In 2014 I wrote an article called ‘Why BJJ will overtake Judo and have more participants by 2020″.
That article in full is below this update.
However, as we are now in 2020, I wanted to revisit the subject and look if I was right.
- Judo is more popular in search than BJJ globally
- BJJ is now more popular in search than the UK
- Scotland has higher Judo search interest than the UK
- BJJ is more popular than Judo in the USA
- Globally the interestb gap is closing
The Results: Judo Is More Popular Than BJJ…..Globally
The only true data source I have to go on is Google trends, and while not perfect, it is the best we have.
Because Google trends is based around search terms, these are what is called ‘Informational searches’, so it is a good gauge of interest levels.
In this case, when you look at from 2004 to current day, on a worldwide level Judo is searched for on a greater level than BJJ.
But they have caught up and clearly interest gloablly is rising.
But when we analayse the UK and USA we get a different story.
BJJ Is Searched For More Often In The UK Than Judo
On a UK level we can see that in the UK BJJ has crossed the Judo interest levels slightly.
We can break this down further and take a look over the last 12 months.
As we can see, over the last 12 months Judo has been searched for less than BJJ and this trend is increasing.
The upward mark we can see for Judo is no doubt as a result of the recent Paris Grand Slam where Teddy Riner lost for the first time in 10 years.
This of course does paint a worrying sign for the future of British Judo over the next 20 years.
Interestingly when we look at the break down of interest, Scotland is certainly very much a Judo nation and England a BJJ one.
BJJ Is More Popular Than Judo In The USA
When we look at the US data we see that BJJ took over popularity in terms of search long ago and now they are poles apart.
When we break this down further we can see how it looks over the last 12 months.
Interestingly when we break this down on a state by state level we see that South Dakota is the only place where Judo enjoys more search interest.
I have no idea why this is, but if anyone has a clue, get in touch.
What Can Be Done?
In the last 2 years the International Judo Federation Media team made what was in my opinion a noose around the neck of Judo for many nations.
They undertook what I will refer to as ‘Facebookgeddon’.
They messaged numerous Judo Facebook pages to tell them to stop using the IJF video footage on their pages or face legal action.
This is perhaps one of the worst decisions I have ever heard by any media team……ever.
In essence all of these Facebook pages were giving Judo free publicity and generating fuel for interest in Judo.
It was free advertising on a such a mass scale that any business would be beyond happy.
Also considering that all the footage is availvale for free on YouTube, this makes the decision even more bizarre and something that I can only assume is linked to trying to generate more internal growth metrics.
After all, if less people can find Judo footage, they will seek out the IJF page.
Sadly, while I have no doub the IJF media team will have massively improved their metrics, when BJJ is more popular in 2 of the largest economies on the planet I am sure they will reget this move.
I would describe this as a marketing failure of epic proportions.
As a club Judoka and a father of 2 children just starting Judo I haven’t been impressed by the onboarding experience my kids have undergone, nor the price increases from the British Judo Association.
And while our club grows both in adult numbers and children, I am also aware that many of the adults are training hevaily in BJJ and so are several of the children.
Ultimately there is so much that could be done to change the growth of Judo, yet none of this is being done. Even what I would refer to as basics are being missed.
OK, So Is Participation Down?
I do not have any data for US Judo or BJJ particpation numbers but thanks to Statista we now have data that shows what is going on in the UK with Judo.
As we can see from this data that British Judo particpiation has generally declined since 2017.
While there might not be massive change, we know that there has not been a great deal of increase in particpation.
This should ring alarm bells for the management of the sport because ultimately the promotion of Judo needs to come from the governing body and the mission should be to place the sport in a completely self sufficient funding stasis.
If funding was cut tomorrow, Judo should be able to survive and thrive.
Sadly, I don’t think this is the case right now.
Ok, so I wanted to keep this update on the same page as my original article, so you can read below to see if my predictions have come true.
Check it out below.
Why BJJ will overtake Judo and have More Participants by 2020
This post is a bit different in that I am actually going to heavily promote a case for BJJ and show why it will become the dominant grappling sport. However I first want to make my thoughts on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu clear.
My History with both Judo, BJJ and Submission Wrestling
I started grappling nearly 14 years ago and Ill be totally honest, I went looking for a BJJ school. Sadly there wasn’t one then in my area so instead I actually started Judo and trained until I got my orange belt after 8 months but I left not long after as I wasn’t really interested in doing Judo. I was madly into the UFC. Having boxed since I was about 12, I was now 21 and looking for something else and MMA was it.
