One of the most controversial Brazilian JiuJitsu debates centers around the idea of training purely for self-defense or training to compete in tournaments with defined rules and whether the two are mutually exclusive.
JiuJitsu great, Ryan Hall, was asked about the people who claim that training JiuJitsu for competition makes you less able to defend yourself because you train in techniques that are not useful in a real, self-defense situation. Hall responded
Those people are wrong, to be frank. Anyone who doesn't realize that situation dictates tactics really can't be helped.
Although I can see a certain level of a point. The angle that makes sense to me is that combative martial arts which creates excellent combative athletes and fighters, like jiu jitsu, wrestling and boxing, while they don't train you for is self-defense, they train you for single combat. I don't care if this person tried to eye gouge me or if they bite me, it is irrelevant. If I want to hurt this person, they don't have a prayer in the world.
The physical tactics don't change. It is really the mental and the understanding of things. Its like - letting this person get too close because if they have a blade, they can cut you well before you'd be able to see it if they are really, really quick.
The conversation continued and Hall started to speak to martial art schools that are self-defense only and don't have a competitive aspect. One of the most common claims you'll see on YouTube comments or in discussions is that self-defense oriented schools are not limited by the rules of sport martial arts and that gives them a critical edge because they are used to eye gouges and groin kicks being thrown.
Hall spoke to that also:
I think you see a lot of martial arts instructors tying to pass themselves off as self-defense experts, which I am certainly not. I'm a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor, practicer, call it whatever you want. And I know a good deal about self-defense because I'm interested in it... but I'm certainly not an expert. But the idea that John Smith is known for his low single, he better watch out for some angry guy on the Jersey Shore because he wouldn't be able to double leg that guy. Get the f*** out of here...
It is like Manny Pacquiao, I don't care if there are gloves or not, if he hits you, your head is coming off and there is no amount of me practicing an eye gouge that is going to stop him from doing that because he is so used to just dealing with someone who is incredibly good at touching him in the head really, really fast and really, really hard. It doesn't matter what shape my hand is in, he is incredibly good at stopping that and he is incredibly good at countering...
So I would completely disagree. I'd say most of the people that say that practice for self-defense and don't train with tough athletes are really doing themselves a disservice. If I can wrestle with, say, Division I collegiate All-Americans and do fine. If I can wrestle with Marcelo Garcia and do ok, what the hell is some regular guy going to do? The only chance they have is to sucker punch me because anything that engages in an actual engagement of physical combat, I would absolutely hammer this person.
That is like saying "Oh yeah, I'm going to go strike out some guys in the Major Leagues because I'm gonna spit on the ball" Get out of here, it is ridiculous! If you take that though process and apply to any other area of life people would laugh at you.
Most elite combat athletes become known for one thing they are better at than other athletes. For example, the Dan Henderson's "H-Bomb," Khabib Nurmagomedov's wrestling, or Tom Deblass and his amazing half guard. Some self defense JiuJitsu practitioners may make the claim that the half guard position is impractical in a self-defense situation. However, I strongly believe a physical specimen like Tom Deblass would not chose or find himself in the half guard position with some untrained fighter on the street.
The main benefit of a martial art like Brazilian JiuJitsu is the ability for a practitioner to train against the resistance and pressure of another human being. Let's take the most combative form of guard, the "closed guard," versus a less combative form of guard like the "spider guard". Regardless of which guard is used, the person who trains their guard more often against human resistance will be the most successful in a street fight or self defense situation. This is true because the JiuJitsu practitioner who is use to dealing with the pressure of another human being is naturally more prepared for a self defense confrontation. After all, if someone is only learning the "techniques" and not sparring live under human pressure, that person will not respond well in a self defense situation because they have not been tested. I believe the rehearsed movements of drilling are important, but the element of applying the technique against pressure will prepare the practitioner for a real human being trying to hurt them on the street. .
In my opinion, the "sport" vs "self defense" JiuJitsu debate is over hyped. After all, you are going to learn a bridge and roll as a mount escape whether you are at a "sport based" academy or a "self defense" based academy. You are going to learn controlling the distance from the feet and closed guard at both academies. The arm bar, triangle choke and rear naked choke will be taught at any decent academy and all will save you in a street fight as well as give you tons of points in a JiuJitsu competition. Bottom line, good JiuJitsu that is practiced against resistance and pressure from another human being is effective no matter if someone labels it as "sport" or "Self defense" JiuJitsu. Instead of getting caught up in the "sport" vs "self defense" debate, put more emphasis on training at an academy where both drilling and sparring are emphasized and you feel comfortable with the students and instructor.