At Gracie Barra, we are a Jiu-Jitsu studio, which to many people, is considered interchangeable with Karate other variations of martial arts. The difference between Karate and Jiu-Jitsu is a question that we often receive at our Santa Barbara gym, and we are always eager to explain the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu classes in comparison with the principles taught in Karate or other martial arts classes.


In order to help communicate to others interested in martial arts in Santa Barbara and beyond, we are dedicating this blog to breaking down the differences between the major martial arts classes there are available today. This way, you can ensure that when you enroll in a Jiu-Jitsu class at our studio in Santa Barbara, you will have a better idea of what to expect!



When talking about Karate — especially in the west, you often have to distinguish whether you’re talking about Karate: the martial arts discipline, or Karate: the catch-all term that refers to martial arts in general. While Karate is, in fact, its own style of self-defense, it became so popular in the west that it has become synonymous with martial arts in general, which is one reason why many Taekwondo dojos such as ours are often referred to as Karate studios.

Karate originated in Japan during a time where weapons were invaded, and people eventually mastered the art of unarmed combat.

Karate shares a lot of similarities to Taekwondo, which is another reason why the two are also associated with each other. Like Taekwondo, it’s a fairly well-rounded discipline that puts emphasis on kicks, punches, and blocks, and it is also focused on self-defense.

Unlike many other martial arts, Karate is more strike oriented. Despite the fact that there are a lot of kicks, you’ll be using your palm and fist more often in Karate, as it’s designed around quick, explosive, and powerful blows.



Jiu-Jitsu, along with a few other martial arts disciplines, is considered a “takedown” martial art, in which the main focus is suppressing your opponent, normally by getting them onto the ground (or mat). It’s a fighting style that’s designed around the idea of being able to defeat an armed and armored opponent, even if you have nothing. The main idea is using your opponent’s energy against them, attacking their center of gravity and getting them on the ground to a vulnerable state. Jiu-Jitsu can be ruthless once opponents are on the ground, and different variations of the discipline worldwide allow for more explosive attacks. Click here to learn more and get the full scoop on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the history of Gracie Barra.



Taekwondo is a newer form of martial art, being developed in the 1940s, and is a fairly balanced form of self-defense. Overall, it puts much more emphasis on kicks than other martial arts disciplines do — especially Jiu-Jitsu. Taekwondo will teach several punching and blocking techniques, but the art’s primary focus is on kicking. When most people think of Taekwondo, they think of the roundhouse kick — one of the most famous techniques made famous by Chuck Norris and other mainstream icons.



Santa Barbara Martial Arts Classes

Despite the fact that the main martial arts our studio emphasizes are Jiu-Jitsu classes, Muay Thai classes, and Kickboxing classes, there are interesting and enlightening philosophies in every discipline, and you’ll be able to have significant takeaways from every single one. This is why many famous martial artists are often trained in multiple disciplines!

Of course, for a beginner, there’s no form of martial arts that’s as well-rounded and beginner-friendly as Jiu-Jitsu, especially when you have the Gracie Barra instructors guiding you through the fundamentals. It is a self-defense style that can be incredibly simple or as deep as the Pacific Ocean. Best of all, once you’ve started, you’ll never truly stop learning and growing!

Are you ready to get started with martial arts classes? At our Jiu-Jitsu Studio located in downtown Santa Barbara, we offer sessions for every age group in both beginner and advanced levels. And if you don’t know if it’s your thing, no sweat! We offer free trial classes that will allow you to get a feel for the martial arts!