BJJ vs Krav Maga: Which one should you learn in 2021?

bjj self-defense

If you’re unsure whether you should learn BJJ or Krav Maga, then you’ve come to the right place. We can tell you that, by the end, we will have helped you get a better idea on both fighting styles.

We’ll discuss the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ and Krav Maga, basic rule differences between them, and belt system and progression differences as well. Also, we’ll focus on their training differences, equipment differences, and will explore which one is better for kids and women and for self-defense as well. So, without further ado, let’s dig into today’s discussion.

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The Differences between BJJ and Krav Maga 

In this section, we will walk you through the considerable differences between BJJ and Krav Maga, which clearly set them apart. To save up your time, we have only focused on the major distinctions and added them with bullet points below. 


In terms of principle, both BJJ and Krav Maga equally own quite distinct tenets. Whereas Krav Maga emphasizes targeting opponents’ weak points, BJJ emphasizes using the opponent’s body strength and weight against him. Both forms require fitness and flexibility to a certain extent, but BJJ is less concerned about the players’ size, weight, and strength. In fact, using BJJ techniques, an individual can take down nd submit a heavier or stronger untrained opponent, which is unlikely to happen by using Krav Maga techniques.


The fundamental techniques of BJJ are based on ground fighting and graplling – once a practitioner takes his or her opponent down to the ground, he or she would get on top of the opponent’s body and hold him or her so that the person can’t move. Gaining an advantageous position always comes first in the ‘position before submission‘ led fighting philosophy of BJJ. BJJ techniques are then based on an almost chess-like possibilities of moves to finish an opponent, whether for self-defense or in competition.

On the other hand, the Krav Maga techniques are inspired by a combination of Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Wing Chun, and Boxing. It is said that Krav Maga has over 200 combat techniques. These are mostly – varieties of punches, kicks, and grappling techniques to zap the opponent’s weak points – eyes, temple, nose, jaw, ribs, joints of elbow, and knees, to name a few.


Again, the objectives of BJJ and Krav Maga have their fair share of differences because Krav Maga is just a self-defense system, whereas BJJ is more ‘pure’ and traditional martial art. The basic objective of BJJ is to teach its practitioners the art of taking the opponent down by disabling their arms and legs joints, later immobilize the opponent by by applying weight as well as well as grips and thereby gain control over the situation.

However, BJJ consists of only of techniques that only allow you to fight with a single opponent. Whereas, Krav Maga techniques will let you fight with multiple attackers. Its objective is to teach its practitioners the techniques of defending themselves amid life threatening situations. Its training includes lessons on using knives, handguns, and even long guns for both defensive and offensive purposes.

BJJ training


Talking about rules, Krav Maga involves no rigorous rules except for the general etiquette of a training center. It expects you to follow rules such as maintaining a dress code, paying attention to instructions, not disobeying your trainer, not bringing your own personal brawls here, and not intentionally harming your partner. If you are found to engage with any of them, you will be fired.

In addition to these, BJJ occupies a couple of serious rules concerning the game, like as you are only allowed to make a submission via chokeholds and joint locks, then when your opponent taps to stop, you have to release the submission; and such.

How Long Does It Take to Learn?

When you are aiming to learn only the basics, BJJ takes precisely a longer time than the time needed for learning the selective techniques of Krav Maga. For instance, when you have average fitness and attend training classes regularly, grasping the basics of Krav Maga would take only 4/5 months, whereas BJJ would take almost 1/2 years.  

Then again, when you are training for belts, e.g. black belt so to say the highest belt would require more or less 3 years of consistent training for Krav Maga. The time period would extend to 10 years, when you want to achieve the black belt in BJJ.


It is said that BJJ brings zero risks of injuries. Although, during your practice, you may get minor injuries along the way. Elbow, ankle, wrist, or knee sprain are pretty likely to take place. However, it’s quite obvious that Krav Maga comes with more risks since its training involves a range of fatal techniques along with injurious weapons. 

