Krav Maga vs Jiu Jitsu - Which is the Best Martial Art
Updated: Apr 3
The time-honored battle between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga is about to be waged.
No punches will be pulled, no holds barred, and no technique overlooked as these two formidable martial arts go head-to-head in an epic showdown to determine the ultimate discipline.
In this article, we’ll look at the following aspects of Krav Maga vs Jiu Jitsu:
The history of BJJ & Krav Maga
Mindset & Technique in Jiu Jitsu vs Krav Maga
Who wins in Krav Maga vs Jiu Jitsu fight
Which martial art is best for you
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know all the ins-and-outs of Krav Maga and BJJ. Plus, you’ll learn our opinion on which martial art wins in a fight (hint, it's not what you think!).
Step inside the virtual ring and let's see who comes out on top!
Introduction to Jiu Jitsu vs Krav Maga
BJJ training focuses primarily on ground-based grappling techniques. While BJJ fighters do begin in a standing position when competing.
The primary goal of BJJ is to enable the practitioner to control an opponent by using leverage, positioning, joint locks and chokeholds.
Krav Maga specializes in self-defense, with an emphasis on stand-up strikes, violent action, and ending the fight quickly and escaping. Many Krav Maga programs also teach weapons skills depending on the level and students. Krav Maga largely combines techniques from other arts, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, much in the same way MMA training combines various aspects.
However, Krav Maga utilizes the best self-defense components of various martial arts, which typically includes basic techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, and various weapons combat systems. While you won’t learn a spinning back kick or an inverted heel hook in Krav Maga, you will learn to throw a jab, cross, hook followed by a clinch knee to the face, then choke your attacker unconscious with BJJ before quickly escaping.
Each has its own benefits and suits different roles. In this article, we will delve into the comparison of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu versus Krav Maga so you can decide which style is right for your self-defense or martial arts needs.
History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that originally emerged in Brazil during the 1920s. It is derived from the throw and ground techniques from traditional Japanese Judo. BJJ evolved over time through practice and adaptation to become a more effective and comprehensive style of ground fighting
The creators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, brothers Carlos and Helio Gracie, are widely considered to be the founders and patriarchs of the art form today through a long lineage of black belts. Most existing BJJ black belts can ultimately trace their lineage down to these two Gracie brothers or one of their close associates.
Together they developed a style of fighting that focused on understanding an opponent’s weak points when the fight goes to the ground for maximum effectiveness as a smaller fighter. Originally developed in Brazil, Jiu Jitsu spread quickly around the world where it has been adopted by various martial artists across various countries who continue to use it today.
History of Krav Maga
Krav Maga is a self-defense system developed in the 1940s and 1950s by Imi Lichtenfeld, an Israeli martial artist and military hand-to-hand combat instructor who wanted to provide soldiers with an effective system for close combat and self-protection. Over the years, Krav Maga has developed into a comprehensive martial art that focuses on practical self-defense techniques that are easy to learn and retain.
Krav Maga utilizes various stand-up striking techniques combined with ground fighting, throws, takedowns, weapon defense, hostage release tactics and more. Its overall goal is to create a comprehensive fighting style that can be used in any violent, real-world combat situation to effectively protect oneself from harm.
In order to do this, the focus is on quick, powerful technique combined with a self-defense mentality.
This means learning techniques from combat sports combined with knowledge on how to use weapons, assessing your environment, and escaping as quickly as possible while maximizing violence against your aggressor.
This mindset was developed in the Israeli streets and military over numerous armed conflicts that often boiled down to hand-to-hand combat.
Principles and Techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Originally, BJJ took a holistic approach to defense including the use of strikes, takedowns, throws, chokes, escapes, joint locks, and submissions. However the emphasis in BJJ has always been bringing the fight to the ground in order to defeat your opponent.
Many of the techniques used in BJJ have been derived from Judo groundwork, which makes it useful for self-defense situations without having to resort to strikes.
The underlying principle of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that a smaller person can successfully defend against a larger opponent if they know how to strategically utilize superior positioning and leverage.
Generally speaking, discrepancies in opponent’s size put smaller individuals at a disadvantage when using striking techniques.
While strikes are effective on the ground as proven in numerous MMA fights and real-world violence, smaller martial artists have a much higher likelihood of beating an opponent using grappling techniques, especially chokes.
Although there is no competition requirement at many schools teaching BJJ, many practitioners choose to compete in grappling tournaments or mixed martial arts activities where opponents’ skills can be tested directly against one another under prescriptive rulesets.
Thanks to its popularity as a combat sport providing intense physical conditioning while developing technical skill sets, Brazilian jiu jitsu continues growing across the globe today.
