BJJ vs. Taekwondo (Which Is Better?)

Few fighting styles are as different as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and taekwondo. The few common things are that both have a well-developed competition scene and a similar traditional uniform. The differences are numerous, but what are the most significant ones?

BJJ is a methodical grappling martial art focused on overcoming opponents on the ground through superior positioning and painful submission holds. Taekwondo is a fast-paced, striking combat sport almost entirely focused on kicks.

Despite the vast differences, BJJ and TKD are still combat sports, which means they will inevitably be compared in self-defense and MMA effectiveness. But we go further than that and cover all the differences and similarities, so you can be more educated on the topic after you go through the whole article.

What Is BJJ

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a grappling martial art and combat sport developed in Brazil and has reached worldwide popularity. BJJ focuses on ground fighting, where you can control, incapacitate, or force someone to submit through technique, leverage, and body mechanics.

The history of Brazilian jiu-jitsu starts in Japan, where Jigoro Kano created Kano jiu-jitsu, which would later become known as Judo. One of his top students, Mitsuyo Maeda, traveled to Brazil, passing his skills and knowledge to Carlos Gracie and his brothers.

They modified and adapted Judo to the point where it became a different style, focusing more on ground fighting and less on throws and takedowns.

BJJ gradually gained popularity, first in Brazil and then in the USA, but the big explosion came in the 1990s after Royce Gracie won the first few UFC events and showcased the power of BJJ to the world.

Since then, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has been integral to mixed martial arts and evolved into a highly developed and hugely popular grappling combat sport.

What Is Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean striking martial art and an Olympic sport. The style emphasizes almost exclusively kicks, is fast-paced, and is highly attractive to watch thanks to its flashy, acrobatic kicks.

Taekwondo was developed in the 1950s as a synthesis of various Korean martial arts practiced for centuries, Chinese martial arts, and karate.

The first recognized taekwondo school was established in Korea in 1955. Over the next few decades, taekwondo gained worldwide popularity, particularly after it was added as a demonstration sport to the 1988 Seoul Olympics and has been a full Olympic event since 2000.

Today, there are two types of taekwondo: Olympic Taekwondo and the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). Aside from popularity, the main distinction is that punches to the head are permitted in the ITF, but not with full contact.

Key Differences Between BJJ And Taekwondo

Taekwondo vs BJJ

Rules And Objectives

As with all combat sports, the rules define the entire sport and determine the speed, techniques, tactics, and overall aesthetic. So here are the most important rules and features of BJJ and TKD.

Key Features Of BJJ

  • Competition BJJ is a grappling-only contest with no striking allowed.
  • Matches can be won by submission or on points earned through acquiring and holding dominant positions (side control, mount back mount, etc.), finishing takedowns, and threatening with submissions.
  • Submissions include a multitude of joint locks and chokes
  • Match length varies between 5 and 10 minutes, but no time limit matches exist.
  • There are two distinct versions of sports BJJ- gi and no-gi.

Key Features Of Olympic Taekwondo

  • Striking only. All forms of holding are banned.
  • Punches to the trunk protector are allowed, while punches to the head are not.
  • Matches are full contact and can be won via a knockout or on points.
  • The length of a match is 3×2-minute rounds.
  • Punches to the body score only 1 point, while kicks score more depending on the target it lands and the quality of the kick. Kicks to the head score more than kicks to the body, and turning kicks score the highest.


BJJ is all about ground fighting, and the two main groups of techniques are positions and submissions. The six main positions in BJJ are guard, side control, knee on belly, mount, back mount, and turtle. Each provides different opportunities for the person on top and bottom. The main positions also have variations.

BJJ includes many submissions, including chokes, joint locks, spinal twists, and neck cranks. Even painful holds and positions that are not submissions can force an opponent to tap out.

BJJ’s most popular submission holds are the bow and arrow choke, rear naked choke, guillotine choke, armbar, heel hook, Americana, and Kimura arm locks.

Taekwondo is an entirely kick-centric combat sport. The Olympic version does not allow punching to the head, and punches to the body are poorly scored, making the game like fencing with legs.

But what makes TKD even more attractive and entertaining is the higher scoring of jumping and spinning kicks, making taekwondo competitors agile and athletic, comparable to gymnasts.


Being two polar opposites, BJJ and TKD have different equipment used in training and competition, but they also have similarities in the uniform.

The BJJ gi and the taekwondo dobok are derived from the Japanese kimono and include a cotton top, drawstring pants, and a colored belt, which also denotes the wearer’s rank. But this is where the similarities end.

