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Is BJJ Good for Self-Defense?

Is BJJ Good for Self-Defense?


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has long been considered one of the best martial arts in the world for self-defense.   Since the birth of this martial art, people have known of the effectiveness.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rose to international popularity among many people when Royce Gracie was able to display the effectiveness in the first few UFC events by defeating men that were much bigger and stronger than he was.  Jiu Jitsu also grew in popularity as people started to see the “Gracie Challenge” matches that were filmed.

The Gracie Challenges were basically matches where people who did not believe in the effectiveness of Jiu Jitsu would go into Gracie academies and challenge them to a no holds barred fight.  This always led to defeat for the challenger by choke or submission. At the time, Jiu Jitsu was nowhere near as popular as it is today and nobody had any idea how to fight on the ground.  Everyone who challenged the Gracie’s was defeated.  This also led to the popularity of the martial art. Many considered it the best martial art for self-defense.

Now time has progressed and people have started to think that jiu Jitsu is no longer as effective as it used to be.  Many people believe that it is no longer a martial art and it has become a sport where people practice techniques that are not effective for self-defense.  People also believe that Jiu Jitsu has lost its roots. Rickson Gracie is infamous for holding the belief that the essence of bjj is self-defense and people are neglecting that part of the martial art.  This has led to the question of is bjj still effective for self-defense? Check out this video on which positions work in bjj for self-defense and which don’t work.

This is a difficult question to answer and is up to speculation.  We believe that bjj is indeed still an extremely effective martial for self-defense.  The fundamentals of bjj still offer the practitioner enough knowledge to defend themselves on the street, people also have a much deeper level of technique, and people are still able to implement things that are used in sport in defense.

The Fundamental Concepts for Self Defense

In bjj the techniques have become more sport oriented.  This is due to the massive increase in popularity.  If we look at how many people used to practice bjj vs how many practice today, the numbers have increased exponentially.  These days there are millions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners.  This has led to more and more people competing and this has led to an increase in the competition.  People are getting better so the techniques utilized in competition are getting more and more complex and becoming more sport oriented.

This however does not mean that people cannot defend themselves in a self-defense scenario.  The complexity of successfully completing a berimbolo is very difficult.  For the most part, if someone is able to consistently use sport oriented techniques in the gym and in tournaments, they are more than likely able to defend themselves on the street.  For instance, if somebody like the Miyao Brothers, who are infamous for using sport oriented bjj, had a street altercation, they would easily be able to defend themselves.

The thing is, bjj is a science.  In this science, there are fundamental principles that almost everyone who participates in it learns.  These fundamentals are the guard, guard passing, pinning from positions like side mount, full mount, knee on belly, and also learning submissions.  These things are a must for anyone who does bjj.  This alone separates bjj practitioners from the vast majority of people.  99% of people don’t even know what guard is or how to shrimp.  Shrimping is a fundamental at almost every bjj academy and this simple movement could save your life.  Most ordinary people can’t shrimp.  Check out this cool over head sweep from guard, simple and effective.

What we are saying is that if someone just gets a blue belt in bjj even with no self-defense techniques, chances are that they can defend themselves against the average person assuming it is a one on one situation.  Most BJJ blue belts are able to submit people, pass guard, and do some escapes and sweeps.  This is far more than anybody on the street knows.  This is because bjj emphasizes high paced sparring so much.  Rolling is an enormous part of Jiu Jitsu. 

Rolling segregates bjj from almost every other martial art because it adds an element of realism.  For example, if a smaller blue belt is going against a larger blue belt, he has to sweep him while his opponent is resisting, and if he submits him, his opponent is more than likely offering real life resistance.  This makes it easy to subdue and opponent on the street.  They don’t know how to defend properly and most bjj practitioners have probably swept and submitted opponents in life like scenarios of resistance when rolling.

BJJ is to Complex

The complexity of bjj is much larger than any other martial art.  The bottom line is that almost everybody has a preconceived notion of how to throw a punch or kick.  This is why striking martial arts appear to a larger crowd.  People have a level of comfort almost immediately.  Although these martial arts are also very technical, it is not like bjj.  Nobody has a preconceived notion of how to grapple. The only natural human instinct is to head lock and this is easy to counter.

This leads to the complexity of bjj.  Everybody has their own Jiu Jitsu and learns techniques in a different way.  This leads to bjj being very complex.  There are so many elements to being able to successfully submit, sweep, or pass your opponents guard.  If you want to do a flower sweep from closed guard you have to move your hips, under hook your opponent’s leg, generate inertia, get the leverage and have the right timing.  There are many steps.  Than you add the fact that your opponent may know how to defend, things get more complex. Check out this arm bar series from guard and how technical it is.

This is what makes utilizing bjj on the street so easy.  You are doing moves on people that have no idea how to defend.  For example, if you are out with your family and some drunken guys is being reckless, maybe he touches your wife or kids inappropriately.  This leads to a self-defense altercation.  Let’s say that he somehow takes you down, all you need to know how to do is play a fundamental half guard.  Just an under hook can save your life.  Imagine this guy takes you to the ground, you get half guard and an under hook, come up to dog fight, now you take his back and apply a choke without throwing a punch just like in the academy.

This is what separates bjj from other martial arts.  Nobody who doesn’t do bjj will know that in bottom or top half guard they need an under hook.  So even if you don’t do specified bjj self-defense, you roll all the time and are able to subdue your opponent just because you know how to use an under hook and shrimp.

So yes bjj is still an extremely effective martial art for self-defense.  The only problem with bjj for self-defense is if you are being attacked by multiple opponents.  This makes bjj dangerous, this is because if you take someone down to the ground they may have a friend come and kick you in the head and things can get dangerous.  The two best weapons for self-defense are your mouth and your legs.  Try and talk the situation down and try and run.  If neither works, bjj can save your life.

If you want to learn some very old school and authentic bjj that will work for self-defense, BJJ Fanatics has some products for you.  Check out Luis Heredia’s 4 DVD Set “Pure Jiu Jitsu.”  In this DVD Set, you will learn some of, if not, the best fundamentals for bjj in the world.  Luis Heredia is one of Rickson Gracie’s Black Belts and was Rickson Gracie’s “Hitman.”  If anybody would show up to Ricksons School to challenge him they had to go through Luis and none of them made it…

If that is not up your alley you can also check out original bjj Bad Ass Chris Haueter’s DVD Set “Old School Efficient BJJ.”  Chris Haueter has been in the bjj game for so long and still holds true to the roots of bjj as a method of self-defense.

Enjoy reading about self-defense techniques? then consider checking other blogs:


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