Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Karate
So which martial art is better, Karate or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu??
When comparing different martial arts, it is important to look at different aspects and elements of each art. At its core, both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and karate are designed to give you the tools to defend yourself against an attacker that wishes to cause you harm. Let's take a quick look at the history of BJJ and Karate in America before we compare and contrast these two popular martial arts.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Karate was king
Karate is the martial art that is most well known amongst American adults, largely due to the fact that during the 1970s and 1980s it was really the only option available for kids (and some adults) that wanted to learn self-defense. Karate dojos were a regular sight in strip malls across the nation and became very popular with kids between ages 4 -12 looking to learn self-defense, discipline, and respect. Movies like The Karate Kid and The Last Dragon brought a lot of positive attention to karate and the benefits it can provide to normal, everyday people.
In the 1990s, a shift began to occur
In 1993, the UFC came along and held a one-night tournament featuring 8 different martial artists/fighters. A man named Royce Gracie entered the event as a heavy underdog, donning nothing but a traditional-looking martial arts gi (pronounced gee). Upon first glance, he was certainly the least menacing of the bunch. A man of average stature (6'1, 178 pounds), he looked like an accountant standing next to men that were between 200 and even 500 pounds!! What happened next changed the martial arts landscape in a massive way.
At the end of the evening, the non-imposing Royce Gracie had submitted all three of his much-larger opponents with a grappling martial art known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The combined time of his three victories was 5 minutes and 01 second. The whole martial arts world stopped and took notice, as Royce had used this mysterious grappling art to win a tournament full of experienced fighters from various disciplines including wrestling, boxing, karate, and even sumo.
In the 2000's, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu became the fastest growing martial art in America
As we entered the 2000's, the UFC began to grow in popularity. The fighting organization began running frequent shows on television and pay-per-view, drawing the attention of millions of people who had never even considered doing martial arts before. A huge component of this new UFC was the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that was on display from these high-level fighters.
In the UFC, athletes who were well versed in Jiu Jitsu began to dominate the world title scene, with minimal karate on display. This increased exposure to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu only added gasoline to the debate about which martial art was truly the best.
Striking vs Grappling; which is better??
The most stout difference between Karate and Jiu Jitsu is that the former is striking based while the latter primarily takes place on the ground. There is no wrong answer here, as to whether striking or grappling is "better" for self-defense. Both forms of martial arts will prove to be beneficial in a situation where you find yourself matched up against someone with no martial arts training. Karate is most effective when you're able to keep someone at a distance where they cannot grab you, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the premier self-defense for shutting down an attacker that is in close proximity.
One of the reasons BJJ has garnered such a rabid following is that it can be learned and executed effectively by men, women, and children of all ages and all sizes. Whereas most striking arts heavily favor those that are tall, fast, young, and athletic, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is effective in the hands of EVERYONE that takes the time to learn, understand, and practice the art...even if you are short, slow, old, and unathletic. At Straight Blast Gym Buford, we have BJJ athletes that are in their 50s, that are overweight, and who have never played sports in their entire lives, training every day.
Karate vs. Jiu Jitsu for Kids
Karate is still very popular amongst elementary school-aged children, and for good reason. Karate does a very good job of teaching young children structure, respect, and accountability. The techniques being taught can also be effective when done correctly. On the flip side, many parents that have enrolled their children in SBG's Growing Gorillas Jiu Jitsu program have told stories of how their child is still bullied at school, even after months (or years) of karate training. Unfortunately, their kid hasn't learned how to deal with someone that is much bigger and stronger than you and they're getting in your personal space. That's where Jiu Jitsu comes in.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was designed specifically to help smaller opponents defeat larger, stronger opposition. By using leverage, momentum, and submissions, an 8-year-old child can subdue an attack from a larger 12-year-old without even having to throw a punch. Not only does BJJ teach them to neutralize their opponent, but they don't have to worry about getting suspended from school due to punching another kid in the face.
One of the more stark contrasts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs karate training is the rate at which belts are awarded. In karate, belt promotions are often achieved in 6-12 week intervals, whereas in Jiu Jitsu you are looking at months to years to achieve a new belt. The benefit to karate's rapid-fire promotion system is that the recipient gets rewarded more frequently, the down-side is that it can lead the student (and the student's parents) to wonder if the promotion was actually deserved or if the coach/business just wanted the $40-$80 that is typically charged as a "belt fee". Brazilian Jiu Jitsu's approach to promotions assures the recipient that their new belt was actually earned. On the flip side, the prolonged weight that the student experiences between promotions can be discouraging to those kids who want/need immediate gratification.
Karate vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for Adults
Ever wonder why karate dojo's don't have a lot of adults in them? Why is it that kids in Jr High/Middle School tend to stop training in karate?
The rap on karate is that it isn't "cool". You think karate, you tend to think of 8-year-olds breaking boards in half and throwing jump kicks. Mixed Martial Arts fighters like Lyoto Machida and Steven "Wonderboy" Thompson have helped to bring some of that cool-factor back to karate, but by-and-large karate schools are still dominated by children.
As people get older, they tend to not be excited by the thought of being punched and kicked during their training. Grappling arts are often preferred by men and women in their 30's, 40's and beyond because they can still learn to defend themselves without having strikes thrown at their face. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in particular, has gained a ton of steam amongst adults looking to learn martial arts, because of the ability to be able to control the pace of the action. For adults, not getting hurt and/or injured is a huge component of their decision-making. Whereas young adults are often eager to "get after it", older adults want to train hard...but safe. Getting better at their art is important, but so is ensuring that they are able to return to work or their families without blackeyes and new scars.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has received a lot of acclaim because of the involvement of celebrities like Joe Rogan, Tom Hardy, Ashton Kutcher, and Jocko Willink, all of whom train BJJ on a regular basis. Rogan and Willink regularly discuss the advantages of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on their respective podcasts. Both men talk openly about how they've gotten better at overcoming adversity and mental/physical challenges through their training, not to mention that BJJ has played a tremendous role in keeping them in top shape.
So what's the verdict??
Well, it really just depends on what you're looking for. Karate would not have become the most popular martial art in America if it was just a bunch of fluff. The art provides a good introduction to martial arts for young children looking for an activity where they can learn structure, respect, and some self-defense. There's something to be said for the physical involvement as well. Any activity that promotes your child being physically active and socializing with other children is good by us. Even with adults, there's value to karate. In Straight Blast Gym's Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts training, we even include some karate strikes to help add variety to the strikes and bring an added element of surprise against opponents.
Karate can be a fantastic place to start your child at a young age to help them enter the world of martial arts. At some point, they will probably ask to do something more challenging and rewarding, at which point they can look to begin training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
We're somewhat biased, but when it comes to adults we have found that Jiu Jitsu is king when it comes to martial arts training. The surge in BJJ's popularity over the past couple of decades isn't just a coincidence, with the majority of new students that put on a gi being adults; not kids. Not only is it one of the most practical methods to defend yourself, but it's an amazing workout for all of those involved. A large portion of the people that regularly train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are not motivated by the thought of being attacked or having to fight off a would-be assailant; they simply enjoy the comradery with their teammates while getting in a fantastic workout.
Straight Blast Gym Buford has been providing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and martial arts training to both adults and children since 2010. Those interested in attending martial arts or fitness classes at SBG Buford can reach us right here.