BJJ competitors only use mouthguards as protective equipment, while in taekwondo, the list is much longer and includes:

  • Head guard
  • Mouthguard
  • Chest guard called a hogu
  • Shin pads and foot socks
  • Hand gloves
  • Forearm guards

It’s also interesting to note the protectors used in TKD competition have electronics in them that are used to determine the scoring by marking successfully landed strikes and their power. This removes the subjective scoring and judging errors inherent to striking combat sports.

In the other version of BJJ, called no-gi, the apparel includes rash guards on top and BJJ fight shorts on the bottom without using the kimono. Practitioners also use optional protective and supportive equipment like knee pads, braces, elbow pads, and groin cups.

BJJ vs Taekwondo For MMA

BJJ vs Taekwondo For MMA

BJJ is the clear winner in the comparison between the two in terms of effectiveness for mixed martial arts. Brazilian jiu-jitsu covers the ground fighting aspect of MMA, which is nearly half of the overall game.

The positions and submissions are critical for every fighter, at least from a defensive standpoint. While BJJ is not the only grappling style found in MMA, it’s the most important one.

On the other hand, taekwondo can and has been used effectively in MMA by many fighters. But it’s just one of the many striking approaches one could use, and it’s not as fundamental as boxing or Muay Thai.

Some great fighters like Yair Rodriguez and Anthony Pettis use the footwork and a diverse taekwondo kicking game. Still, they also must learn BJJ to compete in the octagon, while BJJ masters transitioning into MMA need decent striking, but not necessarily by using taekwondo.

So Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a fundamental style that every MMA fighter must learn. While taekwondo can be a great base style for MMA, it is just one of many possible striking disciplines.

BJJ vs Taekwondo For Self-Defense

Although BJJ is better than taekwondo for self-defense, the answer is not as clear-cut as in the MMA comparison. BJJ was created for self-defense and is unrivaled in one-on-one fights when we exclude MMA, which combines many styles, including BJJ. But self-defense situations are rarely one-on-one, and there are too many variables to account for.

Jiu-jitsu allows you to control an opponent, incapacitate him, or hold him without causing significant damage, but going to the ground on the street has many drawbacks, like if the opponent has a weapon or there are multiple attackers. Taking the fight to the ground also means more commitment and a smaller chance to escape quickly.

TKD, as a striking style, has the advantage in certain situations where keeping your distance or dealing a quick, debilitating strike is the best course of action.

The distance management and speed of taekwondo practitioners can be perfect for those situations. But kicks are also risky; they can be caught or missed, you can slip on something, there might not be enough space, or you can even wear clothing that prevents high kicks. Punches are usually the best weapons on the street, and TKD has very poor punching.

So, while taekwondo can help you in some self-defense situations, it has rather limited use, while BJJ is far superior for real-world situations despite some limitations.

Who Wins A Fight Between BJJ vs Taekwondo

is jiu jitsu better than taekwondo

Most of the time, a fight between a pure grappler and a pure striker looks the same: the grappler closes the distance, even if he takes a punch or two, takes the fight down, and dominates. Early MMA had proven this, and many street fight videos on the internet reinforce this fact.

Strikers usually have a puncher’s chance against a grappler, and as I’ve pointed out multiple times, punches are not the strength of taekwondo guys. Hence, the possibility of them winning against a BJJ practitioner is slim.

BJJ vs Taekwondo: Which Is Better?

Both styles are hugely popular, which wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t have many great qualities that appeal to so many people. So while BJJ is better across the board, this is a relatively subjective assessment, and TKD is also a great martial art with a lot to offer its practitioners. To summarize the whole article, here are the general pros and cons of each style:

BJJ Pros

  • Effective for self-defense, especially against larger and stronger opponents
  • It teaches how to control and submit an opponent on the ground, where most fights end.
  • Develops mental toughness, resilience, and problem-solving skills
  • Promotes a healthy lifestyle, fitness, and weight loss

Taekwondo Pros

  • Highly Impressive for demonstrations with its acrobatic and flashy kicks
  • Develops confidence, discipline, and respect
  • It offers a fun and dynamic way to exercise and relieve stress
  • Provides opportunities to compete in local, national, and international tournaments

BJJ Cons

  • The beginning is intimidating due to the vast amount of information and skills you need to learn.
  • It can be rough on the joints, muscles, and skin.
  • It can be expensive and time-consuming to train regularly and progress in rank.
  • It is not effective against multiple opponents or armed attackers

Taekwondo Cons

  • It can be unrealistic and ineffective for self-defense, especially against grapplers or street fighters.
  • Traditional forms can get rigid and repetitive
  • It carries a risk of head, brain, and spine trauma