Is Jiu-Jitsu Offensive or Defensive?

Jiu-Jitsu and its close cousin, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, are 2 of the most popular martial arts and are widely seen as great for self-defense, but is Jiu-Jitsu offensive or defensive?

Jiu-Jitsu is overall primarily defensive but has both offensive and defensive techniques. At its core, Jiu-Jitsu is about smarts, not brawn, which is why it’s ideal for smaller and weaker practitioners.

Each party is calculating and escaping from traps being set.

Then, at the right moment, they strike. But there’s a lot more to know. In this article, we’ll explore the difference between offensive and defensive martial arts and how BJJ differs from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. But we’ll also find out whether Jiu-Jitsu is good for self-defense.

Let the fun begin.

What is the difference between defensive and offensive martial arts?

The difference between defensive and offensive martial arts is that with defensive arts, the intent is not attacking an opponent but rather preventing harm to oneself. But with offensive martial arts, the practitioner is proactive about being the first to attack an opponent and render them incapable of doing harm.

Truth be told, there’s no martial art that’s solely offensive or solely defensive.

All martial arts are a mix of both. But some are more offensive or defensive than others. So, it’s a question of degree and the martial art’s ethos. Defensive martial arts require more passivity, while offensive ones require a high level of activity.

Aikido, for example, is arguably the most spiritual of all eastern martial arts, and it’s defensive.

In fact, the goal is not to harm one’s opponent. (I know it sounds strange). While martial arts like Muay Thai and Kickboxing are about really leaning into how to give an opponent a gruesome beatdown. A lot of kicks and strikes are employed.

So, you’ve got to choose between Aikido vs. BJJ; which one’s better?

That’s the theme of a recent article of mine where I looked at the difference between Aikido and BJJ and which one’s better. But I also spoke about whether BJJ is effective for self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How does BJJ differ from Japanese Jiu-jitsu?

BJJ differs from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu in that BJJ is focused on grappling and submissions, while the Japanese version is focused on throws and joint manipulation. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also a sport where practitioners compete in tournaments, while Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is usually employed mostly for self-defense.

Before we explore the differences further, it’s vital to note that BJJ can be traced back to Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo.

Jiu-Jitsu is Judo’s forerunner, while BJJ is derived from Judo. BJJ and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu are both close contact combat arts that employ leverage — how to defeat bigger and stronger assailants using smart techniques, not brawn.

But, BJJ differs from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu in the sense that it’s more efficient.

Its essential theme is about wrestling an opponent to the ground in the swiftest manner possible and controlling them such that they’re rendered harmless and have to surrender.

Chokes, strangles, and joint locks are used to submit opponents.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, on the other hand, is more focused on throws, joint-manipulation, strangling, choking, and similar techniques. BJJ does not involve strikes, while Japanese Jiu-Jitsu does.

BJJ is also more fluid and seamless in that there are no stages involved in a fight, while there are in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

In the former, fights start with both parties standing up, and they race to take the other party down, where the fight plays out until one party submits the other.

With Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, however, a fight has three stages:

  1. Striking 
  2. Grabbing 
  3. Ground fighting

Fighters start by employing strikes only. It’s only after this stage that they are allowed to proceed to the grabbing stage and then to fight on the ground!

It’s not particularly fluid if you ask me.

BJJ is good for self-defense, and it offers tons of opportunities for you to participate in sports competitions. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is also good for self-defense, but it doesn’t offer opportunities for competing in tournaments.

And it has a couple of styles, while BJJ has one style.

Is Jiu-Jitsu good for self-defense?

BJJ and regular Jiu-Jitsu are both good for self-defense. Jiu-Jitsu was originally employed by the Samurai (the military class in feudal Japan), and both are excellent for defending against larger or stronger attackers.

The real limitations though are a lack of training on punches or kicks.

But, in a real fight, the BJJ practitioner would have the goal of getting the opponent down on the ground, and then applying a choke or submission to render them incapable of continuing to fight.

They could apply a Kimura (a double joint armlock that’s excruciatingly painful) or a rear-naked choke and other techniques that would catch most people (even trained fighters) off guard.

There’s hardly anyone who wouldn’t accept defeat, even if only temporarily if one of their arms is about to be broken or if they’re being choked!

Traditional Jiu-Jitsu is no less effective (if it has been taught well), as it boasts techniques that involve strikes, throws, locks, strangling, and others.

Say a Judoka and a BJJ fighter were to have a go at it, who would win? 

In other words, which one’s better for self-defense? That’s what I looked at in a recent article. I looked at the difference between Judo and BJJ and whether Judo is good for self-defense. But I also looked at whether Judo is more effective than BJJ.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is BJJ more offensive than regular Jiu-Jitsu?

BJJ, especially sport BJJ, is more offensive than traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. Traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu has a high focus on kata, which is not used in BJJ as it has little use for self-defense or combat scenarios.

As such, the kind of intense sparring that occurs in martial arts such as Muay Thai and BJJ is often lacking in traditional Jiu-Jitsu.

Added to the fact that competitions are virtually non-existent in regular Jiu-Jitsu, such that there are no opportunities for practitioners to pressure-test their skills. It’s hard to say that it’s more offensive than BJJ.

Maybe theoretically, due to the Samurai origins of Jiu-Jitsu, but not in fact.

Which martial arts is best for offense?

Muay Thai, Krav Maga, and Karate are some of the best martial arts for an offense. This is because the aim is to inflict harm on an attacker in the most efficient manner possible, and with minimal harm to oneself.

Of course, Krav Maga isn’t really a martial art though. Since it lacks a spiritual component, it’s really just a self-defense system like the ones Tony Blauer promotes.

Let’s check out why the 3 aforementioned systems are some of the best for an offense situation.

In Muay Thai, you have several weapons at your disposal.

In fact, you’ve got 8 primary ones for attacking your opponent, and there’s no question of trying to use their energy and momentum against them. It’s about direct hits to their bodies.

Krav Maga is perhaps the deadliest because it’s a no-rules, by any means necessary art.

Groin kicks, elbow strikes, and eye gouges are fair game. The goal is to crush the opponent as fast as possible without incurring any harm. If that’s not offense, I don’t know what is.

And in Karate, devastating kicks and strikes are concentrated on parts of the body where they would have the highest impact (read: where they would do the most damage). Of course, certain types of Karate also focus heavily on kata.

So for a pure self-defense approach, look for any of the following styles of Karate: Shotokan, Goju-ryu, Kyokushin, or Ashihara.

Jiu Jitsu For Dummies - An Introduction To Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


In the article, we explored the difference between offensive and defensive martial arts and how BJJ differs from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. We also found out whether Jiu-Jitsu is good for self-defense.

Then, we looked at whether BJJ is more offensive than regular Jiu-Jitsu. Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering some of the best martial arts for an offense.

Image by Julián Amé from Pixabay


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