Yet, getting wounded during practice is rare as all Krav Maga training centers are quite aware of its possible risks and equip all necessary safety measures. Nevertheless, unforeseen accidents may cause joint sprains, bone fractures, and similar unfortunate injuries.

History of BJJ and Krav Maga 

Let us share with you a brief overview of the history of both art forms that we are now talking about. Interestingly, both BJJ and Krav Maga encloses very discrete yet interesting origin stories.

History of BJJ 

So the story goes like this, during the Feudal period a few sporty Japanese fellas refined grappling techniques into a game which later came to be known as Jiu-Jitsu. These techniques were next followed by another combat sport, known as judo. A boy named Carlos Gracie came to Japan to receive his training in Judo (BJJ vs Judo comparison) and upon completing his training, he returned to his land Brazil. 

Around 1920, Carlos Gracie and his brothers began to modify the rules and regulations of the sport to turn it handy for their weak physique. Since then by persisting a series of severe trials and changes of decades we get today’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. So, even though many do not acknowledge the Japanese root, technically we can’t really deny the lineage, right?

However, Mitsuyo Maeda was the athlete who initially introduced this form of art to the world and spread it across the board. Now, you might be wondering, how it came to America! It was again a descendant of the Gracie family and his name is Carley Gracie. Carley Gracie came over to America and established the Carley Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in 1972. This is how BJJ made its way to America.

History of Krav Maga

The person who devised Krav Maga as a self-defense system was an Israeli martial artist, named Imi Lichtenfeld. He was an excellent gymnast as well as a boxer and wrestler since his early life. He literally put all of his skills together into this self-defense system to teach people to protect themselves in practical life-threatening situations.

Imi Lichtenfeld first taught this combat system to a few people of Bratislava during the time of the late 1930s. At that time, the fascist groups along with other anti-Semitic parties came to power and started to enact violence on Jewish people.

His initial purpose was to make the local Jewish people erudite enough to protect themselves from the armored Nazi militia. This way, Krav Maga propagated and spread around the world as time passed. Later in 1983, a few close students of Imi established the Krav Maga Association of America and the journey of Krav Maga found its path to America.

Belt System and Progression Differences

Belts connote a practitioner’s rank based upon the skills so far he or she has gained. To pursue the belt of the next level, a participant has to earn 3 to 4 stripes – depending on the principle of the art form you are following. BJJ and Krav Maga occupy different belt systems and progression. Check them out from below –

BJJ Belt System and Progression 

The belt system and its progression in BJJ start from white to blue, followed by purple, brown, black, and finally the final rank of the red belt. White is what anyone gets right after joining a BJJ training course.

However, kids between the ages of 4 and 15 are only allowed to get white belts and their progress rewards come in the form of belt stripes. Once they hit 16, they get the opportunity to achieve further belts. Yet, again to jump from one rank to another, each practitioner must receive 4 pieces of stripes on their current belt. 

Of these 6 progress indicating belts of BJJ, the blue one is SAID to be the most challenging to achieve. Next, the black one is considered to be the hardest, and of course, it’s needless to say the red one, so to say the ultimate one is the trickiest and toughest one to get. Reportedly, it takes about 20 years of a person’s consistent practice; indeed it requires one’s perseverance at its best!

Krav Maga Belt System and Progression

Krav Maga’s belt progression also comprises 6 belts, but the colors and the rank aligned to it are not the same as BJJ. The sequence goes like this – first yellow, then orange, green, blue, brown and lastly the most cherished black belt.

Although the black belt is not the highest in BJJ, it is in Krav Maga. Here, no specific belt is awarded upon joining, instead, it provides its first ever belt yellow after the successful completion of Level 1. Here, practitioners need to attain 4 pieces of stripes on their current belt to level up from one rank to another.

Consequently, as you complete up to level 5, that can only open your door to the highest rank with almost 200 plus potent defense moves. Approximately, achieving the black takes 3/4 years of consistent practice of a practitioner of any age. Here is one of the things you must note down that, there is no age limit attached to Krav Maga, so regardless of your age, you can achieve higher ranks through your own performances.

