Is Sport Jiu Jitsu Good For Self Defense?

This is a debate that is increasing in the jiu jitsu world as jiu jitsu becomes more popular and the availability of sport jiu jitsu competitions increases and more schools move towards teaching sport jiu jitsu in their classes.

The fundamental question at the heart of the debate is “Does training sport jiu jitsu prepare someone adequately for a street self defense situation?”

Self Defense on Bottom

One side says that schools that focus on sports jiu jitsu positions and strategies are not preparing students for real life violent situations. The opposite responds by saying that an experienced jiu jitsu student is well equipped to handle the average person in the event of a street confrontation. For purposes of this discussion we are not talking about a fight between a trained MMA opponent. We are talking about the 95% if the average population in a street self defense scenario.

Let’s start by remembering the real fighting origins of jiu jitsu. Unarmed combat in the days if feudal Japan and the samurai warriors. Master Jigoro Kano, the founder of what we know as Judo today, synthesized a system of techniques from the old schools of ju-jitsu. This made its way to Brazil and was further adapted and evolved by the Gracie family into the art we know today. The roots of jiu jitsu, from its earliest days, were about defending against and defeating an opponent in a real fight.

Shortly after jiu jitsu became more well known in the USA, jiu jitsu saw the rise of sport jiu jitsu competitions. Rules – and of course the strategies to gain.victory under those rules – became exponentially more popular in the years that followed right up until today. In hotbeds if jiu jitsu, there is a tournament every weekend. Many jiu jitsu schools shifted their emphasis from self defense to sport jiu jitsu. This led to a great evolution of new positions and techniques that were very successful in sport jjiu jitsu tournaments.

This evolution has its vocal.critics. Their argument is that many techniques for sport are not only ineffective for the street, but lead to bad habits. Practising ineffective sport moves can provide a false sense of confidence for jiu jitsu students who think they are learning to defend themselves but instead are learning and practicing techniques like Spider Guard and pulling half guard and looking for 2 points for the sweep to win a competition match.

A true martial art must include realistic, proven techniques for situations that happen in real life.

The other side of the argument is that an experienced jiu jitsu.practitioner would not elect to pull guard and look for a Lasso guard sweep in a real life confrontation, instead taking the opponent to the ground and controlling from mount or the the back. In addition, sport jiu jitsu competitors are prepared for high stress, high intensity physical conflict with an opponent and are relatively familiar in these situations compared to the untrained individual.

Above whatever specific techniques a jiu jitsu student is learning, they are also training their reactions to rapidly changing and chaotic fights, physical attributes that are critical in a physical confrontation.

The way boxing, judo, jiu jitsu are trained live against a fully resisting opponent has proven in reality to be far more effective for preparing students for the unpredictable nature of a street encounter than choreographed “lethal” self defense techniques performed with compliant training partners.

Experienced boxers, wrestlers, judoka and bjj competitors have an enormous advantage in dealing with physical aggression compared to an average untrained individual.

It is important to mention (especially in the case of women and young people) that martial arts training helps build confidence that is the first step in not being a victim and avoiding conflicts before they escalate to becoming physical.

Gracie Barra starts students off in the Fundamentals program where training in common self defense situations like escaping head locks and clinch to takedown is an integral part of all student’s introduction to jiu jitsu. After completing the Fundamentals classes, students start to focus more on sports jiu jitsu positions that make training with the other students a lot more fun.

How important do you feel self defense training is to your experience of jiu jitsu?

Master Carlos Gracie Jr.’s Philosophy on Jiu jitsu Self Defense

Master Carlos Gracie Jr.'s Philosophy on Jiu-jitsu Self Defense

Credits: Mark Mullen 

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia