When choosing between Krav Maga and BJJ, here’s the general opinion.
BJJ allows you to regularly train effective self-defense techniques that work against a resisting opponent. Krav Maga uses techniques that can’t be trained regularly like eye-gouging and crotch strikes, so training is more conceptual and you’re less likely to deal with stressful situations effectively.
You want to ensure that you’re training what’s most effective in a violent confrontation.
Comparing Krav Maga And BJJ
What you choose is what you’ll depend on in potentially life-altering situations.
Consider these factors when choosing Krav Maga or BJJ:
- How repeatable is the training you’re doing?
- How easily can you apply your technique without risking yourself?
- How effective are the techniques you’re using? Does it neutralize a threat?
- How effective is it for control in a bad situation?
- Is it effective against multiple attackers?
These are the factors that I considered when I first started training.
This article will help you make an informed decision for yourself.
Repeatability Of Training
First you should consider the repeatability of the training.
Boxing for example requires regular, live sparring to effectively learn it.
Sparring is a repeatable form of training, essentially two training partners fighting at 50% – 75% of their maximum effort.
Meaning both the offensive and defensive aspects are effectively trained in a controlled environment against resisting opponents.
Krav Maga involves dangerous techniques meant to severely injure an attacker for self-defense.
This type of training isn’t repeatable.
It depends mainly on simulation against compliant attackers to practice the most ‘effective’ techniques.
Not training the most important aspects of the art leaves a big gap in both your skillset and mindset.
If you can only simulate your lethal techniques, you’ll never be ready for the real aggression and strength of an actual attacker.
This was probably my main issue with Krav Maga.
I wanted to know what being attacked would feel like so that I’d be ready for it.
Here’s an example of the training you’d expect to receive from a Krav Maga school:
The realism of the training is what attracted me to BJJ.
Not only was I able to practice choking people out and breaking their limbs, but I could do it over and over again against a resisting opponent.
I can also practice defending against someone who’s literally trying to hurt or kill me.
The only thing separating me from serious injury is the trust I have in my training partner and the skills I learn on the mat.
The ability to train at 100% effort is huge for your mental preparation.
Learning to remain calm under what others may consider traumatic situations is unbelievably valuable.
It does wonders for your self-confidence.
Here’s an of the training you’d expect from almost all BJJ gyms:
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Risk Vs Reward
An important factor to consider in self-defense and martial arts is risk vs reward.
Is the technique you’re executing putting you at more risk than your opponent?
A good example of this is a straight right punch in boxing.
If I don’t keep my left hand up, there’s a 50% risk of being punched in the head myself.
Keeping my left hand up turns the risky straight right into a viable method of attack.
A huge risk in bad situations is relying on uncertainty.
In Krav Maga, many of the defensive movements rely heavily on uncontrollable factors.
The biggest uncertainties being:
What might be considered effective techniques in Krav Maga could be neutralized by a semi-skilled attacker using their strength and aggression to get what they want.
The techniques in Krav Maga are much riskier than I’d prefer, offering almost no control of an attacker.
Using ineffective techniques might make things worse for me than simply submitting.
I wanted something that would end an attack on my terms.
The whole principle of BJJ is to defend, control and submit an attacker.
Everything we do in Jiu-Jitsu is assessed on a risk versus reward basis.
Constantly considering how much you’re opening yourself up to attack while you’re attacking.
Techniques are trained repeatedly against knowledgeable and resisting opponents.
So if there’s a weakness in a move, it’s quickly exposed and addressed.
Techniques are practiced until they’re perfect against training partners with varying strengths and physical attributes.
Some BJJ gyms even teach you weapon-specific techniques.
Effectiveness Of Techniques
Techniques like eye-gouging and groin strikes are obviously very effective.
The problem is that these techniques are still reliant on your opponent not knowing what they’re doing.
Normally these vital areas are protected well by instinct, and often adrenaline can mask pain during highly charged confrontations.
So if your techniques don’t account for the strengths of your attacker, you’re not actually prepared to defend yourself.
Why BJJ Techniques Are More Effective Than Krav Maga
The simple answer is, the techniques used in Jiu-Jitsu are developed through active sparring against knowledgeable opponents. Using these techniques in a real-life situation is likely going to be more effective than Krav Maga at neutralizing an attacker, even one who’s stronger or has experience in fighting.
If you’re training to control and submit experienced fighters on a weekly basis, taking on relatively inexperienced attackers should be much easier.
You’ll certainly be more mentally prepared.
Just look at how effective grapplers are in MMA.
A good BJJ practitioner can finish a fight while taking minimal damage from opponents who literally fight for a living.
Importance Of Control In Bad Situations
BJJ aims to control an attacker to gain submission, but submission isn’t always necessary if you can control them. In a bad situation, control of the threat is the most important thing. The more control you’re able have, the less risk there is to yourself.