Mitsuyo Maeda

Class/Training Differences

Now, as you know that both of the forms are relatively different from each other, hence it is very obvious that they entail separate training processes and systems. Even technically both of them mandate different gears as their techniques, modules, and moves are also vastly different. For your better understanding of the training sessions, a comparison is drawn below with all the pertinent information that you might need to know before joining a course.

What Will Happen in the First Class?

First, you will have to sign up for the course you want to enroll in. The paperwork is roughly the same for all training centers, after that, as you walk through the door you’ll find your future fellows and instructors. 

A staff will accompany you to give a tour around the place and take you to your locker where you can hoard up your daily necessities. However, if you are there for Krav Maga training, then the staff will introduce you to the equipment and safety gear that you must need to purchase and carry in the upcoming classes.

Otherwise, if you are there for BJJ training, you really don’t really need a lot of safety gear except an elbow and knee pad. The thing that is most important in the first class of BJJ is you must select a partner from the class as all BJJ techniques require the involvement of two people.

The Teaching Process

The teaching process is clearly contrasting as you have already read BJJ techniques always require the involvement of two people, whereas Krav Maga initially teaches individually. At the beginning of BJJ training, instructors will demonstrate to you the actions to overpower your opponent.

You’ll have to repeat after them to grasp the techniques while doing them in a pair. Whereas, in the first phase of Krav Maga training, you will get to learn primary knacks and techniques of kicking, punching, boxing etc. Gradually, you will be taught to apply those fighting techniques to a partner. 

In both classes, drilling is the main process of how the practitioners will hone up their skills. And, the instructors will be there to facilitate their performance by correcting and fixing their wrong approaches or postures.

Dress Code

For BJJ classes, you need to get yourself  Gi of your own size. Gi is basically a uniform inspired by the Japanese Kimono that is specially designed for BJJ. It typically consists of a thick cotton jacket, a pair of drawstring trousers, and a belt referring to the practitioner’s rank.

On the other hand, for Krav Maga classes there is no specifically fixed dress code, but it best put on comfortable clothes. It could be gym shorts, sweat pants, yoga pants, a simple shirt, or cut off, anything that would let you move comfortably. 

Here, one thing you need to keep in mind for both cases – whether you are picking your Gi or the outfit for Krav Maga, make sure the dress is not that loose which is likely to fall off again and again. Also, the dress should not be that much of close-fitting which would make you suffocated or cause you extreme sweating.

Warm Up Style

Before starting your everyday workout, warming up is extremely beneficial as it prepares your muscles ready for the physical exercise you are about to perform. It truly reduces the possible risk of injury by improving your muscles’ blood flow and loosening your joints.

As BJJ and Krav Maga covers different styles of techniques, so according to their moving styles, their warm up styles are also poles apart. BJJ’s warm up styles mostly include running laps, forward and backward breakfall, push-ups, and shrimping.

Whereas with myriads varieties of moves, each class of Krav Maga, can ask you to perform different warm up exercises. Yet, mostly these are very common exercises like lunges push ups, sit-ups, or other weight-lifting exercises.

BJJ vs. Krav Maga Direct Comparison

We have organized this section with the pros and cons of the two art forms, BJJ and Krav Maga. Skim through it to identify their benefits and flaws on your own. Certainly, this will help to come to a decision on which one to pick.

BJJ Pros

  • Teaches you to defend yourself on and off the mat
  • Allows you to overpower opponents of heavier or stronger physique
  • Helps you in losing weight and to get you in a good shape 
  • Reinforces your stamina and boosts your confidence
  • Relieves your stress and fatigue 
  • Inspires you to follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Comparatively, inexpensive and perfect for people of all ages

BJJ Cons

  • Does not teach you to fight with multiple attackers
  • Does not teach you to defend yourself against armored opponents
  • Takes relatively more time to learn
  • Cannot be practice without a partner

Krav Maga Pros

  • Makes you prepared for real life street fights
  • Let you ace the floor against multiple attackers
  • Teaches you to wield weapons for both defensive and offensive purpose
  • Makes you competent to defend yourself in front of armored opponents
  • Encourages you to eat healthy food and follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Practicing of a wide range of techniques expands your flexibility
  • Attending each class burns tons of calories and helps you in losing weight
  • Apparently, builds muscle tone and fetches you a buff physique
  • Enhances your working spirit and improves your confidence

Krav Maga Cons

  • Relatively expensive as the training covers a large number of movements
  • Likely to occur accident even if you lose concentration for a sec
  • Can seem intimidating for people with weak hearts as it teaches real-life fighting techniques

Which is Better to Learn for Self-defense?

