo. The most important differences are:

  • Kosen judo has pins. Winning a match with a pin rather than a submission is one of the biggest differences between Judo and BJJ, and this counts for Kosen Judo too. Kosen Judoka could win matches with a pin.
  • Kosen Judo has more turle action. You may think that in BJJ people turtle a lot to avoid getting scored on with a pass. But imagine that a pass to side control ended the match. This was the case in Kosen judo and therefore people turtled all the time to prevent getting pinned. This also made all the armbar and triangle submissions from the turtle position common that we still see in modern judo today.
  • Kosen Judo has different belts. I’ll be honest, this is a guess, ecause I couldn’t find reliable information on the Kosen Judo belt system. But, it’s unlikely that it worked how the BJJ belt system works today. Most likely, it had different colors of belts (no purple), and it had standardized belt tests like Kodokan Judo.
  • BJJ developed past Kosen Judo. BJJ moved far past where Kosen Judo was in the 1920s. New techniques and submissions have been discovered and perfected over the years. We could say that Kosen Judo had some of the very basic and fundamental techniques of BJJ, but it stopped after that.
  • BJJ uses a different point system. Again, in Judo, a pin is a win. In BJJ it’s more complicated, with most rule sets granting 4 points for the mount, 3 points for knee on belly, and so forth.
  • Kosen Judo was only for collegiate students. That’s just how it was in Japanese society at the time. And keep in mind that at the time much less people went to college than nowadays. As a result, Kosen Judo was also always a very small sport.
  • Kosen Judo culture is far more traditional. In BJJ, people don’t bow in to the Dojo anymore, and it’s common to come late to a BJJ class. Let’s call that a relic of its Brazilian origins. Japanese culture is much more hierarchical and strict, and wouldn’t stand for these things.
Difference between Judo and Kosen Judo - From the source interview

Kosen Judo VS BJJ: Is it The Same?

No, Kosen Judo is not the same as BJJ. At most, you could say that Kosen Judo has the same fundamental techniques as BJJ, but BJJ developed independently and far beyond Kosen Judo. Nowadays, Kosen Judo is a less popular form of Judo in Japan, whereas BJJ is a well developed martial art and combat sport.

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