Taekwondo vs. Jiu-Jitsu: Which is Better?

The choice of the right martial art can be a bit confusing because there’s a lot of options. Taekwondo is well known as is Jiu Jitsu. But which is better? Let’s explore Taekwondo vs. Jiu-Jitsu.

Taekwondo is focused heavily on kicks and standing defenses, whereas Jiu-Jitsu focuses heavily on ground movements, similar to wrestling. Jiu-Jitsu is better for self-defense and for someone smaller and/or weaker, whereas Taekwondo may work better for someone taller or for whom competitions are important.

But there’s more to know.

And it’s not that Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t have tournaments or competitions. But the Jiu-Jitsu community is kind of split with one group focused purely on self-defense and the other more on sport and competitions, although the latter is more closely associated with Jiu-Jitsu’s Brazilian cousin, BJJ.

In this article, we’ll explore whether Jiu-Jitsu is the same as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Between Taekwondo vs. Jiu-Jitsu, we’ll find out which one is better for self-defense. But we’ll also consider if a Taekwondo black belt could beat a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

Let the fun begin.

Is Jiu-Jitsu the same as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Jiu-Jitsu is different from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). BJJ is an offshoot of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was founded by Hélio Gracie and his brothers and blended Jiu-Jitsu and Kodokan Judo as a self-defense system for beating larger opponents.

Later though, the Gracie family transformed BJJ into more of a sport competition art than pure self-defense. After all, they are almost single handily responsible for putting MMA on the map.

So that (sport compared to self-defense) is the main difference between BJJ and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

But it’s worth pointing out that the Valente Brothers dojo in Miami, where Hélio Gracie’s gi hangs to this day, restricted their curriculum to return to the self-defense roots and avoid the competitiveness of the sport that dominates a lot of BJJ today.

And it’s also worth pointing out that Judo is also an offshoot of traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu was one of the arts employed by the Samurai (the ancient Japanese warrior class) on occasions where they had no access to or had lost their weapons and had to defend themselves.

It’s close-contact, arm-to-arm combat. It has many styles, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has no styles.

Judo evolved from Jiu-Jitsu, and BJJ grew out of Judo. Mitsuyo Maeda, one of the students of the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, had traveled to Brazil and was teaching Judo there.

One of his students, Carlos Gracie, eventually developed BJJ.

Both martial arts (Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ) are about leverage, not brawn. They’re about how a smaller, weaker person can use a highly flexible fighting approach to trounce bigger, stronger opponents.

Grappling is common to both.

In addition to grappling, strikes are a part of Jiu-Jitsu. But strikes are illegal in BJJ. This is a key difference to note. Strikes are never used in BJJ.

But choking, striking, and blocking are all fair game in Jiu-Jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu is mainly used for self-defense, while BJJ is more of a sport, even though it’s effective for self-defense too. The former is more focused on throwing opponents and joints manipulation, while the latter is focused on ground fighting and submissions.

BJJ is more flexible.

Fighters can easily switch from one technique to another at a swift pace. Traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is not so flexible. It’s fought in three stages. There’s the striking stage, the grappling stage, and the ground fighting stage.

Both are great for self-defense, but if you’re interested in a martial art form that’s more of a sport and that offers a lot of opportunities for competitions, BJJ is the way to go.

Taekwondo Vs. Jiu-Jitsu: Which Is Better for Self-Defense?

Jiu-Jitsu is a better option than Taekwondo for self-defense as fights often end up on the ground, and someone who knows Taekwondo will be at an extreme disadvantage. Jiu-Jitsu practitioners can also take an opponent down to the ground to gain an advantage.

Of course, as I said above, there’s also a difference between Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the latter of which has more in common with Judo.

But the truth is: it depends. The best forms of self defense often depend on where an altercation takes place. If it’s a dangerous situation but you can easily run, it’s best to run.

And knowing any martial art is better than none.

Taekwondo is essentially about kicking and punching. The kicks can be devastating, but they require months before one becomes proficient in using them.

They are also delicate in that it’s easy to slip and fall flat on the ground, becoming easy prey for an assailant. Taekwondo is fought standing and can be lethal.

A well-delivered kick or punch can end a fight or at least give you time to flee.

But one needs space to be able to use Taekwondo well. If you’re in a small space, it’s not feasible to kick effectively, and you need to be highly conditioned for your kicks to be lethal. BJJ, on the other hand, is not so much about brawn.

In a street fight, it’s about smarts, although Jiu-jitsu can be more offensive than defensive.

Another fact about most street fights is that they are fought on the ground. Of course, both fighters start fighting while upright, but we all seem to instinctively know that it’s easier to control someone when we are on top of them!

Most of us feel uneasy if we are the ones on the ground and an assailant is on top of us.

Those who know BJJ aren’t afraid of that at all. In fact, you could say that ground fighting is their element.

Take one of the deadliest fighters ever, Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov, who has trounced some of the best fighters in the world. He employs BJJ a lot. His style is almost formulaic.

Most of the time, he shoots for a takedown, and then he submits his opponent using a rear-naked choke! And he does this in a small part of the ring.

So, irrespective of the space, BJJ can be highly effective. Beyond chokes, you also have joint locks, takedowns, and submission holds.

But Taekwondo fighters ought to be able to beat Aikido practitioners, right?