When it comes to self-defense, BJJ and Krav Maga are almost neck to neck. Both art forms have gone through several courses of development with self-defense in mind. Yet, the two share considerable distinctions that make them preferable for different stripes of learners. 

If you want to avoid any possibilities of physical harm and also budget is a concern for you, then BJJ is your call. Also, for those who are small in size, or happen to have lesser weight or strength, again for them BJJ is relatively the better art form to learn for self-defense. 

On the other hand, when you are rooting for grasping the basics of self-defense techniques within a short period of time, Krav Maga may be your next choice. Age is also not a factor for Krav Maga, just when you are ready to face real-life challenges along with the risk it carries, you can start over your training session. 

Even though both of the art forms will teach you basic self-defense to stand for yourself on and off the mats, yet BJJ is less likely to come in handy in street fights when your opponents are multiple and armed. Unlike BJJ, Krav Maga teaches its learners to wield weapons for both defensive and offensive purposes.

So, to sum it up, people with a weak physique or those who aim to master the self-defense program being on a cost-effective budget are better off with BJJ. Conversely, those who desire to learn all the defensive techniques quickly or want to ace the street fight scenarios should kick off their self-defense learning journey with Krav Maga.

BJJ vs. Krav Maga for Kids

One of the trending questions on the planet right now is – BJJ or Krav Maga, which one is the best for kids? To our best research and understanding, we have found that both of the art forms are excellent in their own way. Placing one over another is arbitrary and depends on individuals’ comfort and preference.

If you prefer the non-violent art form for your little one, BJJ should be your choice. Yet again, if you see your kid being an expert in wielding weapons like knives, swords, handguns, and long guns; you must go for Krav Maga training. Aside from that, if you want to train your kid for competition then you have to move forward with BJJ. Because, Krav Maga is only a self-defense system and has no competitive bouts, tournaments, or any sort of competitions happening around the world.

Perhaps you know that BJJ can also be chosen as a future career option where practitioners will have to take part in the competitions. Thousands of BJJ competitions are taking place every day across the world, and by participating in such BJJ competitions one gets the opportunity to make around $20,000 to $50,000 at a professional level.

So, if you want to open up this career opportunity for your kid while making him or her skilled in the self-defense system as well, BJJ is the sport you must choose. In opposition, if this is not your intention and you just want your kids to be capable of pulling off all possible assault or life-threatening situations all by themselves – that they may come across in their life ahead, then Krav Maga would be the best choice for you.  

BJJ or Krav Maga for Women

Women have always been the victim of bullies, physical and sexual assault, molestation, and a lot. This is high time women should giddy-up and dip their toes in self-defense to defend themselves from such iffy situations. In deciding which self-defense is better for women, we would emphasize on grappling techniques.

When you will be able to grapple your attacker, he will not get any chance to harm you. However, both BJJ and Krav Maga teaches grappling techniques, yet with BJJ you will be drilled in overpowering your opponent with a stronger physique.

This drill will come in handy if you ever happen to confront any sexual assault. Again, if you want to conquer the street fights as well where the attacker might be armed with harmful weapons, then you should enroll yourself for Krav Maga training.

Final Words

This article is dedicated to those who were in a dilemma whether to choose BJJ or Krav Maga to ace themselves in self-defense. For their convenience, we have broadly deliberated all the important aspects of BJJ and Krav Maga in this article. We can vouch that, reading this will help you decide. Both – BJJ and Krav Maga are cherished for decades to this modern time. So, whichever you choose, you are in luck.




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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