I wanted to train and mix up my skills so I stumbled across a small club and started training there. This was a Vale Tudo and Submission wrestling club and the coach was light years ahead of others. The style was pretty mixed, no gi. This was before all the funky ‘sprawl’ shorts and rash guards came out so most trained in tracksuits but the coach had trained with Marco Ruas, Eric Paulson, Frank Shamrock and Bas Rutten. He was also the former British freestyle wrestling champion so the training was mixed up and amazing. Zero ego’s and no belts. Just hard grappling!
I later stopped training for a few different reasons but went on to train with UFC fighter Ross Pointon and later descended into Judo with a few months BJJ training mixed in as well (I did about 4 months when I was a Judo Blue belt) until I got my dan grade in Judo. My point in telling you this is that I’m no newbie in grappling. I’ve been around the block and whilst I might not be ADCC level Im also no slouch with a Gi on or off so I am writing this from a perspective of grappling experience.
I like BJJ and find it enjoyable and entertaining but in my grappling loves it falls below Judo and No gi grappling
Oh and before we go on I understand the web and marketing.
In fact this site had 17,000 visitors in January 2014 so Im combining my web knowledge and grappling knowledge to justify my belief as why BJJ will over take Judo by 2020.
The data below is taken from Google trends and shows web search interest for Judo and BJJ
As we can seen, since 2004 there has been a rapid decline globally in the search term Judo whilst the search term BJJ has enjoyed a steady rise. The peaks that you can see in red are for the Olympics which generate a lot of web traffic. The data here is for Global search terms, so you could argue that it is a good rule of thumb for interest in activities.
The above UK data tells a tale of woe for the UK Judo scene as the gap between Judo in red and BJJ is barely noticeable. This really is of concern for Judo because let us look at the US and as we all know the UK tends to follow the USA in lots of areas.
As we can see that Judo has certainly lost the interest battle in the USA
What Does it Mean?
I have trained BJJ and had both good and bad experiences in this sport. For me personally I still love the Judo stand up game and I actually prefer the Judo groundwork rules and game itself. I find it faster paced but to be honest with you I actually prefer no gi submission wrestling to both the newaza of Judo and the BJJ groundwork training. That’s a personal preference, however Judo is a hard sport. The impact on the body can be hard and for most men and women who are looking for a grappling based workout the throws in Judo are a big turn off.
BJJ on the other hand is certainly lower impact. Mostly trained on the ground you get a very good workout without hard impacts so I can certainly see the appeal of BJJ and I will honestly look to do some more BJJ training in the future.
However the data above spell a terrible future in the UK for Judo as I believe it will lose its stronghold in the UK perhaps sooner than 2020.
If I was giving out medals for the marketing effort of British Judo, well lets just say they wouldn’t get on the podium. As we can see that even with a huge spike of interest in the sport every 4 yeas at the Olympics British Judo has failed to increase web interest and Ill explain why.
The British Judo Facebook page stated this yesterday
Did you know?
From January 2013 to January 2014, more than 23,000 people have liked our British Judo Association page.
The largest increase in likes to our actual page was between May 2013 and January 2014.
In this period, we went from over 7,000 in January to just over 19,300 before November’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
And in two weeks by the end of the Jeju Grand Prix we broke the barrier of 20,000 likes!
Now as we approach the Paris Grand Slam, we are currently at 29,695 likes.
Will you be the 30,000th person?
And they were kind enough to add the following graph:
Now this chart is very impressive. In fact it is so impressive I delved a little deeper. Because this chart paints a picture of dramatic Judo support and growth.
If you look at the facebook page stats you can see the following:
8 December 2013
18-24 years old
Most Popular Age Group
Now is very impressive data but how does it compare to googles stats:
The above data shows interest in Judo in the UK via google over a 12 month period.
Clearly the data above does not remotely resemble the Facebook interest in British Judo as a brand. So what’s going on? Well it isn’t for me to say but there are a few things that can cause a spike like the one in the British Judo facebook data. First of course is that there is a definite increase in interest in British Judo on Facebook. This of course isn’t hard to imagine as their facebook page is pretty good. However I then would expect that with so many thousands of new likes the google data would also show at least a larger increase searches.
