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

There are more than 170 martial arts styles worldwide. While you can use many of them for self-defense, some are more practical than others. Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are closely related. So, let’s compare BJJ vs. Judo for self-defense.

BJJ is a more effective self-defense martial art compared to Judo. While Judo is an Olympic sport and is much older than BJJ, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is less showy and more focused on submitting an opponent as quickly as possible, especially a stronger opponent or a larger one.

But that just scratches the surface of these two.

And ultimately both Judo and BJJ are great martial arts to learn and practice and either one is certainly better than none if you find yourself in a self-defense situation.

So in this article, we’ll examine both arts in great detail.

We’ll look at the pros and cons of both, and compare the 2 so you can make a very well-rounded decision if you’re looking to get started with one.

Let’s get going!

What’s the difference between Judo and Jiu-Jitsu?

The major difference between Judo and Jiu-Jitsu is that Judo focuses on how to subdue an opponent from a standing position, while BJJ, which can start from standing, is about controlling and subduing opponents while engaged in ground fighting.

Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are similar martial arts.

Someone who is not very observant might confuse one for the other. I’ll tell you a few of the similarities, but my focus will be on the key differences.

Judo and BJJ have their roots in Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art that evolved in Japan centuries ago.

Jiu-Jitsu was originally developed for the Samurai (the military class in feudal Japan). It involved the use of weapons in hand-to-hand combat, supplemented with throws, locking, and striking if the weapons failed.

As it evolved, the focus on weapons declined and eventually withered. Judo evolved from Jiu-Jitsu. Judo was founded in 1882 by Kanō Jigorō (sometimes spelled as Jigoro Kano). So it is not considered an ancient martial art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as the name implies comes from Brazil. It was created there by Mitsuyo Maeda who knew Judo. One of the people he taught was Carlos Gracie. Once the Gracie family perfected it, BJJ was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Another difference relates to some of the rules of each martial art when played for points in competition. Let’s check them out.


In Judo, a contest is held on a matted area of 14 square meters minimum.

The actual contest is executed within a portion of this area, a part that must be 8-10 square meters. The match length for adults is 5 minutes. Points are awarded for grappling techniques that are correctly executed on the ground and for throws. The main points are Ippon and waza-ari.

The former is a full-point, while the latter is half-point. Ippon is akin to a knockout in boxing; the match ends once someone scores it.

How do you get an Ippon?

If you execute a throw so that the opponent lands on their back, an armlock or choke is effected, or when they’re subdued with a pin-hold for 20 seconds.


On the other hand, BJJ is fought on a matted area that’s 64 square meters — the portion for the actual fight must be at least 34 square meters.

The match length is 10 minutes. Points are awarded for the successful execution of techniques on the ground.

Of course, many people, myself included, DON’T practice BJJ for competition. I just do it to improve my strength, conditioning, cardiovascular health, and it’s fun!

Can Judo be used for self-defense?

Yes, Judo can very much be used for self-defense. While it doesn’t focus heavily on punching or kicking, a Judo practitioner can easily throw someone to the ground and take advantage of the situation while the opponent is disoriented.

In fact, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, Judo can be deadly.

This is one reason why judoka (a Judo player) is taught to be responsible, and not to use their skills in a public fight unless it has to be used for self-defense.

After all, Judo techniques can be used to snap an arm, dislocate an arm, or even choke an assailant till they pass out!

Having said this, I’d be remiss if I don’t tell you that if you can, it’s better to avoid situations that’ll predispose you to attacks, and if by chance you find yourself in such if you can flee, that’s also smart self-defense.

But, let’s delve a bit more into why Judo is an effective form of self-defense.

Like most martial arts, Judo involves a lot of training, which is a blend of physical and mental activities that are repeated over and over again.

The focus is on gaining control over oneself and having the skills to defend oneself.

One of the gains of mental training is the ability to be calm in the face of danger. This is one of the ways to win a contest even before it begins. If one is overwhelmed by fear, one will likely be uncoordinated or paralyzed. Judo equips you with the mental and physical skills to defend yourself.