When I first found BJJ I was training Muay Thai in Thailand.
I decided to learn Muay Thai because of how effective it is.
The training was repeatable and my confidence that I’d be able to effectively defend myself in a bad situation grew.
I always had one issue with Muay Thai.
Like Boxing, there were too many factors that I couldn’t control.
One lucky punch from an attacker and I’d be gone.
I’d be unconscious or dazed, completely removing my ability to defend myself.
Then I was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
I was stunned by how much control my training partner had over me.
In fact, one wrong move and I’d risk losing a limb or being choked unconscious.
There’s no getting lucky in Jiu-Jitsu.
Either you know how to fight on the ground, or you don’t.
Assuming you can’t get away from your attacker safely and you have to resort to fighting, BJJ is your best bet at safely and effectively de-escalating a situation.
BJJ Vs Krav Maga For Multiple Opponents
Most martial arts won’t work against multiple opponents.
BJJ focuses on fighting one-on-one, you might consider this a weakness. Krav Maga does include some defense techniques for multiple attackers, including fast-paced kicking and punching to effectively distract attackers using pain to safely escape.
The danger with Krav Maga is that it gives you a false sense of confidence in high-risk situations.
Making you more inclined to stand your ground against multiple attackers rather than making escape your priority.
Not many people understand what it’s like being attacked by multiple attackers with bad intentions.
No amount of groin shots and eye-poking is going to work.
Here’s some Krav Maga techniques for multiple opponents:
Try doing these with your friends and a plastic knife.
I guarantee it’s not going to work.
Does Krav Maga Use Jiu-Jitsu?
Krav Maga does use joint locks and chokeholds, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say that it uses Jiu-Jitsu. BJJ is a system of defense and control that leads to submission. Krav Maga doesn’t emphasize the importance of control, but rather promotes aggression and speed for self-defense.
You’ll see examples of wristlocks used in Krav Maga in the video above, some of which are used by law enforcement as methods of controlling a semi-cooperative suspect.
These techniques wouldn’t work against an attacker who’s actually trying to hurt you.
If they did, you’d see more MMA fighters training Krav Maga control techniques to use in the octagon.
Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Good For Street Fights?
BJJ has proven to be the most effective martial art for self-defense in a one-on-one street fight. The fundamental principles of defense, control, and submission work well for de-escalating a hostile situation. Jiu-Jitsu has also been thoroughly tested in the octagon against trained fighters.
My recommendation when someone wants to hurt you is to keep your distance, and remove yourself from the situation.
However, sometimes escape isn’t an option and you’re forced to defend yourself or your loved ones.
My Own Experience With BJJ In A Real Fight
When I was in my early 20s I got into a fight with a much larger guy, keep in mind I’d never trained at the point.
The only things I knew about grappling came from watching pro wrestling (think Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker), a technique call triangle from guard.
The guy had me trapped on my back on the floor, I somehow managed to catch him in a loose arm-in triangle with my legs.
I wasn’t trying to submit him, hell I didn’t even know what a submission was.
What I did manage to do was 3 important things, which I’ve only come to realise now:
- Control distance – With my legs attached to him, I could use the entire power of my back and legs to control the distance between myself and him.
- Destabilized him – With the constant pull and pushing with my legs, I was able to break his posture causing him to repeatedly recover his balance. When you can’t balance, you can’t generate enough power for an effective punch. Destabilizing his base was also important for ensuring he couldn’t get to his feet to slam me.
- Removed two weapons – With the arm in triangle I was restricting the number of weapons he could use, Preventing headbutts from his head and punches from his trapped arm. Controlling his arm and head with my legs freed up both my arms to defend from the free arm, so I was in complete control.
This is when I realized the power of grappling.
Unfortunately, I never pursued training at the time.
I didn’t even know BJJ existed.
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Krav Maga Vs BJJ – My Personal Recommendation
This is an easy one.
Find a good BJJ gym and don’t waste your time or money on Krav Maga.
I might sound biased or perhaps overly critical of Krav Maga, but when it comes to self-defense I tend to have strict standards – You should too.
The self-defense art you choose might be what you bet your life on someday.
I would bet on the art that’s been thoroughly tested, the art that was pioneered by the Samurais in Japan.
Fun Fact: Gracie Challenge Matches
The pioneering family of BJJ, the Gracies had an interesting way of marketing the Gentle Art back in what we consider the wild-west days of the art.
When Karate was all the rage.
They’d pick fights with other martial art academies, challenging their most accomplished fighters.
They even invited other martial artists to their gyms by strategically placing taunting ads.
These challenges worked because they established BJJ as the most dominant fighting style.
The modern incarnation of these challenges is the UFC, which was started in part by Rorion Gracie.
A well-known Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Grand Master (Red Belt), mainly to prove the effectiveness of the art against challengers in a controlled environment like the octagon.
The rest is history.
Here’s a video showing some of Gracie Challenge Matches: