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Karate Compared to Jiu-Jitsu

by Matt Levito

Shotokan and Striking Martial Arts Compared to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Ground Based Systems

There is often discussion about which is the most "effective" martial arts style. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has gained popularity today as a practical self defense system. So how does it compare to Shotokan?

With BJJ or any other ground based art, first you have to get your "single" opponent on the ground. Then you have to be able to execute the technique almost perfectly in order for it to work. Having said that, if your encounter takes you to the ground, usually the bigger, stronger person will win. And if you are lucky enough to be good enough to overcome the attacker, you'd have to hurt him bad enough so he could not continue to fight. That means breaking something or knocking him out. And then you hope that while on the ground and before you can get to your feet he doesn't have any friends who will kick you and stomp on you while you try to execute your submission or break or choke hold.

A BJJ fighter tries to get his opponent into his kill zone - the ground. A Shotokan practitioner tries to keep the fight off the ground, while remaining just far enough away from the opponent to take away the chance of going to the ground. Footwork - the ability to evade and dodge an attack - keeps you off the ground. For any style in a real fight you have two objectives: the first is to stop your opponent and make him unable to continue the assault; the second is to stop your opponent long enough for you to escape.

That is why when sparring you must commit fully to a do-or-die attack and attack with everything you've got, but with control. Don't think of getting hit or what you will follow up this technique with. Think of having only one bullet in a gun and a tiger is charging you. You won't get a second chance. You must make take your shot at the most opportune time.

Having said all of this, you must be able to deliver a certain degree of force via a punch or a kick. Force = Mass x Acceleration. What you lack in speed you can make up in mass, and what you lack in mass you can make up in speed. However it is my opinion that gaining speed is a finite activity. You will only be able to get so fast. The best way is to maximize both mass and speed. Gaining strength adds mass (muscle) and speed (muscle to deliver that mass quicker). In addition, flexibility, pain tolerance and hardened striking surfaces (knuckles, knife hand, shins, forearms) will complement your delivery of that force.

If you really want to be able to defend yourself sufficiently, the best way is to never become a victim. Attitude, body language, and anticipating and staying out of potentially dangerous situations keep you from becoming a victim. But once you have become a victim, you want to be able stop the attack or run away.

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