I explored this in a recent article where I compared both. I looked at the difference between both of them. I shared info about why Aikido has a bad reputation. And I even explored whether Taekwondo is a fake martial art.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Could a Taekwondo black belt beat a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?

It’s highly unlikely that a Taekwondo black belt could beat a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The former might be able to deliver a few punches or kicks but would likely quickly end up on the ground getting choked unconscious.

Taekwondo is a striking art, and it’s powerful, while BJJ is more focused on grappling and ground fighting and is more strategic and effective.

Taekwondo is also an Olympic sport and has a lot of rules. True, BJJ schools that do a lot of competitions also have a lot of rules, but Jiu-Jitsu schools that are self-defense focused have a lot fewer limits.

A BJJ black belt has also had to spend way more years training before earning the belt. 

After all, BJJ is likely going to take you 10 years to reach a black belt. Taekwondo, by comparison, might only take you 2-3 years.

And regardless of belt color, there’s no substitute for all those extra years of training.

Taekwondo kicks and punches are brutal, but a black belt in BJJ would know how to evade most of them and would be aiming to just hold the TKD person.

Once they’re grabbed, the TKD person is a goner. TKD kicks can end a fight because they can be incredibly painful if it lands on the opponent’s kidney.

Even if they’re able to hit the BJJ black belt, they may realize that their legs have been seized at the very moment it touched the BJJ fighter and that it’s now being used against them! The strengths of TKD can easily be turned into weaknesses by a BJJ fighter.

But, on the ground and while they’re gripped firmly, the TKD black belt would most probably be clueless, and they’d be submitted in no time.

Most fights follow a natural progression from free motion to the clinch and then to the ground. The implication is that most grapplers have an edge because most fights are fought in their territory, as it were.

In fact, some grapplers, such as the BJJ black belt, are so smart, they may lure the TKD fighter into the false notion that they are winning.

So, they may stand at the ready as if they would punch and kick.

Actually, they’re simply seeking an opening. And, it could be a simple sweep, and the TKD fighter is on the ground, confused and disadvantaged. It’s highly unlikely that a TKD black belt could trounce a BJJ black belt.

What if an Aikidoka and a BJJ fighter were to have a go at it?

Who is going to win? In a recent article, I compared both to help you determine which one’s better for self-defense. I highlighted the difference between Aikido and BJJ. I explored whether BJJ is effective for self-defense. And I even shared which one’s better.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Taekwondo just kicking?

Taekwondo is not just kicking, although it does focus heavily on kicks. But it’s a combination of kicking and punching. “Tae” implies striking with the foot, “Kwon” means to hit with the fist, while “do” means the art or a way of doing something. 

Why it’s easy for us to conclude it’s just kicking because kicks are used more often than punches. A lot of seasoned TKD fighters reserve their hands for defense.

And let’s face it, kicks are more entertaining and satisfying.

After all, we’re not at a boxing match. We’re at a TKD fight to see spin-kicks, head kicks, roundhouse kicks, 360 kicks, and the likes. And the style of fighting that’s used in the Olympics places a lot of emphasis on kicking.

This has also fueled the impression that Taekwondo is just kicking. It is not.

By the way, can you teach yourself Taekwondo?  Check out a recent article of mine. In it, I looked at whether Taekwondo is easy to learn and whether you can learn it online. But I also shared a way to learn it step by step.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does Taekwondo have grappling?

Traditional Taekwondo, especially as practiced at the Olympic level, features no grappling or ground movements. Although, some claim that it had ground movements at one point, and some schools do blend ground movements into the curriculum.

But don’t sign up with the expectation of doing grappling at a Taekwondo school.

From its name, which speaks to an art that involves striking and kicking, we can infer that those who say it never had a grappling component are probably right.

Those in the opposite camp argue that the grappling elements were gradually removed. That may be so.

But the way TKD is practiced in virtually all dojos the world over, it’s essentially a striking art that has no grappling or ground fighting component. In the past, leg sweeps were a part of TKD, but it’s been banned from Taekwondo competition.

How do Taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu compare to Karate or Muay Thai?

Taekwondo has a lot in common with both Muay Thai and Karate. After all, all 3 do punches, blocks, and kicks as their primary self-defense techniques.

Jiu-Jitsu, both Japanese and Brazilian, are still heavily focused on groundwork.

Muay Thai, from Thailand, is probably the best one overall for self-defense as it is designed for maximum results using kicks, punches, and elbow strikes in a fast and brutal combination.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art compared to Japanese, but it has its roots in Korean Karate which ultimately came from Japan, which in turn has its origins in Chinese Kung Fu.


In the article, we explored whether Jiu-Jitsu is the same as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Between Taekwondo vs. Jiu-Jitsu, we found out which one is better for self-defense.

But we also considered if a Taekwondo black belt could beat a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

Then, we found out if Taekwondo consists only of kicking. Lastly, we wrapped things up by looking at whether Taekwondo involves grappling. Ultimately, learning any of the many fighting styles is better than not knowing any. So don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis; pick one and start.

Wonder how Judo compares to Taekwondo?

I compare both of those in a recent article. Both are Olympic sports, but do the similarities stop there? Are there any techniques that overlap? Which one is better?

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Image by Taekwondo-am-Tegernsee from Pixabay and Image by Štefan Tóth from Pixabay


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