BJJ vs Karate —Which one is better? (Solved!)

BJJ match

What martial arts fans enjoy the most is putting one style against the other, and discussing which one is better and why. In most cases, styles that share much in common are often the ones that trigger the hottest debates. 

On the other hand, some like BJJ vs Karate may not look interesting at first sight as they differ a lot. But when you place them one against the other and look closely, BJJ vs Karate is among the most exciting grappling vs striking matchups.

BJJ is, perhaps, the best grappling art that puts a lot of focus on ground fighting. It trains you to use Judo throws to take the fight to the ground, where the goal is to apply various chokes and joint locks. Karate, on the other side, has many forms out of which some are all-around styles. But most of them focus on striking with four limbs using kicks and punches.

Keep reading this article to find out more about how BJJ and Karate differ from one another. We will see how they compare when it comes to self-defense, MMA, or in a street fight.

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BJJ vs Karate- what are the main differences?

As said in the intro, these two arts differ a lot from one another in just about every aspect. They are a world apart when it comes to techniques, rules, and emphasis. Here is a brief look at all you need to know about BJJ vs Karate:

History and origins

BJJ is a fighting style created by the famous Gracie family in the 1920s in Brazil. At the time, the famous judoka, Mitsuyo Maeda, came to Brazil to teach judo. It happened that his most loyal students were Carlos and Helio Gracie, who would later use Judo as a base to create their own style that focuses more on ground fighting.

BJJ quickly became a very popular fighting style, not just in Brazil, but in the other parts of the world as well. This was mainly due to how dominant it was in “Vale Tudo” and early “MMA” events where BJJ proved superior to other fighting styles.

Karate, on the other side, is a much older art that comes from Okinawan Islands in Japan. Its origins go all the way back to the 14th century and the term “Karate” means “empty hands”. The form we know today got put together in the 17th century by the Japanese living in the Okinawan Islands. At the time, they used karate for self-defense as they were not allowed to carry any weapons.

In the western world, it really started to rise with the birth of “Shotokan” karate, which is the most popular form.

Techniques and emphasis

BJJ is a grappling art that doesn’t teach any striking at all. Since most fights begin on the feet, students learn how to use various judo throws to take the fight to the ground. But, the emphasis is on ground fighting where the goal is to finish the fight using various chokes and joint locks.

In modern days, there are two forms of BJJ called “Gi” in which fighters wear a judogi uniform, and “No-Gi” where they compete and train without wearing a gi. Although these two forms differ a lot, the techniques students learn are very much the same:

  • Various Judo throws and wrestling takedowns
  • How to secure a dominant position
  • Sweeps and escapes
  • Over 30 chokes and joint locks

Karate, on the other side, goes the other way around as most forms put a lot of emphasis on striking. 

In most karate dojos, students learn how to use 8 limbs to throw punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. The focus is on mobility, attacking in a blitz, and moving in and out really fast. Students also learn various trips, throws, and just basic elements of grappling. But this depends on the form and school you train in. The most popular forms of Karate are:

  • Shotokan
  • Gory-Ryu
  • Wado-Ryu
  • Kyokushin

BJJ vs Karate — which one is better for self-defense?

Training in both BJJ and Karate is very good for self-defense. But, BJJ is better in our view since it is the only style that teaches you how to deal with a bigger and stronger opponent. This may sound odd at first. But, BJJ achieves this by focusing on leverage and technic, rather than sheer power. Karate is also good, but not better, and here is why:

On the feet, we all have a puncher’s chance, as the motion of throwing a punch is natural. But what BJJ teaches you is how to duck under the strike, and execute a throw or takedown to take the fight to the ground. Once on the ground, skilled BJJ fighters would need just a couple of seconds to finish any person or a trained fighter who isn’t a grappler.

This is because average people don’t have a clue how to defend against takedowns or submissions. BJJ is all about leverage and technique, so you can’t rely on using sheer power and natural movement to get out of trouble. No, one has to spend many years training on the mats to learn how to fight on the ground.

Karate, on the other side, is a very versatile striking art that teaches you solid self-defense skills. It trains you how to keep your range, attack in a blitz and from various angles using punches and kicks. These are all valuable skills that can help you deal with the attacker on the streets.

In the end, BJJ is also better as it allows you to subdue the opponent without hurting them. The last thing you want is to beat the attacker with strikes, and then go to a police station to answer some questions about the injuries.

BJJ vs Karate — which one is better for MMA?

BJJ is not just better than Karate when it comes to MMA. No, it is, perhaps, the most important fighting style for cage fighting and it has been like that since day one. The early UFC events are a great example of why BJJ is often seen as superior to other arts, including Karate.

In the early 90s, the UFC came up with an idea to find out which fighting style is the best. We saw fighters from various martial arts fighting each other in style vs style matchups. And unlike in modern times, these people fought under limited rules. There were no time limits, judges, banned strikes, or weight class. It was, to some extent, legal street fighting.

