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


Judo is an off-shoot of Jiu-Jitsu and is a fantastic martial art and an Olympic sport. Krav Maga, on the other hand, is not even considered a martial art by some and is more of a self-defense system. Because of that, it’s natural to wonder which is better: Judo vs. Krav Maga for self-defense?

Here’s what I know from doing a small amount of both:

Krav Maga is better than Judo for strict self-defense purposes. While a skilled Judo practitioner could certainly defend themselves against most attackers, Krav Maga’s sole purpose is self-defense. It uses simple but brutally effective techniques to quickly render an opponent disabled.

But in some ways, it’s not quite that simple.

And MMA star Ronda Rousey made a career out of winning most of her fights using her impressive Judo skills. I have been involved in martial arts on and off my whole life and seriously for 7 years. In this article, I’ll share some info on why you should choose Krav Maga over Judo.

Let the fun begin…

Is Krav Maga better in a street fight than Judo?

Krav Maga will be better than Judo in a street fight where it’s a life-and-death situation. That’s because Krav Maga practitioners are trained on quickly eliminating one or more attackers without regard to the attacker’s well-being and without having to memorize choreographed routines.

Judo might be adequate in some circumstances if one’s fighting someone who’s not really a tough nut to crack. There are skills a Judoka (a judo practitioner) has that the average joe lacks, giving the Judoka an edge.

If the confrontation is not life-threatening, Judo might be enough.

But, if it’s a dreadful scenario where the attacker is wild, there are multiple attackers, there is a use of weapons, and the possibility of serious harm or even the loss of one’s life, Judo might not be effective.

So, if one has to choose, it’s better to choose Krav Maga. Any day.

Why? Judo is a sport. Krav Maga is a self-defense system. Its goal is to destroy an opponent as soon as possible

And all is fair game. It’s about whatever works. Every part of the body is trained to be a weapon. Krav Maga’s philosophy and techniques are closer to the reality of what happens in a street fight.

The Judoka, on the other hand, is constrained because he’s learned some forms and patterns, which he’ll naturally rely on in a street fight.

The Krav Maga fighter, on the other hand, is more fluid because they’ll use anything as a weapon. And KM is a combo of many martial arts. Its practitioners are not interested in a fight per se. They want to crush the attacker.

It’s also worth stressing that most Eastern martial arts have spiritual or philosophical elements that make most practitioners peaceful.

In fact, they’re not primarily about self-defense but character development. Krav Maga, on the other hand, is designed for combat. Solely for combat.

Is Judo harder to learn than Krav Maga?

Judo is much harder to learn and especially to master when compared to Krav Maga. Krav Maga relies on fewer but deadlier techniques and has no spiritual or showy components. It can take several months to get the basics of Judo and several years to master. Krav Maga, by comparison, can be mastered in 3-6 years.

While it’s true that KM is more effective, it’s not really an “art”.

Judo, on the other hand, is a Japanese martial art that’s a system meant to refine an individual. It’s not merely about learning how to fight.

It’s about being cultured and having self-control. Respect, gentleness, balance, posture, and a host of other noble concepts are integral parts of Judo. And then, there are about 100 techniques to learn. So, Judo is harder to learn.

KM, on the other hand, is a Hebrew term for “contact combat”.

It’s used by the military, too. You know the military has no time for ineffective systems. KM is an evolving system, but at its core, there are seven techniques/moves.

Note that the 100 techniques in Judo have many variations! KM’s techniques have variations, too. But, they’re not as intricate as Judo. They are relatively straightforward.

Judo and wrestling are similar.

But who would win if a Judoka and a wrestler were to have a go at it? What do you think? I explored this question in a recent article of mine.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How quickly can I learn Krav Maga compared to Judo?

The fundamentals of Krav Maga can even be learned in 12 months and mastered in 3 years. Judo, by comparison, would likely take 3 years to learn the basics and 10 years to earn a Black Belt.

Judo is a more structured, intricate, rules-based system.

There are so many things to learn. Krav Maga, on the other hand, is more like a” hack”. I do not mean this in a negative way. It’s sort of cobbled together, and it’s still being developed. Its underlying ethos is whatever works, so it borrows techniques from other systems.

It’s, in a sense, an expression of what Bruce Lee, the most iconic martial artist, thought combat systems should be: they should take whatever works in any system and discard what’s useless. A street fight is not about practiced forms and patterns.

It’s about easy-to-execute yet deadly techniques that can also be unleashed swiftly. Krav Maga is an expression of this ideal.

A devoted student could master Krav Maga in about 3 to 6 years, while it’d take him roughly 10 or more years to master Judo. Even when a person becomes a black belt in Judo, there’s still a lot to learn.

In fact, Judo, like most Eastern martial arts, requires lifelong learning.

Which leads to a question you might have: by how much would a Krav Maga class set you back? You’ll find full details in a recent article of mine, where I shared the cost and what it’s made up of.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can a Krav Maga fighter beat a Judo fighter?

A Krav Maga fighter can beat a Judo fighter who has trained the same amount of time because the Krav Maga fighter has been trained to do whatever is necessary to crush their opponents. They are not constrained by rules, forms, and patterns like a Judo fighter.

The Krav Maga person would employ techniques meant to cripple or crush their opponent fast, and because it’s a mix of many styles, they’d fight to stand, they’d fight on the ground, too.

Most (not all) practitioners of Eastern martial arts are not very good on the ground.

They are more comfy fighting while standing. In a contest between a Krav Maga fighter and a Judo fighter, the former could destroy the Judoka in less than 10 minutes.

The person who’s worrying about assuming a particular stance and the “killer” who’s out to kick their groin or gouge the other’s eyes out is not on an equal footing.

What if a BJJ fought a Judoka? The Judoka should win, right? Check out the answer in a recent article of mine. Where I showed who would win and why?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Krav Maga used in MMA?

Krav Maga is not a featured martial art used by MMA fighters as many of the Krav Maga techniques are banned by the MMA.

MMA is a rules-based sport, while Krav Maga is often used in life-threatening situations.

There are no rules with KM. This is the most important reason we rarely see KM in MMA. Multiple kicks to the groin and gouging out an opponent’s eyes are the kind of techniques a master KM fighter would employ in a real fight. There’s no sane person that’ll allow those in an entertaining sport.

MMA fighters are lethal, but they’re also career-minded.

They want to be in the game for a long time. After all, there’s fame and a lot of money to be made. So, they’re cautious about injuries.

In fact, some of the best UFC fighters are really smart fellows who spend most of the time defending themselves (at times, it seems as if they’re cowards), and they strike and strike again when they have an opportunity.

They know serious injuries could cripple them and their dreams.

When you watch KM guys, on the other hand, they know it’s possible to sustain some injuries. They make peace with that fact.

But they’ll keep charging and deploying lethal techniques because the idea is that you don’t stop until you finish (read: kill or destroy) the problem!

The thinking is that it’s okay to snatch a knife and sustain injuries on your hand rather than to allow the attacker to stab your heart!

Conclusion

In the paragraphs above, we checked out Judo vs. Krav Maga.

We looked at the essence of each one. We found out why Judo is harder to learn and how quickly one can grasp Krav Maga. We also looked at why a KM fighter would trounce a Judoka, and we called it a wrap by considering why we hardly see KM in MMA.


Photos used which require attribution:

Alexandra Polychronidis (Judo Neupre Wallonie) vs Terry Marschal (Royal JC Visetois) by Rik Vander Sanden and krav maga epo test II-20 by leopoldo de castro are licensed under CC2.0 – They have been edited, cropped, combined, with a text overlay.

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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