However, because modern sport and competition Jiu Jitsu rulesets prohibit any striking, many commonly utilized grappling techniques are very effective in competition, but would place you at an unacceptable risk of damage if you were to attempt them on a striking opponent.
This is especially true for many advanced BJJ techniques performed off your back. When your attacker can punch and stomp, you must adapt your Jiu Jitsu to account for the additional threats.
As such, Jiu Jitsu for MMA and self defense requires a different emphasis than sport Jiu Jitsu. If you want to train BJJ for self defense, it’s recommended to train at a self defense school where instructors have experience in multiple martial arts.
Additionally, Jiu Jitsu does not have a great answer when it comes to fighting off multiple attackers. Of course, most martial arts that don’t involve weapons are not great for multiple attackers.
However, BJJ is distinctly bad for multiple attackers since being on the ground in an all-out battle with another person leaves you entirely exposed to additional attackers, and there is not a whole lot that can be done about that within the BJJ system.
Principles and Techniques of Krav Maga
Krav Maga covers combative techniques, ground fighting, multiple attackers, use of objects as weapons, self-defense against firearms and projectile weapons, and more. It also involves attacking moves to be used when appropriate.
Krav Maga is largely considered to be an integrated martial art because it combines elements from both traditional martial arts and street fighting. The philosophy behind Krav Maga emphasizes managing fear and enhancing survival instincts while keeping techniques straightforward, simple, and violent. There are no competitions or actual tournaments involved in Krav Maga, although there are supervised fights in many gyms that allow practitioners to test their skills in a reasonably safe environment.
Krav Maga often teaches multiple points of attack using a combination of striking with hands, feet, elbows and knees as well as deflection/redirection strategies for defense against strikes. Other components within the system include joint locks, throws and evasion tactics meant to give the practitioner control over the situation in order to escape or disorient the opponent if necessary.
Overall, Krav Maga integrates the basic techniques from all the main martial arts found in MMA fighting, which includes certain BJJ techniques. Adding weapons and mindset to this curriculum makes Krav Maga a formidable method of defending yourself in the real world.
Krav Maga vs Jiu Jitsu in a Fight - Who Wins?
Now for the question you have been waiting for - who wins in a fight, the BJJ artist or the Krav Maga practitioner?
The answer is, of course, that it depends.
On its face, Krav Maga has techniques that most sport Jiu Jitsu does not have answers for, including standup strikes as well as eye-gouging and other maiming techniques.
As such, someone who only does sport Jiu Jitsu against someone who only does Krav Maga, assuming both practitioners are at the expert level, Krav Maga may have the upper hand.
Of course, if the fight goes to the ground, then the tides dramatically shift in favor of BJJ. While Krav Maga does have some groundwork, the depth of knowledge a BJJ black belt has about ground fighting is tough to match unless one has trained a substantial amount of Jiu Jitsu. Given that Krav covers so many skills, there is less depth in each.
In reality, most BJJ black belts have enough experience in standup arts not to be completely fish-out-of-water on the feet. Similarly, advanced Krav Maga fighters often hold an advanced rank in BJJ, so the waters get a bit muddy when we talk about very advanced practitioners.
At the lower levels, we feel that BJJ has a bit of an advantage. The reason is that it takes time to develop fighting skill in any type of combat sport. Someone who just focuses on BJJ will develop the skills to finish a resisting opponent more quickly than someone attempting to train the wide range of skills covered in Krav Maga. This advantage does even out over long periods, but it's worth mentioning in the context of people training for less than 1-2 years.
So, to sum up a long winded answer, it's more about the martial artists as individuals than the specific art they train when it comes to who would win in a BJJ vs Krav Maga fight.
Which Martial Art is Better for You?
Whether BJJ or Krav Maga is better for you depends on your goals, preferences, and which art you enjoy.
Both martial arts do teach effective techniques for real world violence. As such, you are best off choosing the art you enjoy most, since that’s what you are likely to get good at.
In the end, it's better to be good at any martial art than it is to chase the “perfect” self defense system that you never actually learn well enough to use in a fight.
Your best bet is to take trial classes in Krav Maga and BJJ and see which art is a better fit for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Krav Maga better than BJJ for self defense?
Depending in the situation, Krav Maga is probably better for self defense.
Which is more practical Jiu Jitsu or Krav Maga?
Jiu Jitsu is far superior for fighting on the ground. But Krav Maga offers more practical standup techniques, so it depends on the context.
Is Krav Maga legit compared to BJJ?
Any martial art is only as legit as the instructor. Make sure to train with an instructor who has verifiable credentials in the art they are teaching.