September 4, 2022

Taekwondo vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Differences and Effectiveness

The process of choosing between any martial art form is probably one of the toughest decisions a person has to make. This is also because of the lack of exposure in knowing how each martial art differs from the other.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art form that focuses more on kicking the opponent from various angles. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art form from Japan that emphasizes more on grappling and takedown to force the opponent into submission. Surprisingly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has fewer forms than Taekwondo.

It is common knowledge that learning any martial art is highly beneficial, but eventually, it all comes down to the needs of an individual. Let me be the bearer of everything that you need to know before you decide and finalize.

Tracing the History

Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are poles apart from each other. The former is based on striking techniques while the latter on grappling techniques. Before we start going in detail about the technicalities of the two, let’s get a brief idea about how they came about to be.


If we go by the legends, it is often argued that Jiu Jitsu originated in India and then found its way to Japan, where it was given its shape and developed further. At the turn of the 15th century, Ju-Jitsu was born in the Sengoku period of Japan and was used as a battlefield art by the samurai. They practised self-defense and relied on close combat, relying on joint locks, throws, and strangles along with other striking martial arts they trained.

The national sport of South Korea, Taekwondo, was given its form in the mid-1900s but is believed to have originated 2300 years ago. The three ancient kingdoms called Koguryo (37 BC-668 AD), Pakje (18 BC-600 AD), and Silla (57 BC- 936 AD) practised it as a form of self-defense. Due to the turbulent history of Korea and the numerous times it had to be the victim of foreign occupation, Taekwondo, too, felt some dents.


Jiu Jitsu practitioner Jigoro Kano’s disciple Mitsuo Maeda emigrated to Brazil after learning from his master. There, in return for immigration help, he trained the sons of a Brazilian politician called George Gracie. The sons went on to develop their own variations to the art, and that is how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is practised by millions of people around the globe today.

After the second world war, when Korea gained independence from Japanese occupation, a pioneer of Taekwondo named Choi Hong-hi spread the martial art form. It then grew tremendously in popularity after the establishment of a Taekwondo federation. This is how it travelled around the world and soared in fan establishment. 


For the practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, training is their way of life, which they practise religiously. They are taught about being the support system and giving back to the community. The philosophy of Jiu Jitsu revolves around humility, empathy towards everyone and selfless behaviour.

The philosophy of Taekwondo goes beyond just physical training. The lessons taught revolve around mental fortitude and spiritual solitude. The five tenets of Taekwondo include In-nae (perseverance), Yeom-chi (integrity), Ye-ui (courtesy), Geuk-gi (self-control), and Baek-jeol-bul-gul (indomitable spirit). 


The predominant focus of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is on submission. The practitioner uses grappling to take down the opponent without using much energy. Taekwondo is all about how powerful the kicks can be and how precisely you can hit your opponent.

The list mentioned below comprises of the main techniques that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu uses:

  • Strangulation / Choke Holds – The use of chokeholds such as Arm triangle, Lapel Chokes while wearing a gi (kimono), Rear naked choke (RNC), Guillotine Choke, Triangle Choke, among others.
  • Takedown and Throws – The techniques of BJJ, especially the grappling part, is very similar to what is taught in Wrestling or Judo. In order to pin the opponent to the ground, BJJ actively uses takedowns and throws.
  • Joint Lock – A wide range of joint locks, including shoulder locks, foot locks, arm bars, kimura, America or keylock, are taught to a BJJ fighter.
  • Striking – BJJ teaches striking techniques as well somewhat similar to Muay Thai.

The list mentioned below comprises of the main techniques that Taekwondo uses:

  • Roundhouse Kicks – Very fast kicks in which the lower shin on the feet is used to strike the opponent’s body.
  • Front kick (Ap Chagi) – A mixture of fast and slow motion using the ball of the foot to strike the opponent. The knee should be high and the weight travelling forward.
  • Turning Kick (Dollyo Chagi) – Using the foot’s instep to attack the opponent while keeping the body upright and in a side stance. The important thing is to bring back the foot after striking the opponent quickly.
  • Side Kick (Yeop Chagi) – A short-range and powerful kick using the heels to strike the opponent.
  • Punches – Used as a backup to complement the kicks. A punch technique called “ridge hand” is often used.
  • Spinning / Jumping Kicks – the most powerful kicks which can defeat the opponent within seconds.

Submission techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  • Armbar – This is probably one of the toughest techniques when it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It may seem a bit difficult to learn, but once you are able to master it, you will easily hyperextend the joints of the elbow and the ligaments of your opponent.
  • Triangle Choke – If you are blessed with long legs, then till is an excellent move. You can cut off the air supply of your opponent by wrapping your legs around them and hence forcing them into submission.
  • Guillotine Choke – This is a relatively simpler trick and taught to a novice or a beginner. You have to wait for the right moment, and when the opponent looks for an angle to take you down all the while exposing his neck, then Guillotine choke is used.
  • Americana or American Key Lock – Suitable move for a novice; it emphasizes attacking the shoulder and elbows joint of your opponent. It is very effective, as well.

There are no submission techniques in Taekwondo as it has no contact with the ground and does not involve grappling or takedown techniques.