Like BJJ, Judo is a grappling art.

A skilled practitioner will grip a person, even a person that’s taller and heavier can easily throw the person, unexpectedly.

Most people have not been trained on how to effectively break one’s fall when thrown. So, in the scenario being described, the person thrown will likely be disoriented and hurt, and the judoka can rush them while on the ground and choke them or dislocate their arm if need be.

Is Judo more effective than BJJ?

BJJ is more effective than Judo. Most fights don’t end up on the ground, contrary to popular belief. But it’s easier to submit an opponent on the ground, and BJJ is better for getting an opponent on the ground quickly. That being said, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is less than ideal against multiple attackers.

As I mentioned, most fights don’t go to the ground.

In fact, only about 31% of them go to the ground according to But as I mentioned, it’s far easier to get a choke, armbar, or other joint locks and submissions if your opponent is on the ground.

That’s even more true if they are bigger and stronger.

But if the fight doesn’t go to the ground or if you are facing multiple attackers, ground techniques aren’t going to be very useful.

Standing, their punches and kicks can be deadly. On the ground, their advantages are neutralized unless they also know BJJ.

The beauty of Judo, on the other hand, if you’re skilled, is that within a few seconds or minutes of contesting with the assailant, you can throw them in such a way that surprises them.

This gives you an edge, seeing as you can rush and finish them off while they are on the ground and you are still standing, or if the throw is really bad, you may not even need to do more.

But if you don’t nail that throw, you’re in real trouble!

Which is harder to learn, Judo or BJJ?

Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is harder and takes longer to learn than Judo. As with traditional Jiu-Jitsu, it takes about 10 years to earn a black belt. Judo on the other hand only takes 3 to 6 years. But after 10 years of dedicated practice, the BJJ practitioner will undoubtedly have more skill than a Judo practitioner after 6 years.

But both are challenging martial arts to master.

They require tons of patience and consistency. You’ll need to invest years of training in becoming a master of the associated mindset and techniques.

But in 10 years at BJJ schools, a Jiu-Jitsu black belt will have 167% more training time than a Judo black belt who got it in 6 years at Judo schools. And they will be 333% more experienced than a 3-year Judo black belt.

In fact, let me just go on record and say that any martial art that promises a black belt in under 5 years is probably one you should walk away from. To be really skilled takes years of dedicated practice.

And even training 5 days a week or more doesn’t really speed that up to the degree that someone could master it in just a few years. But you shouldn’t be focused on the belt anyway.

You might also be interested in Aikido, as it relates to BJJ.

That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine. Just click the link to read it on my site. In it, I looked at the difference between Aikido and BJJ, which one is better, whether BJJ can be used for self-defense, whether BJJ is effective for self-defense, and whether it’s only useful for when you get knocked down on the ground.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does Jiu-Jitsu come from Judo?

No. It’s the other way round. Judo evolved from Jiu-Jitsu and is a more refined form of Jiu-Jitsu. Then, much later, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was created when Judo was first brought to Brazil from Japan.

Jiu-Jitsu evolved centuries ago in feudal Japan and was a strategy the Samurai employ in their combats, which often involve weapons, such as swords.

But, times change, and as Japan evolved, the old, classical Jiu-Jitsu gradually fell out of favor. It was also impossible to be seen with a sword in public. A few were only practicing martial arts.

One of those who were really interested in it was Kanō Jigorō, who took old-school Jiu-Jitsu and modernized it.

He is credited with refining it to give birth to Judo, which is a stripped-down version of the old, more lethal form. He also added and stressed mental and moral aspects to the martial art.

Over time, this new form gained wide acceptance. Jigorō was instrumental to its worldwide acceptance. In fact, by 1964, it had been accepted as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo Games.

When Judo was first brought to Brazil, it still went under the name Kanō Jiu-Jitsu, which is why BJJ uses the name Jiu-Jitsu instead of Judo.