Still, Royce Gracie made sure that only one fighting style would emerge as the best. He showed the world the power of grappling by finishing fighters who were often twice as big as he was at the time. Whether it was a boxer, wrestler, or a Muay Thai fighter, Royce finished them all, proving once and for all that BJJ is the best.

Over the years, MMA has changed a lot as fighters started cross-training between the styles. But the importance of BJJ remains the same. You can’t compete, not even on an amateur level, without knowing how to fight on the ground.

Karate, on the other side, is also present in MMA. What its fighters bring to the table is really good footwork, blitz attacks, and really high accuracy. In fact, skilled karate fighters are very awkward, unpredictable, and a tough matchup for anyone. Just look at Wonderboy Thompson or Robert Whittaker if you need an example.

BJJ vs Karate — who would win in a street fight?

As in any style vs style matchup, both fighters have the weapons to beat or knock each other in a fight. But if we put a puncher’s chance to side, then BJJ clearly has an edge over karate in street fighting. This is mainly because, in our view, the level of grappling that BJJ brings to the table is too much for any style of Karate.

First of all, this is a pure striking vs grappling matchup. Although some forms of karate include grappling, the skills they teach are far less effective or advanced than the ones in BJJ. The only way karate fighters can win is to keep the fight standing, which would be really hard.

You see, BJJ fighters learn all about the distance, and how to time the entries on a takedown. It teaches you how to defend against punches by ducking under to go for a clinch and execute a throw. And once the fight hits the ground, most karate fighters would look lost and desperate. There’s no way they can prevent BJJ fighters from securing a position and placing a submission.

While BJJ teaches you how to defend against strikes, Karate won’t teach you how to stop a takedown. Yes, you learn some basics of grappling, but a skilled BJJ fighter would walk right through that type of defense. What karateka must do is to use footwork to stay mobile and at distance from which they can land kicks or punches.

If the fight is in the open space, karate fighters have a legit chance if they stick with what they know best. But bear in mind that BJJ fighters need to grab just a single part of your body and you are in trouble. If the fight is in a small space like a room or bar, then the chances of karateka drop down close to zero.


Is training in Karate and BJJ a good combination?

Yes, training in both BJJ and Karate is a very good combination and we can see a lot of people doing that. This is mainly because, in the end. These two arts complement each other, and cross training between them will make you an all-around fighter. This is no more present than in the world of MMA where fighters are often cross training between the styles. 

BJJ might be among the best grappling styles, but it won’t teach you any striking. In some schools, senior students and black belts may learn some basics of striking, but not much. Training karate will help BJJ fighters to develop very good kicks, footwork, and punches. These skills would fit them well because it allows grapplers to set up their entries on a takedown with strikes. And it’s always good to know how to throw or defend against strikes when things do not go as planned. 

Karate fighters can really benefit from training BJJ, maybe even more than vice versa. They already have enough versatile striking skills to deal with any threat in the standup, but, what they miss in their game is grappling. BJJ will teach them how to stop the takedown, defend a submission, or escape back to their feet. Having a strong base in Karate and good BJJ skills is, in our view, maybe the ideal combo for all types of fighting scenarios. It truly prepares you for any type of fighting. 

A great example of what we are talking about is the MMA fighter, Stephen Thompson. We all know him as a wizard on the feet who is all about picking his opponents using karate techniques. But what he also has is really good takedown and submission defense.

BJJ vs Karate — which one is better for you?

First of all, both fighting styles teach valuable skills and offer you a full-body workout. Deciding which one is better for you should not be a big problem since these two arts differ a lot. So it really comes down to your personal preference and what skills you want to learn. 

BJJ is, perhaps, the best grappling style you can train in. It should be your choice if you want to learn self-defense skills, as it puts a lot of focus on sparring and how to finish a fight. The risk of injuries in training is really low simply because BJJ doesn’t include any strikes, which are often the cause of injuries. You will have a ton of fun playing on the mats, no matter if you are a teenager or a grown man. 

Modern day Karate, on the other side, is a very popular option among young people, notably the kids. But this also depends on the style as some are more brutal than the other ones. Some of the hardest styles are Kyokushin, Goru-Ryu, and Shotokan karate, and these should be your option if you are in your 20s. Like BJJ, it teaches solid self-defense tactics, and it is present in modern MMA fighting as well.

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I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Jiu-Jitsu Street. You'll usually find me on the mats and also cross-training Muay Thai. Besides martial arts I'm also into functional fitness and all things health. Jiu-Jitsu Street was created to provide useful information for BJJ beginners and seasoned practitioners alike to help you on your journey and love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Oss!

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Jiu-Jitsu Street is a community of fun loving and hard rolling BJJ enthusiasts. Born out of our passion for the gentle art, we have decided to create this blog and help you on your journey. Let’s grow and learn together on this never-ending journey. Oss!

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