BJJ vs. MMA For Self Defense – Which One You Should Train?

BJJ vs. MMA For Self Defense

There are many reasons you should begin training MMA or BJJ. It could be because you want to compete, or you just want to stay fit. 

Some take up martial arts classes for self-defense. For that reason, you often have to choose between MMA and BJJ.

Both BJJ and MMA are trendy martial arts. While they may look the same to the uninitiated, these two martial arts are different. For instance, BJJ is all about ground combat and grappling. In contrast, MMA combines grappling and striking in a well-rounded practice. 

In this guide, you’ll understand all the differences between BJJ and MMA. We’ll also tell you which one you should pick based on what you want out of your training.

Let’s get to it.

What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

What is BJJ - Buchecha

BJJ, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is a purely grappling discipline created by the acclaimed Gracie family. It’s a martial art that focuses on

  • Chokeholds,
  • Joint locks.
  • Takedowns.
  • Position.
  • Sweeps.

It’s one of the fastest-growing martial arts globally, with gyms growing in numbers rapidly.

The martial art is applied in MMA as a base for grappling. It’s also a competitive sport as various BJJ tournaments are held yearly. 

There are two main types of BJJ: gi and no-gi. The main difference is that gi involves wearing a heavy and thick uniform. Some techniques in gi BJJ don’t apply to no-gi because of the lack of uniform.

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What Is MMA?

The Space and Size Needed for an MMA Gym

MMA, or mixed martial arts, is one of the latest martial arts to hit mainstream popularity. MMA has become its own martial arts discipline too.

As the name suggests, MMA involves various martial arts disciplines. Traditionally, it requires Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, and BJJ techniques. However, some fighters incorporate their own disciplines into MMA, such as Sambo, Karate, and Judo.

The Key Differences Between BJJ And MMA

The main difference is that BJJ is purely a grappling discipline. On the other hand, MMA teaches you strikes as well. This is a significant difference to consider, especially if you’re looking at both disciplines from a person that wants to learn martial arts for self-defense.

Perhaps another key difference is that BJJ has a belt system. Typically, a belt system for BJJ will see you going through White, Blue, Purple, Brown, and then Black as you progress. 

Doing so means mastering a few techniques while proving yourself worthy of promotion through competition.

Belt systems might not matter in a street fight, but it will at least be a good gauge of how much you’ve mastered the martial art. Now, let’s talk about how MMA and BJJ fare in a street fight through a set of pros and cons.

BJJ Pros and cons In A Street Fight -BJJ vs. MMA for self-defense


  1. Techniques Fit People Of All Physical Capabilities – BJJ was developed primarily by Helio Gracie, who was frail and smaller than his brothers.
    He wanted to create a martial art that’s effective even for people who aren’t physically gifted. As that is the case, BJJ techniques fit people of varying physical capabilities.
  2. Teaches You To Subdue Opponents – Since BJJ isn’t a striking discipline, you can use its techniques to subdue an attacker rather than hurt them completely. This frees you from obligations that arise when you injure an opponent.
  3. Can Help You In Perilous Situations – Sweeps and ground control will help you get out of sticky situations. For instance, a trained BJJ practitioner can easily sweep an attacker who’s on top of him while they’re on the ground.


  1. Not Good For Multiple Attackers – BJJ is a one-on-one sport. There are no techniques to help you out in situations where you are outnumbered.
  2. Ground Techniques Can Put You In Danger – Sometimes, a BJJ practitioner’s go-to defensive tactic is pulling guard and taking the fight to the ground. While this can help well-trained practitioners, it can still be dangerous as their opponent will be on top of them.
  3. Requires Getting Up Close To Attackers – The thing about BJJ is that it’s an art that’s too up close and personal. If you don’t get near your opponent, you won’t be able to apply most of the techniques correctly. Getting close can put you in danger of course.

MMA Pros and cons In A Street Fight – BJJ vs. MMA for self-defense


  1. Well-Rounded Fighting Discipline – MMA teaches you to become versatile in street fights. Whether you’re on the ground or standing up, you’ll be able to defend yourself with MMA techniques easily.
  2. Striking Techniques Can Severely Injure Others – We understand that you’re just defending yourself in these precarious situations. However, inflicting too much damage in a street fight can actually land you in legal trouble.
  3. Can Help You Fight Against Multiple Attackers – Thanks to the striking techniques taught in MMA, you’ll be better equipped to defend yourself against multiple attackers. Keep in mind that while it makes you more capable of cases like these, fights against various attackers are highly discouraged.


  1. Striking Could End Horribly – Having striking techniques to rely on is good. However, becoming too reliant on strikes can end badly as all it takes for things to go sour is one solid hit on your chin.
  2. It’s Not Weapon Proof – MMA is primarily trained as a competitive sport. As such, it doesn’t consider weapons like knives and guns when it comes to street fights.
  3. MMA Techniques Offer Little Defense Against Larger Opponents – Grappling is a part of an MMA practitioner’s arsenal, but it doesn’t focus too heavily. As such, MMA might put you at odds against larger opponents than you.

Is BJJ The Best Martial Art For Self-Defense?

BJJ was developed to be a martial art for self-defense, especially for people of smaller stature. 

BJJ gives you many advantages against attackers in a fight when trained for that purpose. While effective, the problem with BJJ is that there are limits to it.

Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t involve strikes, making it less efficient as a martial art for self-defense. 

It gives you a wide array of techniques to choose from but always remember that most confrontations start on the feet. Being capable of defending yourself from there can be advantageous.

Is MMA The Most Effective Self-Defense?

The short answer here is that yes — MMA is the more effective martial art for self-defense when compared to BJJ

A full array of striking and grappling techniques will help you defend yourself against most situations that put your well-being at risk.

BJJ’s wide selection of techniques for grappling is a considerable advantage but always remember that in MMA, you learn grappling too. 

That limited knowledge of grappling will be more than enough to protect yourself already when it comes to self-defense.

When To Use MMA In Street Fights?

Thanks to its versatility, MMA can be used in various situations. Most engagements start standing, and if you’re equipped with a good set of striking abilities, you’ll be able to defend yourself well during that point in the fight already. 

When the fight does go to the ground, you can still go and defend yourself with the basics of BJJ taught in MMA. You can also protect yourself better thanks to ground and pound striking.

However, it would be best if you only used your MMA abilities in one-on-one combat without weapons, which is hard to find these days on the streets.

Most street fighting situations involve several attackers, and knives or guns are not uncommon to find in a street brawl.  

When To Use BJJ In Street Fights?

BJJ is an excellent martial art to rely on when the fight goes to the ground. The variety of sweeps and submissions taught in BJJ can be a good defense against attackers of all shapes and sizes too.

This martial art is also great against opponents who are too aggressive. Using BJJ, you can use various techniques to subdue and hold on to opponents. 

It might not come with a striking arsenal, but once the fight gets up close, the fight becomes a BJJ practitioner’s world.

However, if you can use your BJJ in the street, don’t treat it as a tournament. Scramble and try to get up as soon as possible. Even better if you can escape using the nearest exit.

Sometimes the best position in the street is a transition position, and more often than not is better to stay in control than go for the submission. 

The Risks Of Both Martial Arts In A Street Fight

Ideally, you wouldn’t want to engage in a street fight regardless of how well trained you are in either of the disciplines. This is primarily because of a few important reasons:

  1. You never know what the other person is capable of or what weapons they are carrying.
  2. No martial art is really effective for multiple attackers.
  3. Many external factors can affect the outcome of a street fight.

Whether you train BJJ or MMA, you should try to avoid being the instigator in a street fight. Taking the high road might mean life and death in most cases. Even some professionals that end up in street fights get injured. What more can happen to a regular person who only trains in martial arts a few times a week?

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Which Is Better For Self-Defense? – BJJ Vs. MMA

As MMA is the complete martial art, it’s the better one to choose for self-defense. Again, this is entirely up to you. 

Just bear in mind that with MMA, you’ll be taught grappling and striking techniques at the same time. This makes you better equipped for various types of situations on the street.

If you’re a bit confused about what you should pick between the two, here are a few tips to help you choose.

How To Pick Between BJJ And MMA For Self Defense

It’s always a good idea to train in martial arts. For one, it helps you keep fit and well-disciplined. 

Another reason is that it’s always good to be capable of defending yourself in dangerous situations. If you’re torn between BJJ and MMA, here are a few factors to consider:

Tip #1 Consider which gyms are near you 

Training in a martial art can be tiring and, at times, challenging as well. By picking a nearby gym, it will be easier to visit and train regardless of how demanding your schedule may be.

Tip #2 Take trial classes for both

Most gyms today let you in on a trial class. That single class will be more than enough to tell you which martial art suits your needs and self-defense.

Tip #3 Study a gym’s credentials

Apart from picking a nearby gym, it would help if you also considered studying a gym’s background first. 

Please take a look at the instructors, as well as their facilities. Training isn’t free, and it’s important to know that you’re getting your money’s worth with your chosen gym.

Tip #4 Know your limits

Many would argue that MMA is more physically demanding than BJJ. It requires more strength and cardio. 

While your physical capabilities do improve over time, it’s still best to know what you’re capable of before you train in any martial art.

Tip #5 Both martial arts can go beyond self-defense

Bear in mind that BJJ and MMA aren’t just for self-defense. They’re for your growth and self-improvement, but they can also help you find competitive opportunities. 

By understanding this, you’ll see which martial art is better depending on what else it can give you in the future.

BJJ vs. MMA For Self Defense? – Final Word

In conclusion, both BJJ and MMA are excellent disciplines to train. However, if we’re asked which is better between the two, the obvious answer is MMA. 

Its complete arsenal of striking and grappling techniques makes it a better fit for self-defense as it makes you capable of defending yourself regardless of the situation.

If you like this article, don’t forget to share it on social media and leave a comment. 

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