Krav Maga vs BJJ For Self-Defence: Which Is Better?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
KMG fighting
krav maga vs bjj

Krav Maga vs BJJ for self-defence is a common enough comparison. Which is better? Which one actually works?

The two are very different, but BJJ has been touted as a great self-defence system. Is this true? When comparing two styles of self-defence or martial arts there are a few ways to approach the comparison.

The most common motive for comparison is to establish or understand which style is superior so that a person can train in that style and receive the best training to help them defend themselves.

Firstly, Krav Maga is a self defence system not a martial art. This is an important point moving forward. Also it is important to note that not all Krav Maga schools are of the same calibre.

If you are thinking about the differences between Krav Maga and BJJ or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because you want to establish which style you should be training in, it’s important to first look at the styles from a very broad perspective.

Krav Maga is primarily a self-defence system developed by Imi Lichtenfeld for training military personnel in hand-to-hand combat.

Krav Maga uses instinctive movements, aggressive counterattacks, and a no-holds-barred mentality without the ceremonial elements of traditional martial arts.

Krav Maga takes into account multiple attackers, both armed and unarmed

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art and sport system that has a specific focus on ground fighting and grappling.

Derived from Kokudan Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu utilizes throws and take-downs to get an opponent to the ground, then employs a series of pins or sweep techniques (reversing positions from the bottom) to set up joint locks or strangulation techniques. Application of finishing techniques is not limited to the ground but are most often used on the ground.

In a one-on-one scenario BJJ can be an effective system to shut down an attacker. However, in a multiple attacker scenario, or when the attacker has a weapon, BJJ is not adequate.

Those are the basic layouts of the two systems in very broad terms. Krav Maga vs. BJJ can be broken down into further detail by examining what they are used for and how they are used.

Krav Maga is a self-defence system that was never intended to be a “combat sport.”

Its original purpose was to train soldiers to fight on a battlefield. Krav Maga teaches striking techniques like punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Krav Maga also teaches grappling techniques and scenario specific self-defence techniques with the ultimate goal of the defender being to damage the attacker enough to end the encounter. In other words, render the attacker unwilling or unable to continue to attack.

There is nothing that is considered “dirty” or “illegal” in Krav Maga as long as it leads to the defender surviving the encounter.

As such, Krav Maga also teaches techniques like eye gouges, groin strikes, head butts, and throat strikes, which would be considered illegal or a foul in a sanctioned sport fight or combat sport competition.

Krav Maga also teaches students how to deal with multiple attackers both armed and unarmed. The system covers knife defence, stick defence and other common objects which can be used as a striking implement. The system also covers firearm threat defences.

Scenario training is a big component in Krav Maga, and is used to build student confidence. Carjacking, knife stabbing, knife threats, bar fights and home invasion scenarios are common training themes at SGS Krav Maga.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a sport that transfers very well to competition because of its emphasis on being in a dominant position on the ground and doing damage to an opponent with joint locks or strangulation techniques.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions are scored based on take-downs, positional advantages (series of pins and attacks), and finishes via joint lock or strangulation techniques that result in the losing competitor “tapping out”. In competitions, there are techniques that are considered illegal as well as rule sets for what techniques can be used based on the competitors skill (belt) level.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu helps practitioners develop skills that are very useful in self-defence because the emphasis is on close range fighting and the ground, where many street fights and assaults occur or end up.

When  Krav Maga is compared to BJJ for your own training, you have to further examine what it is that you want to train for. What is your why? When considering that, there are contrasts between the styles that have to be taken into account. 

The biggest contrast between Krav Maga and BJJ is that Krav Maga is a self-defence system and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art and sport.

Krav Maga, as a system, is designed to be learned very quickly, by anyone.

Krav Maga is designed for people to become proficient in hand-to-hand combat in a very short period of time. The system is based on principles that don’t deviate so techniques should look the same almost every time they are practiced or applied. Someone who is training in Krav Maga can learn an effective technique after their first class and develop an effective skill-set and mentality in just a few months.

On the other hand Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as a martial art, takes much longer to learn and to perfect.

When you see a skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in action, it’s amazing. Training against a skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner as a novice is a confusing and confounding exercise in futility.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires body control, timing, and anticipation, which come from thousands of hours of hard training. The techniques are open to interpretation in terms of how a practitioner sets them up and applies them, which is an element of its artistry.

It takes a good three or four years for a White Belt practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to develop an effective skill-set and to even really understand what is going on in a training session.

The second major contrast when looking at Krav Maga compared to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that Krav Maga has a focus on striking and grappling techniques while BJJ has a focus on only grappling.

In both Krav Maga and BJJ there is some crossover in terms of striking and grappling. In fact if you train in Krav Maga you will learn techniques that are derived from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu like using the closed guard in an example like this:

bjj closed guard

or sweeping techniques like this:


In Krav Maga however these techniques are used primarily by the defender to get back to the feet. There is very little emphasis on a finish on the ground or by joint lock or strangulation.

