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Sport Vs. Self Defense Jiu-Jitsu
There are a great deal of people that train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that have no interest in competition.
Some are strictly interested in the self defense aspect, either as a result of a previous encounter or just as a preventative, others are just in it for the fun, camaraderie, or exercise. The big question is, should your training approach change based on what you’re ultimate goal is?
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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is first and foremost a martial art that has been developed into a competitive sport. However, if you are practicing good Jiu Jitsu, then you will have no issue in either situation. Developing your skills correctly and efficiently at a well run school will enable you to have a concrete grasp on techniques that are helpful in a self defense situation as well as a competition.
Often times, those that aren’t interested in competition can be hesitant to roll in class or attend seminars that are based around advanced skills because they feel it is unnecessary for them to learn. Those people are doing themselves a great disservice, since the more you know, the more options you have in both aspects. A purple belt that has focused on qualifying for pans is going to have no issue defending themselves against an unarmed attacker, but someone that has isolated themselves to learn only self-defense approved maneuvers will have a minuscule arsenal to pull from.
Self-defense is a huge benefit, and it’s definitely appropriate to begin jiu jitsu as a way to be able to feel more confident and safe in different situations. The common denominator in both aspects is to remember to learn the basics, and continue to incorporate them in your practice.
Fancy submissions and sweeps are fun to learn and a great theatrical addition to competition matches, but aren’t very likely to come up in a street fight. Keep in mind what kind of position you are more prone to end up in during an attack, especially with someone that isn't trained in a martial art. These techniques are going to involve more awareness of striking distance, your surroundings and escape methods rather than relying on the fact that you are free to tap at your own will, and you know that someone is watching out for other people on the mat to make sure you and your partner are rolling safely.
So what are some things to work into a regular practice routine that benefit both scenarios?
1) Space- work on “being the boss” and dictating the space between you and your partner. You can decide to close if you want to for a competition centered roll, but be able to keep your opponent at a distance as well for a defensive strategy.
2) Back attacks- Taking someone’s back in real life or in the gym is a great position. Train different approaches and finishes, keep in mind the amount of strength it will take to actually finish a choke from the back. You obviously aren’t going to really practice choking out your partners, but get input from them on the level of your setup.
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3) Plan ahead- Rather than solely reacting to your opponent, learn to come up with a plan in your head and work towards that goal. If you are being attacked on the street you’ll need to develop a strategy and follow through. That could be submitting them, holding them until help arrives, or simply getting yourself away from the fight. During rolling sessions challenge yourself to end up in a certain position and see if you can get there.
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