Let’s face it, it’s a dangerous world out there, so it’s wise to begin studying a martial art in order to keep yourself and others safe in times of peril — it’s an easy decision to make.
What isn’t such an easy decision to make is which martial art to focus on.
The options are practically endless. However, two remarkably popular disciplines among martial arts enthusiasts at the moment are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
If you’re among those enamored with these ferocious martial forms, you’re probably having a tough time choosing between them, so let’s put each discipline under the microscope.
MMA: The Lowdown
As the name suggests, MMA is an amalgamation of multiple different martial arts, which isn’t to say you have to master every single constituent art used in MMA, but that it’s a discrete discipline that borrows from numerous sources.
In contest, MMA has the fewest rules of any other martial art. Apart from a few essentials, pretty much anything goes — Strikes with any limb, throws, chokes, joint locks… literally kicking someone when they’re down.
In part, it’s this comparative lawlessness and ferocity that has seen MMA skyrocket in popularity in the few decades since its inception. Currently, MMA is the fastest growing sport on a global scale, so it’s no surprise that you’re interested.
Although MMA is quite nebulous by definition, generally speaking, it combines the kicks of karate and Muay Thai, the grappling and throws of judo and wrestling, and the devastating submissions of BJJ (You might also want to check out Karate VS. MMA: Which Is Better?).
But, really, anything that works can be thrown into the martial melting pot.
Being that MMA draws from such diverse sources, you need to hone your body in a number of ways and start learning skills that run the MMA gambit.
BJJ: The Lowdown
Jiu jitsu was created in Japan, but when judo master Mitsuo Maeda brought the discipline to the sunny shores of Brazil in the 20s, the natives that studied it, particularly Carlos Gracie, gradually morphed it into a related yet distinctly new martial art — Brazilian jiu jitsu!
Similar to Judo, BJJ is a highly refined martial art based almost entirely around grappling, with the primary objective being to coax submission using chokes or joint locks.
It’s an overtly defensive style, designed to punish the aggression of larger, stronger opponents using leverage, technique, and momentum.
Although a relatively new discipline (not quite as new as MMA), there are still some traditional aspects to BJJ, such as the use of a belt ranking system and the quintessential Karate and Judo uniform, the gi.
At its core, BJJ is all about preparing the user for confrontation in the real world against untrained opponents (or those trained in other martial arts), but in contest, it’s a grueling clash of strength and intelligence as two skilled fighters try to outwit and out-grapple one another.
The absence of striking in a sporting context, however, does pose something of a chink in the armor of BJJ, as a confrontation with an untrained or MMA opponent would require knowledge of kicks, punches and elbow strikes.
BJJ Vs. MMA: The Pros & Cons
BJJ and MMA share some overlap in that grappling and submission are essential aspects of both disciplines, but on a larger scale, they are very different arts, so let’s break down the pros and cons of each style.
The Pros Of MMA
Jack of all trades
MMA is undoubtedly the most well-rounded and effective martial art in any given situation. The combined aspects of its various sources mean you’ll be equipped to handle anything that’s thrown at you.
Much like the thinking behind Bruce Lee’s amalgamated Jeet Kune Do, the key tenet of MMA is that no individual style will keep you safe all of the time, but combining the best of all the styles just might.
Bolstered physical strength and resilience
As the broadest style available, the varied training will hone your physical condition in a way no individual style could, meaning your overall athleticism and health will be optimized.
The Cons Of MMA
Master of none
If you choose MMA, you have to accept the fact that you may never master any one discipline. As evidenced by the recent boxing match between Conor Mcgregor and Floyd Mayweather, in a specialist arena, the master will always come out on top.
Sure, MMA is becoming its own thing, and you’ll be equipped to handle yourself incredibly well as a fighter, but you have to sacrifice a certain amount of glory and respect by operating outside the bounds of long-established arts.
You should only learn martial arts as a form of defense and a means of staying fit, yet MMA is notoriously violent and bloodthirsty, and thus, the training can often get quite brutal.
The Pros Of BJJ
Not as bloody
Although joint lock or choke can indeed be brutal, BJJ is far less violent than MMA. It’s more about measured body control than it is about destroying an opponent with any means necessary. In light of this, training is comparatively painless.
No age restrictions
BJJ training is similar to yoga in that it’s beneficial to all age groups. MMA, on the other hand, should not be practiced by the very young or elderly.
Deeper culture and philosophies
The older arts are rife with cultural significance and life-affirming philosophies, something that you simply won’t get when studying MMA. With BJJ, you’ll be immersing yourself in a lifestyle developed over centuries.
Master of one
BJJ is a specialist martial art, and when you study it, you’re on the path to becoming a master, revered in your field.
The Cons Of BJJ
Jack of no trades
Of course the drawback of specializing is that you won’t be trained in any other of the many martial arts that fall under the MMA umbrella.
Being that you’ll only be executing one style, you’re unlikely to become as toned across the board.
Which Is Best For Self Defense?
Both BJJ and MMA are fantastic for self defense, but MMA definitely wins this round by a nose, as it prepares you to defend against and counter more forms of aggression.
MMA Fighter Vs. BJJ Fighter: Who’d Come Out On Top?
Due to the skilled striking of an MMA fighter and the fact they’re trained to resist counter grapples as well, a specialist BJJ fighter probably wouldn’t fare too well in a no-holds-barred fight.
That said, in a specialist arena with BJJ rules, the BJJ fighter would win every single time.
Final Thoughts: Which Is Right For You?
Nobody can answer this question for you. You’ll need to consider everything we discussed here today and come up with your own solution.
And remember, you don’t have to stick with something if you’re not enjoying it. If you start MMA and feel you’d prefer BJJ, just make the switch, and vice versa.