Karate vs BJJ- What’s The Difference And Similarities

Karate vs BJJ- What’s The Difference And Similarities

When you are talking about martial arts, probably the most famous one out there has to be Karate. We’ve all seen the movies! Karate has got to be one of the most famous ones, heavily popularized in Hollywood. But often times, people can get martial arts mixed up especially since their uniforms are so similar to each other!   

This is especially so with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! From the outside looking in, it can be easily misconstrued as the same type of martial art – but they couldn’t be any more different!   

Karate being a traditional martial art that consists of striking with punches and kicks. BJJ on the other hand is a grappling based martial art that teaches controlling and submitting opponents on the ground.   

Even though they are completely different from each other, both are very respectable martial arts that can prove to be beneficial in their own right. Both teach focus, discipline, and people that start training each turn into happier and healthy martial artists. 

Let’s break down the similarities and differences between Karate vs BJJ. We’ll see how these polar-opposite martial arts match up and see which is the more effective. 

Origins of Karate

When you think of martial arts in Japan one of the first you automatically think of is Karate. The term Karate in Japanese means ‘open hand’ and was developed during the late 1800s.  

Karate has a lot of influences from different Japanese islands and a few chinese martial arts. One of the first martial arts that Karate was derived from was a hand fighting style used by Ryukyu Island natives.  

Later Chinese families that knew Kenpo and a little bit of other Kung Fu styles settled in Okinawa. During the late 1800s, the government banned use of weapons in Okinawa, which helped start the development of Karate.  

One of the innovators of Karate is Itoso Anko, who is considered the grandfather of Karate. In 1905, he introduced Karate into the physical education programs in Okinawan schools.  

Anko went on to further his legacy and taught numerous students and most notably three Karate masters. Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Motobu Choki.  

Funakoshi went on to develop Shotokan Karate and is considered the father of modern Karate. Since its creation, Karate has become one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world.   

Karate vs BJJ

Origins of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

For those that don’t already know or need a refresher. The mainstream story of the birth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is connected with the Gracie family. Particularly brothers Carlos and Hélio Gracie.  

Their father Gastão Gracie, befriended Judo master Matsuyo Maeda and helped him immigrate to Brazil. Maeda was one of the first to introduce Judo to Brazil and Carlos was one of his first students.  

After a few years of training Judo under Maeda, Carlos showed his brother Hélio some techniques he learned. Unfortunately, Hélio was small and frail in stature and couldn’t do many of the Judo moves that required strength.  

So, the Gracie brothers started to develop their own style of grappling. Based off the moves of Judo, but more based on ground attacks than throws.  

It was designed for smaller people to be able to fight larger opponents. Relying on leverage to sweep and submit their opponents.  

It was their form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu they called Gracie Jiu Jitsu. For decades, they would help craft one of the best self defense systems ever created. 

Karate vs BJJ

Similarities Between Karate and BJJ

There are really only three similarities between these two martial arts. The first is that the roots of both martial arts can be traced back to Japan. BJJ was created in Brazil, but was inspired by Judo and Japanese Jiu Jitsu.  

The second similarity is that both have a colored belt system to signify rank of a student. Their color ranks are different, but both beginner belts are white and a black belt marks the end of the colored belts.  

Both also have Gis as their official uniforms. The Karate Gi is lighter, while the BJJ Gi is thicker and made for grappling. 

The Difference Between Karate and BJJ

You could probably write a book on Karate vs BJJ. But for this article, we’ll just list the most obvious differences between the two martial arts. 

Differing Objectives

The objectives of BJJ and Karate are totally different from one another. The objective of Karate is strictly a self defense martial art that relies on strikes from the standing position.   

Nearly all of the techniques in Karate are counter attacks to an opponent’s attack. Throwing an array of punches, kicks, and knees to immobilize their opponent or attacker.  

BJJ’s objective relies completely on ground fighting to subdue an opponent. Getting an opponent to the ground with a takedown, throw, or tripsimilar to that of Judo. After that, the objective is to control the opponent on the ground and work to get a submission. 

Training Differences Of Each Class

There are different training formats between a Karate class and a BJJ class. Both are usually broken up into three parts consisting of different types of training.  

In a traditional Karate class, the class is broken up for training Kihon(fundamentals), Kata(forms), and Kumite(sparring).  

A BJJ class is also generally done in three parts consisting of warm ups, technique, and rolling(sparring). 

Karate vs BJJ

Belt System

Both martial arts have belt systems, but there are distinct differences between each one. The Karate belt system has 9 belts and BJJ only has 5.  

Karate Belts:  

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Red Black

BJJ Belts: 

  • White
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black

Rules Of Each Competitions

A traditional Karate sparring competition consists of three 2-minute rounds. It is almost full contact except, there are no punches allowed to the face, elbows, or strikes below the waist. You can win by points, getting a lead of 8 points, KO, or DQ.  

BJJ competitions consist of 1 round that is between 5 and 10 minutes depending on your belt class and experience level. Competitors get points for takedowns, sweeps, and getting dominant positions. You can win a match by submission, points, or DQ. 

Benefits of Cross Training BJJ And Karate

As MMA has gotten more popular it is very common for martial artists to cross train between Karate and BJJ. To be a complete martial artist, you need to know how to strike and grapple. Training in both of the disciplines will help you achieve this.  

There are many fantastic fighters that train in both Karate and MMA. Two in particular are Lyoto Machida and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. They have a background in Karate and gradually added BJJ training to improve their overall game.  

Karate vs BJJ - Which Is Better?

Karate is a fantastic martial art that is fantastic to learn, but the edge has to go to BJJ. Statistically all fights generally go to the ground. You may start off standing, but eventually, the fight ends up with at least one fighter down on the floor. This is why it is really important that you know how to defend yourself on the ground.  

As for Karate vs BJJ as we’ve seen numerous times, BJJ generally beats Karate. It has been documented in many Gracie Challenge contests, where trained Jiu Jitsu artists easily beat Karate practitioners. The BJJ practitioners took the Karate practitioners down with ease, neutralizing their striking abilities.  

Also in the early days of the UFC, we saw Royce Gracie easily take Karate experts down and submit them. Karate is great for striking, but its lack of grappling gives BJJ the edge. 


Final Thoughts

Karate and BJJ are both respectable martial arts that you can learn a lot from. They each have a ton of benefits and lessons you can absorb. To be a complete martial artist, you need to know how to strike, while also how to fight on the ground.  

You can achieve this by cross training in both of these disciplines. The precise striking of Karate and effective grappling in BJJ will definitely help you be a more complete martial artist! Train Hard! Roll Safe!