This is also because the age groups that the page is most popular with are 18 – 24 year old age group, this age band are heavily internet active so some pass on to google would be expected, but it isn’t seen.
Another possibility is that this is the result of a ‘paid for’ or boosted ad campaign. Again this is a very effective method of communication as it attracts people with similar interests into the brand. However I’m a little confused that the BJA Judo Twitter account has 11,500 followers but the British Judo Association You Tube page has only 642 Subscribers????
A further look at the BJA facebook page reveals that in 2013 most posts generated no more than 500 ‘likes’. That’s 500 likes out of nearly 30,000 page likes. So what’s really going on? Who knows but Facebook has an algorithm that works on a few factors and among them is engagement.
However this is getting all a bit too much about marketing. The bottom line however is that facebook likes don’t equate to people on Judo mats and if we are comparing the Gracie Jiu Jitsu home page has 152,000 page likes!
So whilst I have to say well done to the BJA marketing boys for getting such impressive facebook likes, the simple truth is that this interest isn’t spilling over into other areas especially general web interest.
British Judo isn’t engaging with You Tube and this is a KEY mistake as video is among the most shared things on the web.
Yet this doesnt really reveal the Judo marketing approach. It did very well to get coverage on sky sports with the Glasgow European Event but all of this is not producing massive increase in memberships (that I know of)
Judo simply isnt being marketed outside facebook, their web efforts just arent enough and they are losing the battle of for customers and Judo may be a sport but its also a business and if I was running that business Id be looking to sell it.
So what has BJJ got that Judo hasn’t?
Well for starters people think BJJ is cool and fashionable and Judo simply isnt. Sad I know but Judo is not part of popular culture and BJJ is these days. However here is a small list:
- BJJ has its own magazine (several)
- BJJ has numerous clothing lines
- BJJ has more DVD’s and books available
- BJJ has safe rules but includes the rules that Judo has thrown out
- BJJ has no gi and gi grappling
The future of grappling in the UK and the USA I feel will be based around No gi and BJJ. Judo clubs will still have strong attendance of Juniors but senior students will reduce in numbers as they take their Judo skills to BJJ clubs. For BJJ this is brilliant news, it will really create a huge BJJ movement in the UK and create an amazing style of grappling.
I personally think Judo clubs in the UK and USA that have 10 or 15 on a mat each session will see those numbers reduce to 5 or 8 and BJJ clubs that now get between 10 and 20 on a mat (yes they do right now!) will be packing in the numbers in the 20 to 30 region every session
I can tell you right now that in the UK more and more Judo black belts are turning to BJJ to improve their groundwork and because they find BJJ really enjoyable. Injuries like bad knees and hips are less of a problem in BJJ as the focus is on the ground and you still get a great workout
Russian Sambo is chasing at the tails of both BJJ and Judo and expect this to grow even faster. This exciting grappling style has some huge players involved so really expect to find more Sambo clubs being integrated with MMA and even BJJ clubs.
What Can Judo Do?
Well Im not sure they can do much. Interest is clearly in the decline and maybe an Olympic gold medal might help? Im not sure. However Judo has a few options. It could start to invest in professional instructor programme so people can make a living from Judo, introduce a groundwork programme , introduce exciting team competitions, introduce self defence programme and even create a No Gi option. What it cant do is carry on with its current strategies. The constant rule changes from the IJF, the re introduction of Kata, the high Dan grades wanting to keep Judo pure etc. All these things will hurt Judo in the long run.
Im a Judo player but the thought of leg locks, kata guruma throws, grip fighting and leg grabs is ‘grabbing’ my attention. being able to go to a club locally with 20 on the mat is a pretty exciting thought.
I’ve criticised BJJ in the past, its true I don’t like some of the ego’s and attitudes I’ve seen on display. I’ve been frustrated by lower BJJ grades pulling closed guard time after time but I do know that not every BJJ session is like that and there are some amazing grapplers in BJJ. I also know some really great guys and girls involved in BJJ with fantastic attitudes who create amazing training environments.
And thats why I feel BJJ will overtake Judo by 2020, certainly in the UK and soon perhaps the world.
There is only ever going to be a small percentage of the world interested in martial arts and grappling. So its all about getting the majority of those people interested in grappling into Judo. However BJJ is doing this without any funding from the government and no Olympic inclusion.
Round one goes to BJJ