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What are the Benefits of Taekwondo over Brazilian Jiujutsu for Self Defense?

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I once had someone interested in self defense ask me, “What are the benefits of taekwondo over BJJ?”  You could substitute any art names in there, such as, “What are the benefits of kung fu over MMA?” or “What are the benefits of tai chi over karate?”  It’s a very common question.  Common answers tend to go into lectures about strategy or techniques or even dubious statistics about how many fights go to the ground.

Any serious martial artist, when faced with a question like that, will be tempted to extol the virtues of their favorite style.  When I was asked about the benefits of taekwondo over BJJ, it certainly would have been easy for me to go on at length about how taekwondo seeks to end an altercation as early as possible, by striking before grips can be established, by constantly moving to keep striking options open.  In the case that the distance is closed and an attacker grabs hold, we teach escaping.  Fighting on the ground is taught for the very worst case scenario—when you have already failed in the earlier stages of the altercation.

It would be very easy for me to rant about that, but any such answer is going to be incomplete at best.  Violence, and therefore self defense, and even individual martial arts styles, are simply too broad a topic to be adequately addressed in those terms.

This was my answer instead.

The style of martial art you eventually go with shouldn’t matter.  I say “shouldn’t” because sometimes unfortunately it does matter.  I teach traditional taekwondo, so it’s a little different from what most people think of when they hear “taekwondo.”  Taekwondo is known for its kicking and other striking techniques, and some schools teach only that.  However if you really study taekwondo in depth, you’ll find a complete art that includes striking, joint locks, throws, and grappling.

It’s the same in most arts, including BJJ.  BJJ is known for its ground game, and certainly there are schools that only teach that.  But if you trace BJJ’s history through Japan, Japanese jiujitsu is also known for its ground work, but traditionally it also includes striking, joint locks and throws.  Like taekwondo, the paring down to a limited skill set is a modern invention.  A traditional school will likely have a broader curriculum.

With rare exceptions, any style can be a superficial summary or a complete art.  It depends entirely on the instructor and how they teach.  BJJ is a great choice.  Personally I prefer taekwondo, which is also a great choice.  But really, the best martial art is the one you train in—the one you get good at and learn to apply.

That’s why Martial Journeys of Madison allows people to try out taekwondo with a free class or intro evaluation—to see if this is the right art and the right school for you. Most reputable martial arts schools will do this. Some will welcome inquiries even if you are not looking to sign up. Obviously I can’t speak for any other school, but if you contact Martial Journeys of Madison for any reason, I’d love to hear from you.


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