What is the most effective martial art for self-defense?

The best martial art if self-defense is the primary goal would be one of the following:

  • Krav Maga (more a self-defense system than a true martial art)
  • Systema (harder to master but better for your body over time)
  • Muay Thai (best for those under 30)

I’ve had a little bit of experience with each of those, Systema in particular. So let’s break down some pros and cons of each one.

Krav Maga

A self-defense system that totally lacks a spiritual component (which is why it’s not really a martial art). It was developed for the Israeli military and the goal was a simple but deadly array of techniques designed to quickly subdue attackers in a real-life situation with minimum risk to the practitioner.

The good news is that it’s not complicated.

There are no choreographed movements and very few things would be off-limits. It encompasses a relatively small array of deadly techniques that can be learned and mastered relatively quickly compared to other forms of martial arts.

The downside is that it is brutal and over time in practice, it can be hard on the body.


Systema is what is practiced by the Spetnaz (Russian Special Forces). It’s considered an ancient Russian martial art, but the current version is generally regarded as having been championed by Mikhail Ryabko who still practices to this day.

Systema confuses people and sometimes gets a bad rap as the moments aren’t big and flashy. There’s no choreographed routines.

Instead, the focus is on the breath and eliminating excess tension from the body.

And the movements are very free-form and simply designed to let your body naturally respond to what your training partner is doing. And when your body is free of excess tension, you’re less apt to telegraph your movements. And you’re more likely to see where your attacker is carrying tension.

Then you simply attack that spot to subdue, distract, or inflict injury.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a striking art also known as Thai boxing. It is also considered a combat sport.

It is brutal, fast, and requires practitioners to be highly conditioned (or they get that way from training). Muay Thai fighters employ punches, kicks, elbow strikes, and other simple, powerful, and potentially deadly techniques to quickly incapacitate attackers.

It is, however, mainly a young man’s game.

I’ve done it in my 50s, and I know martial arts, but it is still very physically demanding and hard on the joints and muscles. And while no martial art is immune from injury risk (maybe Tai Chi aside), Muay Thai fighters are more susceptible to injury than those who practice many other styles of martial arts.


In the preceding paragraphs, we explored BJJ and Judo’s common ancestry, the differences between Judo and BJJ, whether Judo is more effective, and which one is more difficult to understand.

But we also looked at whether Judo is effective for self-defense. And I also shared which one is better if you’re trying to decide on a martial art to focus on.

Ultimately, while I’ve done both, I prefer BJJ.

But for street fighting or self-defense skills, Judo practitioners do have an advantage over BJJ practitioners. The main reason is that fights don’t always go to the ground and sometimes in a self-defense situation, you might have multiple attackers.

The fighting styles of Judo allow for real-life scenarios a little bit better as the last thing you want is to be on the ground trying to choke an attacker and then have his buddy run up and stomp your head with his foot.

2 thoughts on “BJJ vs. Judo for Self-Defense: Which Is Better?

  1. You obviously do not know what you are talking about. Jujitsu and BJJ are different. Gracies evolved Judo Newaza and perfected the ground part. BJJ is NOT more effective at getting people to the ground unless you use Wrestling or……. JUDO to do so. Falling to the ground and trying to draw people into your guard does not work in real life. If most fights dont go to the ground guess who has more of an advantage? The person who can disrupt ones balance and cleanly throw, sweep, trip someone. But hey go off its your story and at least you arent pushing the ol Akido is effective in the streets thing.

    1. Hi Cortez

      Sorry if my article wasn’t as clear as I intended. I am very clear that BJJ and Jiu-jitsu are different. I have not trained traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, but have done a lot of BJJ and some Judo. I agree with you too that while knowing any grappling art is better than not knowing any self-defense moves (and yes knowing Aikido is also better than no training), grappling alone is not idea for street fights given the possibility of multiple attackers as it would be easy to get stomped in the head by a 2nd while grappling with the first.

      I’ll go back through the article and make sure it’s clear.



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