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

There are more than 170 martial arts styles worldwide. You can use most of them for self-defense, but some are more practical than others. Many people compare BJJ vs. Judo for self-defense.

Here’s what I know from having practiced both:

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

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 on the ground.

Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are similar martial arts.

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

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

It 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.

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 (practitioners) are taught to be responsible, not to use the skill in a public fight, unless it has to be used for self-defense.

Consider that it 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.

Like 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.

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. 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, a Jiu-Jitsu black belt will have 167% more training time than a Judo black belt who got it in 6 years. 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.

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. 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, 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.

Which is better for self defense? Judo or BJJ


In the preceding paragraphs, we explored a couple of interesting issues.

These include 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.

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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