It’s a question popular in internet forums-
often amongst keyboard warriors with no actual
mat experience: which is the better martial
art, Karate or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Despite the countless opinions given online,
the real answer is not that easy to ascertain.
First though, let’s learn a little bit more
about each martial arts style.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has its origins, naturally
enough, in Brazil.
Back in the turn of the 20th century, the
founder of Judo, Kano Jigoro, sent five of
his best students overseas to demonstrate
the art of judo.
Amongst these five was Mitsuyo Maeda, a man
often considered the first mixed martial artist
of the modern era.
Maeda traveled the world and gave demonstrations
at every country he came to, fighting against
wrestlers, boxers, savate fighters, and various
other martial artists.
In 1917, Maeda was in Brazil when a young
man by the name of Carlos Gracie happened
to be in the audience during one of Maeda’s
Eager to be trained in the art of Judo, Carlos
Gracie asked Maeda after the demonstration
to take him on as a student, to which Maeda
Carlos would go on to train with Maeda for
several years, before Maeda moved on and Carlos
opened up his own judo school to train others.
Carlos’ other siblings had learned Judo along
with him, and helped him teach classes to
Only one brother was unable to join in their
Judo practice, younger brother Helio Gracie
who was far physically weaker than his brothers
and thus unable to muster the strength to
stand toe to toe with other fighters.
Instead, Helio began to modify the techniques
his brothers used, eventually developing a
fighting style which was both simpler, and
sought to avoid the stand-up fighting style
of most martial arts.
Helio’s new combat style would prove revolutionary.
With this new style, the much smaller Helio
was able to defeat his larger brothers, and
soon he was taking on other fighters.
By using leverage techniques, Helio was able
to take much larger opponents down to the
ground, and then use superior groundwork techniques
to force his opponents into painful submissions.
With a focus on bringing the fight to the
ground, Helio had avoided the need for raw
physical strength to stand toe-to-toe with
a poweful striking foe.
His technique was so effective, he was soon
challenging and winning matches against men
as much as eighty pounds larger than him.
With a focus on ground techniques, torsions,
and submissions, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a
simple yet extremely effective fighting technique
that can see small fighters defeat far larger
It’s emphasis on simplicity allows fighters
to focus on learning a smaller number of techniques
and thus master them, as opposed to the much
greater range of techniques of traditional
The exact origins of Karate are shrouded in
Some believe that Karate was created by wandering
Indian monks who developed the fighting style
as a means to defend themselves without weapons.
Others believe that it was natively developed
by the inhabitants of the Ryukyu Kingdom,
an island kingdom that ruled the Japanese
Ryukyu islands from the 15th century to the
What is known is that the martial art that
would become known as Karate came to prominence
in the Ryukyu Kingdom, and adapted from Chinese
In 1879 the Empire of Japan annexed the Ryukyu
Kingdom, and Ryukyuans brought the martial
art with them to the mainland as they migrated
in search of work.
The martial art gradually grew in popularity,
but became a national sensation after the
Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin
Funakoshi, the father of modern karate, to
give a demonstration in Tokyo.
Two years later in 1924, karate clubs began
to appear in major universities, and by 1932
nearly every large japanese university had
a karate club.
The martial art would become an international
sensation though thanks to the American occupation
of Okinawa island after the end of the second
American servicemen were exposed to the martial
art form, and brought much of the knowledge
back home with them.
A growing interest in the martial art quickly
saw Japanese instructors moving to America
and beyond, making Karate a global martial
In the 1960s and 1970s, martial arts movies
greatly added to karate’s popularity, and
today it’s one of the most widely practiced
Unlike Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, karate largely
focuses on the striking power of the hands
and feet, though any body part can be utilized
as a striking weapon if need be, to include
After coming in contact with other martial
arts, karate quickly adopted the use of grappling,
throwing, and securing opponents in joint
locks, though karate is still best utilized
as a stand-up fighting style.
So of the two, which is better- karate or
brazilian jiu jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu may not have the emphasis
on striking that karate does, but that doesn’t
mean that its practitioners don’t know how
to throw a punch.
Just the opposite, BJJ often utilizes strikes
in order to subdue opponents who have been
successfully grappled, or to try and defend
from being grappled.
Karate however is almost the inverse of BJJ,
with a much greater focus on striking power
from a standing position, avoiding a ground
fight if at all possible.
In a fight a BJJ fighter will try to move
the fight to the ground as quickly as possible,
in order to neutralize the striking power
of an enemy fighter.
