Aikido vs. BJJ for Self-Defense: Which Is Better?


There are many different martial arts out there, and it can be a tad confusing to decide which one is effective. Some people love BJJ (Brazilian Jiujitsu) while others love Aikido. So let’s look at Aikido vs. BJJ for self-defense.

Here’s what I think having practiced both:

BJJ is overall a much better martial art for self-defense than Aikido. While any martial art skill is better than none, BJJ offers much more practical and easy to master skills, especially against a larger or stronger opponent. 

But that’s just a quick snapshot.

After all, we’re kind of comparing apples to oranges here. And a skilled Aikido practitioner is far superior to a mediocre BJJ practitioner.

So in this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of both arts and see how they compare and contrast. Let’s get started!

What’s the difference between Aikido and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?

Both Aikido and Brazilian Jiujitsu rely a lot on grappling, both have their roots in Japan, and both focus on joint locks as one of the primary means of self-defense. However, BJJ focuses more on techniques that can more easily be employed by a smaller or weaker person to take down any opponent.

But again, that’s just a quick snapshot.

Aikido is more focused on ensuring harmony and peace. It’s more spiritual if you will. There’s a huge emphasis on meditation.

While BJJ is less concentrated on meditation and more focused on winning — getting your opponent to give up, to submit. Although that being said, arguably the best BJJ practitioner living today, Rickson Gracie, is very much into spirituality and meditation.

As such, the aggression level in Aikido is low.

While it’s high in BJJ. It’s understandable because, in the former, the goal is to leverage the attacker’s energy against him. To use wrist locks and throws that taps into the force of the opponent to subdue them.

In BJJ, you want your opponent’s back on the floor!

BJJ is usually fought on the ground, on one’s back. While Aikido is done standing up, this doesn’t imply that BJJ is “softer,” by the way.

You can think of it as realistic because it’s common that no matter how skilled a fighter is, they may be thrown to the ground by the opponent.

If you’re skilled in BJJ, this position is not a disadvantage; the fight continues.

Aikido seems less animated than BJJ. The movements in the former are more refined and co-ordinated. It’s about conserving your energy while using your opponent’s against him. BJJ, on the other hand, is more “showy.”

Which is better, Jiu-Jitsu, or Aikido?

Jiu-Jitsu is far more popular. So you could claim Jiu-Jitsu is better. While both focus on grappling and joint locks, an Aikido master is probably more likely to avoid the fight altogether. But a BJJ practitioner is potentially more likely to win a confrontation when it happens. 

But ultimately, Jiujitsu is centuries older than the Aikido.

Aikido is more focused on pushing or extending movements while pulling and contracting movements are more used in Jiu-Jitsu. Both do not place a premium on strength training.

But which one is better? It depends on what you want. Suppose you want something more spiritual, subtler, more focused on peace and harmony. If you’re sensitive about the idea of harming another person, even if they were the ones who attacked you, then I’ll suggest you go for Aikido.

If you are looking for something more “hard-core,” BJJ is better. Aikido practitioners try as much as possible not to inflict harm.

It’s mainly a defensive art.

If you’re caught in a real fight, your life might be at stake, so you need something stronger that allows and equips you with the techniques to not only defend yourself but also to attack your opponent effectively. In a nutshell, Jiu-Jitsu is more lethal.

Jiu-Jitsu allows you to destabilize the opponent through lock joints, for example. And, when they’ve lost their balance, it’s easy to take them down or to throw them. Strikes can also be applied to vulnerable parts of their bodies.

Is BJJ effective for self-defense?

Yes, BJJ is very effective for self-defense. It allows a smaller or weaker person to quickly, and easily win against a larger and stronger opponent, often being able to submit them without even inflicting serious damage.

BJJ is derived from the pure Japanese art of Jiu-Jitsu, as the name shows.

It was taken from Japan by the Gracie family in Brazil. The patriarch of the Gracie family, Helio Gracie was a small, frail man. He took the best parts of Jiu-Jitsu and adapted it for his frame so he could win against a much larger opponent.

The Gracie family has gone on to become a household name in Jiu-Jitsu circles.

Jiu-Jitsu was developed centuries ago and is one of the most respected martial art forms in Japan. Its longevity is a testament to its effectiveness; if it were not, it would have died out. If it were not, BJJ would not have been based on it.

One of the things that makes BJJ highly effective for self-defense is that the training regime is intense and realistic, so, in that sense, it’s a preparation for real attacks.

Because you learn many techniques over and over while being trained, you build the muscle memory, which makes it intuitive for you when you actually have to fight. That means you’ll be calmer and swift. BJJ’s training sessions simulate reality. So, you can be confident when it’s a real fight.

It’s advised, for example, that a practitioner manages the distance between them and their attacker.

The goal is to keep a healthy distance, such that you can’t be struck, or to bring the attacker down so close to you, that they do not have the freedom of movement to be able to attack you. In BJJ speak, there are two zones: the red zone and the green zone.

As their names suggest, the former is the zone of danger, and the latter gives you more breathing space. In the words of one of the most famous BJJ coaches: “Whoever manages the distance, manages the damage that can be done.”

Can Aikido be used for self-defense?

Yes, Aikido can be used for self-defense. Self-defense is one of the main reasons why it was developed. While an Aikido master can likely diffuse a fight before it starts, they can easily employ wrist and joint locks and hip throws to easily dispatch an opponent.

Many misunderstand what self-defense truly entails, and it’s understandable.

They often focus on fighting or attacking, and they point to the fact that Aikido is defensive. But think about it, isn’t the goal self-defense? (Defense).

When a person is well-trained in the art, they become dangerous, but not in the way most expect. They’re not kicking, punching, or striking their opponent, and yet, they’re able to subdue them, to get them to submit. And, if a person can subdue their attacker, have they not defended themselves?

The reality is that most opponents will give up once they see they’ve met a superior force.

The fact that the Aikido practitioner subdued them instills fear in them, and they’ll naturally give up. But, if they are stupid to continue their attack, the practitioner has several moves they can employ to throw them off or put pressure on their elbow or turn their wrists in such a painful manner that they are rendered weaker in the duel.

So, yes, Aikido is good for self-defense, especially if you’re not interested in harming another.

If you will like to know more about Aikido and whether it’s really effective, be sure to check out a recent article of mine.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

In the article, I addressed why some folks think that Aikido is useless, whether it’s useful in a street fight, its benefits, which is better Jiu-Jitsu, karate, or Aikido, the best moves, and the best martial art.

Is BJJ only useful if you get knocked to the ground?

No. BJJ can also be very effective from a standing position as well as the ground. But ultimately many fights end up on the ground anyway. But consider that BJJ involves also striking takedowns, and both arm locks and chokeholds. But, the main focus is on grappling on the ground.

I’d be remiss if I do not share the summary of a study quoted on martialarts.stackexchange.com.

I think you’ll find it interesting. 72% of fights ended with one person on the ground. 42% ended with both people on the ground. The person who falls to the ground first lost the fight 57% of the time, 8% won, while 33% ended in a draw.

What’s critical to note from the summary above, which a lot of us also know from our experience, is that it’s almost always easier for the person on top to win.

The simple fact of lying on the ground would put one at a great disadvantage unless one were especially skilled. This is why being trained in BJJ is a wise choice.

Conclusion 

We have explored Aikido and BJJ.

We saw that both have similarities, but there are differences. Some of those differences include technique, while others include the underlying philosophy.

We looked at whether both are effective forms of self-defense, whether BJJ is only good for when one’s on the ground, and we also looked at which one is better.

Ultimately while I have trained both, I prefer Jiu-jitsu and certainly believe it’s better for self-defense.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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