Conversely, striking techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are primarily used to close distance to an opponent and take them down, establish position and finish by joint lock or strangulation.

When striking is used the ground in BJJ it’s main purpose is to cause a reaction in the opponent which will help expose the neck or a limb, thereby creating an opportunity to apply a joint lock or choke. Striking is not allowed in most all major Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions but BJJ isn’t completely devoid of striking techniques.

Key Differences Between Krav Maga And Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The main difference between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga is that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art used primarily in sport while Krav Maga is a combat system designed to be used by military and law enforcement and easily implemented for civilians. Both have their benefits.

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a martial art sport discipline that allows for great pressure testing.

This is one of the great elements of BJJ that people mention as you can really go “at it” in training and pressure test. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a very technical and skillful sport. It is a martial art that focuses on the use of techniques and leverage. The goal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is to submit another skilled opponent under full resistance.

Krav Maga is not a combat sport and rather, a self defence system.

Pressure testing in Krav Maga in many cases will result in injuries for the participants, however, it is wrong to say there is no pressure testing within Krav Maga.

There are many Krav Maga schools which allow for pressure testing, i.e. grappling, ground fighting, fighting for dominant position while striking and open sparring. This is also performed with weapon disarms as well. 

Krav Maga, on the other hand, is a combat system. It focuses on the effectiveness of its defence techniques, aggression, striking, grappling and teaches you how to defend yourself on the street.

Krav Maga doesn’t care about rules, points, or time.

The goal of Krav Maga is to defend yourself and stop the attacker. The attacker may or may not be skilled, and it’s preferential to beat him before he starts resisting.

Assumptions About Self DefenCe And Violence

The type of self defence that you learn in BJJ and Krav Maga is different. Both systems make different assumptions about what a realistic self defense situation looks like.
Krav Maga assumes opponents can be armed and possible multiple attackers. Why? Because it was developed for the Israeli army. For Krav Maga, every self-defence technique needs to work because the soldier’s life depends on it.

BJJ relies heavily on the myth that 90% of street fights end on the ground.



Techniques Of Krav Maga Vs brzilian jiu-Jitsu

Let’s consider another main difference between the two systems.

BJJ is a grappling martial art that focuses on locking, choking and ground fighting. In other words, you will be on the ground most of the time. You will learn how to defend yourself from the bottom position and how to submit your opponent. Generally in BJJ you won’t learn striking techniques.

Krav Maga is a complete combat system that mixes different fighting styles. It borrows striking techniques from boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, judo and Muay Thai. Its training system has no kata’s. Students learn how to strike, defend against strikes, grapple, defend against armed attacks, dealing with multiple attackers. You will also learn some techniques that are not allowed in sport fighting, like eye gouges, throat strikes and groin strikes. 

Ranking Systems Of Krav Maga Vs Jiu Jitsu

Both Brazilian jiu jitsu and Krav Maga have a series of ranks that indicate progression through the ranks. However, their progression systems are completely different.

Does Krav Maga Use BJJ?

Yes and no. Krav Maga uses some grappling techniques, but Krav Maga doesn’t want to be on the ground for long. So most grappling techniques of Krav Maga are performed shortly from a standing position.

unlimited self-defence classes

Krav Maga Grappling Techniques List

The main grappling techniques of Krav Maga are:

  • Technical stand up: Krav Maga doesn’t want to be on the ground, so the first rule is always to stand back up again. Krav Maga uses a technical stand up technique for this.
  • Headlock escape: Krav Maga also teaches escapes against the most common headlock positions on the ground. Think of the schoolyard bully headlock. Again, the rationale behind this is to get up again.
  • Ground strikes: Krav Maga also uses short and quick strikes on the ground. The goal of these strikes is either to quickly neutralize the opponent, or to distract him to find the space to get up.
  • Submission escapes: Krav Maga does not teach submission escapes. So you won’t learn how to escape an arm bar, Americana, or choke. The reason for this is that Krav Maga assumes that 99% of people don’t know these techniques anyway, so it’s a waste of time to learn the defenses against them.
When people are considering Krav Maga compared to BJJ there’s undoubtedly a curiosity about “who would win in a Krav Maga vs. BJJ fight?”

That comes down to myriad variables like who is fighting, where the fight is taking place, when the fight is taking place, how is it taking place. All of these things are going to factor into the outcome. This is why at SGS Krav Maga we have diversified and also offer Sambo classes to make our students well rounded for grappling.

Testing style vs. style is one of the reasons that the Ultimate Fighting Championship was started by the Gracie family years ago.

Style vs. Style is always intriguing to those interested in self-defence and martial arts so Krav Maga vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a one of the match-ups people are interested in. Since Krav Maga isn’t intended for a rules-based competition, it’s not really a style that people see in combat sports. 

At SGS Krav Maga we recommend people that are looking for Self-Defence to enrol in Krav Maga classes and compliment them with a ground fighting system such as Sambo (which we offer) or BJJ. 

As a result we encourage people to come and take a class at SGS Krav Maga to see first hand what Krav Maga training is all about.