On the ground, a fighter isn’t able to generate
nearly as much power in a punch or a kick,
while in the standing position trained fighters
are able to transfer power from their legs,
up through their hips, to their fist- essentially
turning a single punch into a full-body power
By moving to the ground, not only is the amount
of power generated for a punch or a kick dramatically
lowered, but vital KO sites on the body are
much easier protected.
Good guard techniques and smart placement
of your opponent can keep dangerous KO sites
on the body- such as behind the ear on the
head- protected against an enemy’s strikes.
Standing up though, even a successfully blocked
blow to such a site can still at times transfer
enough energy to still be a threat.
On the ground, a BJJ fighter will quickly
move into a position where they can leverage
much of their body weight against select areas
of the opponent’s body, especially the limbs
in what is known as an arm or leg lock.
In the classic straight angle lock, an opponent’s
foot is captured and held against the ribs,
and then the BJJ fighter can roll and use
strength from their chest, back, and arms
to apply incredible force to the foot, breaking
it if the opponent does not submit.
Many BJJ techniques focus on applying extreme
force to vulnerable body parts, and is why
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu allows even much smaller
fighters to defeat heavyweight opponents.
Karate on the other hand focuses on keeping
the fight as upright as possible, seeking
to end a fight by delivering a brutally powerful
blow to an opponent’s KO site or by devastating
an opponent’s limbs.
Rather than using torsion to force a submission,
or physically incapacitate a foe, karate uses
techniques such as the devastating elbow strike
to deliver incredible power to a very precise
point on the opponent’s body.
An elbow strike to the solar plexus can end
a fight, while an elbow strike to an opponent’s
own extended elbow can severely damage the
joint and make the arm useless.
A major focus on karate is also the execution
of devastating combo attacks meant to catch
your opponent completely off guard.
One prime example of this is the low kick/high
kick combo, in which a karate fighter will
launch a quick series of low kicks at his
opponent’s legs, and when the opponent drops
their guard to protect against another expected
low kick, the karate fighter then uses the
opportunity to launch a crushing high kick
against the opponent’s head or open torso.
Understanding an opponent’s positioning and
having a natural ability to know how they
are supporting their weight is vital to karate’s
success, as it often relies on predicting
an opponent’s physical movements or striking
at the supporting leg to drop an opponent
to the ground.
Once on the ground, the karate fighter can
finish an opponent off with devastating kicks
This is not to say that karate does not involve
Very quickly karate practitioners realized
that they needed to be proficient in ground-and-pound
techniques as well as striking, and thus karate
still includes some joint locks and submission
techniques, though without the extreme focus
of brazilian jiu jitsu on ground work.
So, which is better?
The answer is unfortunately, one of pure circumstance,
though for us personally, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
has slightly more appeal than traditional
BJJ’s focus on closing the distance between
yourself and an opponent and bringing the
fight to the ground, immediately negates many
of the most devastating striking techniques
that exist in any martial arts form, and nullifies
a large portion of the opponent’s strength
as they are no longer able to wind up full-body
power punches or kicks.
It also limits the opportunities for you to
inadvertently hurt yourself by throwing a
poorly executed punch or kick which could
lead to a broken hand or foot.
Karate however provides a great number of
opportunities to finish a foe off before they
get close enough to cause serious damage,
and its focus on guards against strikes will
give you the tools you need to limit the punishment
you take from a powerful striker.
Sometimes circumstances simply won’t allow
you to drop an opponent to the ground and
overpower them through superior technique-
like if for instance you are fighting in a
very small space.
Karate also encourages a fighter to remain
mobile, which can be critical for fighting
BJJ on the other hand has an almost myopic
focus on fighting a single opponent at a time,
and is one of the worst martial arts forms
for defending yourself from multiple attackers.
The advantage that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu provides
on the ground though simply can’t be ignored,
and there’s a reason why small fighters can
successfully defeat even heavyweights using
the technique- something that karate doesn’t
so easily allow.
In the end, which martial art is better comes
down to circumstance and personal preference-
though for us personally, we prefer the ability
to move a fight to the ground where we can
better defend against strikes and quickly
force an opponent into submission or simply
incapacitate them by destroying their limbs.
Alright there Bruce Lee, now that you’ve made
it through the video and before you start
yelling at us in the comments, why not check
out one of our other great videos like this
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you, why not check this one out instead?
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