Different schools of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have different styles. The most prevalent three types of BJJ are listed below:

  • MMA Jiu Jitsu – The famous UFC fight which everyone is crazy about, yes the Conor Mcgregor and Khabib one – where you have to defend strikes while working to subdue the opponent.
  • Gi Jiu Jitsu – Gi means kimono, and in this type of BJJ, you have to practise in a kimono. Techniques involved makes the use of the opponent’s gi against them.
  • No Gi Jiu Jitsu – Does not involve the use of gi or a kimono; faster and more athletic style were grabbing the opponent’s cloth is prohibited.

Different schools of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have different styles. The most prevalent three types of BJJ are listed below:

  • World Taekwondo Federation (WTF)
  • American Taekwondo Association (ATA)
  • International Taekwondo Federation (ITF)
  • Kukkiwon
  • Global Taekwondo Federation
  • Jhoon Rhee Forms

Weapons in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Taekwondo

Both these martial art forms don’t use weapons in their combat training. The main focus is on defense techniques and how to do that without getting hurt. Although, of late, some federations and schools of Taekwondo have started teaching the students in the use of full staff, etc. 

Belt Ranking System

Belts are a very important significant part of the stage in any martial arts. It is important to maintain the hierarchy, and thus both Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu graduate from white to black belt.

There are intermediate colours in between, but black is the top most level. In BJJ, belts work differently for kids and adults. After reaching the age of 15 or 16, a kid can graduate to the system of adult belts. 

Which is More Effective in Street Fight?

And the winner is…..

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!

Any form of martial arts that involves grappling and takedowns will win with the ones who don’t. Taekwondo does not use any grappling techniques whatsoever. The distance also plays a key role in deciding the answer. 

If faced against an opponent who knows BJJ or Judo, Taekwondo fighters are sure to lose. Taekwondo might be great while a person is standing, but it is very tough for a person to escape from the clutch when pinned to the ground.

It is not humanly possible to kick while pinned to the ground!

Taekwondo practitioners, because of just the utilization of kicks, are left exposed in many vital areas. The arm placement supports the argument whence the chest, and the sides remain bare. In real – life altercations, there are no rules. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches a person to defend without the chance of getting hurt.

Hence, it is very evident that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has the edge over Taekwondo.

Brazilian Jiu jitsu bjj black belt teaching class t

Which is Better for Self-Defense?

Where it is street fighting or the question of self-defense, very few martial arts can defeat Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

This does not mean that we are trying to belittle any other form of martial arts like Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Kung fu, Karate, etc.. The knowledge of any of these will come in handy even if you are not able to defeat your attacker, you will surely be able to escape. Period.

However, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is credited for being the best martial arts and vouched for being the most reliable in cases of self-defense. The reason is that BJJ focuses on the importance of technique. Every move is carefully calculated and then taught.

There is less focus on athleticism, and it is believed that even the people who are comparatively smaller in the height group can defend themselves using the techniques of BJJ. In an original UFC fight, a puny Royce Grace defeated the mighty and very strong and big Ken Shamrock.

Of course, you are not getting in a confrontation with Ken Shamrock! Or are you?

The roundhouse kicks in Taekwondo can harm the opponent significantly, but there is nothing like the grappling techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In any case, I am reiterating that the knowledge of any martial art is better than nothing as it will make you aware, if not anything.

But when it comes to self-defense, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is clearly winning.

Which is More Popular?

Here is a representation of the popularity of both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Taekwondo over a span of five years in the United States. The figurative graph pretty much speaks for itself.

The red line denotes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu while the blue line denotes Taekwondo. As we can see, BJJ has consistently remained more popular among the masses over the years. 

There might be many reasons for it being so hugely popular, but the most important one is that BJJ is probably the best form of self-defense in comparison to other martial arts. There is a strong sense of community and warmth that BJJ philosophies.

Another important reason is that there is no age limit. Whether you are five years old or sixty-five years old, if your body permits, you can start learning it anytime. It teaches a child to focus and thus can be a very important trigger in their overall development.

Which is Easier to Learn?

There is no denying the fact that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu takes much more time to learn. Hence the answer to this question will be Taekwondo.

A Taekwondo practitioner can become comfortable with the basics within a time frame of six to ten months. In order to reach the black belt in Taekwondo, fighters must invent three to five years of utmost dedication and sincerity.

When it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it takes double the time of Taekwondo. Talking in terms of reaching the black belt, a BJJ practitioner will take at least ten years. Hence, it is tougher to learn in comparison.

Cost Comparison

Taekwondo lessons cost around $100 to &150 per month. For the whole course, until you reach a black belt, the total cost comes to $6000 to $9000 for a duration of five years. On the other hand, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is much more expensive, taking into account the monthly cost and the duration of the course.

The BJJ lessons cost somewhere around $100 to $200 per month, which, when totalled, comes to $12000 to $24000 for the whole course.

What One Should You Learn?

It is very important to try, learn and research before you commit.

Both Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are highly respectable martial art forms. The emphasis is on teaching self-defense and building the overall character of its practitioners. They teach habits like looking out for the ones in need, helping others, being empathetic, etc. 

Ultimately the decision is yours, but it is crucial to understand the art and understand your needs. This is not going to be a child’s play that you pick when you like and leave when you don’t. 

You have to have the three D’s – determination, devotion and dedication in order to succeed. Search within yourself, evaluate, weigh the pros and cons and visit nearby schools to get more information about the two.

Ask yourself if you and your body are ready for this investment. Whatever you decide, just remember:

Time once gone will never come back. Then why wait?

More Comparisons

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

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