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Self-Defense vs. Sports Jiu Jitsu
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Self-Defense vs. Sports Jiu Jitsu

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The Western World is a world where we are trained to think in terms of binary opposites. 

Something is good or it is evil. The weather is hot or cold. We vote Republican or Democrat.  We root for the Yankees or the Red Sox. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu should be about self-defense or it should be a competition sport.

We’ve been trained to see the world only in terms of opposing sides, and we’ve been told that we need to fall on one side or the other.  And I think that’s really the only reason that people act like we need to make a choice between viewing Jiu Jitsu as a means of self-defense or as a sport.  

I’m going to make the crazy suggestion that when someone asks if you train Jiu Jitsu for self-defense or for sport, you answer “Yes!”

Critics of sport Jiu Jitsu will say that it’s unrealistic because there are no rules in a street fight.  And they’ll insist that people who train only for competitions miss out on important techniques that they would need to know if they were involved in an altercation.

Meanwhile, competitors would argue that people who only train Jiu Jitsu for self-defense never truly experience the stress and adrenaline rush of a real conflict since their training is restricted to only rolling in the relative safety of their home dojo.

Both sides have a point, and that’s why the answer is to embrace both sides of Jiu Jitsu.  

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Maybe not every self-defense technique will have applications in a competition (in fact, I’m sure many of them won’t), but when has learning something extra ever been a bad thing?  Trust me, you’re not going to run out of brain capacity.  And it really won’t take that much time away from your competition training.  You’re not going to lose your edge.

On the other side of things, sport Jiu Jitsu will allow you to experience the stress and adrenaline surge of facing a stranger in a confrontation that is closer to a real fight than what you will ever experience rolling with teammates.  No, it’s not the same as a street fight; there are rules and a point system that’s kind of arbitrary, but competition Jiu Jitsu offers an opportunity to evaluate yourself under pressure that you can’t get in any other way.

I know that there are times in this world when you have to make a choice.  If you vacation back east, you’ll miss the attractions to your west.  

But there are other times when you really don’t have to make a choice.  People might act like you have to choose, but you don’t.  In those cases, if you make a choice, you’re really just choosing to miss out on something that you don’t have to.

The entire Sport vs. Self-Defense debate in Jiu Jitsu is one time that you don’t have to choose.  So, don’t. Say yes to both and get the entire experience!


Wardzinski has made a name for himself by taking seemingly simple (Old-School) games and applying them at the highest level. First it was his butterfly guard people were clamoring to figure out. Now it’s time for some Polish Power Passing to revitalize your game.

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