I am starting to get interested in martial arts. BJJ is by far the most popular in my area, but I looked into judo, and it seems to me that judo is the more complete martial art than bjj.

Am I correct in this?

Because it seems that judo combines takedowns + submissions, whereas BJJ is mostly about submissions.

Since my interest is self-defense, it also seems to me that judo is more practical in that sense. If you end up in a fight on the street, do you really want to start rolling on the floor for 5+ minutes working on a triangle choke? It seems dangerous, firstly because you're on pavement so if you pull guard, you might get your head smashed, and even if that doesn't happen, why would you even want to be on the floor in a street fight situation: somebody might intervene and kick you in the head.

In contrast, judo seems more mobile, since you are trying to get the takedown yourself, and hurt your opponent in doing so.

Basically, it seems that judo is the more overall practical and complete martial arts, while BJJ is specifically a sports-art focused on getting a submission in a long fight that is uninterrupted and is happening on a comfortable mat.

So is Judo better for self-defense while BJJ is better for a controlled sports-setting?


3 Answers 3


First, I practice judo and not BJJ, so understand what I can and cannot answer with knowledge and where my potential biases may be. Second, this is a common way to start an internet flame war. With that in mind, I will still try to answer this objectively.

So is Judo better for self-defense while BJJ is better for a controlled sports-setting?


Modern judo is sport first

Modern judo is definitely a sport first, and self defense second at best. Judo was organized with two primary forms of training: randori (free play) and kata (forms). Relatively safe techniques were practiced in randori with full speed and force while striking was relegated to kata. Even in kata, however, the striking elements are represented in caricature form; they represent an abstraction of how one should deal with strikes telegraphed well in advance, and you should not be under any delusions that judo kata trains for performing strikes. In modern judo, it's not really until the dan-ranks (black belt) that some judo players start worrying about kata anyway. Even then, mostly no one cares if you are a kata champion, but people care if you are a competition champion.

Modern judo practitioners start from the mindset of competition. Some never leave that mindset, and some even consider judo to be purely sport. While Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, was still alive, he lamented the overemphasis on shiai (contest judo).

Sport rules protect poor self-defense strategies

Sport fighting will always be a poor approximation of real fighting, but strategies that optimize for sport rules may leave obvious holes in self-defense situations. Examples:

  • judo: attempting to throw, failing, and turtling. In judo, this frequently employed sequence usually results in a referee stopping the match and restarting from the standing position. In a self-defense situation, this would result in getting your head kicked in.
  • BJJ: pulling guard and fighting exclusively on the ground

You can train either judo or BJJ while avoiding these and other poor self-defense strategies, but this is not inherent to either system. And within the modern sport-centric cultures, it is probably difficult to avoid the sport-centric approaches.

Takedowns + submissions is poor model for understanding judo v. BJJ

There are four ways to win in judo:

  1. throw
  2. pin
  3. choke
  4. armlock

My understanding is that BJJ matches are basically won only by submissions, which includes judo chokes and armlocks, but also leg locks, ankle locks, wrist locks, and some chokes that would be illegal in judo. From one perspective, judo has more ways to win, but from another BJJ is more specialized. You expect the specialists to be better in their specialties.

Judo emphasizes stand-up more

In judo you can win from stand up. In BJJ as far as I know, you cannot. So yes, I would agree that judo is more mobile as a result of training more from a standing position.

  • BJJ can also be won by points from getting dominant positions, sweeps, or takedowns. BJJ can be finished from standing, such as a standing cross collar choke, standing kimura, etc. I disagree that fighting exclusively on the ground is bad. While it makes you have a weakness of maybe not knowing what you're doing standing up, it brings attackers into an area of expertise that they probably know nothing about. They will probably try to punch you, and BJJ as several sets on that...
    – LemmyX
    Mar 23, 2020 at 22:32
  • @mattm remember when they had to make it illegal for a Judo player to post on their head to land in a bridge to avoid a score? Perfect example of focusing on sport and getting hurt.
    – tye649
    Mar 24, 2020 at 0:08

I agree with mattm when he says that sport Judo is taught most commonly and that it will teach you poor habits for the street.

I was fortunate enough to study under someone with good skills who teaches Judo for practical application. The stupid thing is: practical Judo can work in sport Judo, but not the other way around.

I would research the Judo schools in your area and see if they are sport-focused. Good luck.

somebody might intervene and kick you in the head

Agreed. I object to the notion of takedown to control position because of this.

  • But if you control position, you can trap them in a submission and threaten to finish if they try to resist. It also prevents them from getting back up and continuing from their feet.
    – LemmyX
    Mar 23, 2020 at 22:26
  • @LemmyX The moment I move to mount/side control, I'm wide open to a stomp from any bystander who decides to get involved.
    – tye649
    Mar 23, 2020 at 22:42
  • Yeah, maybe, but that's why you should check your surroundings before engaging in a streetfight. If there are a lot of people, don't try to get a dominant position.
    – LemmyX
    Mar 23, 2020 at 22:43
  • @LemmyX maybe I only see one guy, then someone from outside my line of sight moves in as soon as I go in for a takedown. Personally, I'll throw the first guy on his head (staying on my feet), then see who else still has the nerve to come at me.
    – tye649
    Mar 23, 2020 at 22:48
  • Yeah, again, it's all subjective and about preference.
    – LemmyX
    Mar 23, 2020 at 22:49

This is a very subjective question, so I'll do my best to answer it.

If you end up in a fight on the street, do you really want to start rolling on the floor for 5+ minutes working on a triangle choke?

This all depends of course. If you look at this question that I asked a while ago, it shows that BJJ is GREAT for self defense against one opponent but not against multiple. If you practice enough, a triangle can take <15 seconds. It takes time. They key for using BJJ in self defense is being able to control the distance between you and your opponent. If you are standing up, keep a far distance until you feel you can do a takedown, and when you do, do it FAST. If you pull guard on them, you can knee pull them into you and then lock their head with our arm. This will make it very hard for them to strike you at all.

Anyway, back to your main question. We aren't here to tell you which martial art is better, so it's all about your opinion. Both are extremely useful for self defense. If you have doubts about BJJ's effectiveness, find a school that specifically teaches self defense BJJ and take a tour (eg. any Gracie JJ school). Remember, BJJ was invented FOR THE PURPOSE of self defense. It wasn't until more recently that BJJ as a sport became popular. I suggest you decide whether you want to focus on primarily groundwork or primarily throwing. Look into each one a little more before you make any decisions. When I started BJJ, I thought that it could never be useful for self defense, but now I come to realize how useful it is. There are pros and cons to both. Here are some:



  • Works primarily from a position (standing) that is common in fights
  • Can end a fight very quickly if a throw is applied
  • Teaches negligible grappling techniques, enough to get by if you got taken down


  • Many throws and other techniques rely on the opponent to be wearing a shirt, which in a fight is often taken off
  • It can sometimes be hard to get in position for a throw against an opponent who is punching you in the face, especially if you aren't very experienced.



  • Teaches very detailed grappling techniques that would certainly help you if you got taken down.
  • Teaches takedowns(just as helpful as throws, and takedowns often aren't even taught in Judo)
  • Literally teaches you how to break people's limbs!(Actually, Judo does too, but not to the extent that BJJ does)
  • Teaches incites that will help you escape from non-specific pins.


  • Techniques often require a gi-like uniform to be worn. Note that this is only for gi-BJJ, however.
  • A lot of the times techniques are taught only for sport and not for self defense(eg. De la riva, inverted guard etc)

They actually overlap each other because BJJ is descended from Judo. Many techniques will look the same, many won't. I hope you make the choice that suits you best!

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