BJJ & Self Defense

“However beautiful the strategy, one should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

Let me start out, as usual, by saying that I absolutely respect BJJ. BJJ is like chess on the mat, the practitioners have to be very smart and in awesome shape. Most of the instructors at the Krav gyms I owned did BJJ with my blessing. I had a BJJ black belt teaching BJJ classes at my gyms. I believe that we have to be well rounded and know what the heck we are doing on the ground. My son takes BJJ at a gym and I love what he is learning! I could have him in any discipline but I chose BJJ for him. There is nothing better for a school yard, one on one fight.

What slays me are the people advertising BJJ as the ultimate in self defense. I just ran across a web site for a bjj gym that said “Krav Maga will get you killed”. They actually said that statistically most fights are one on one bar room type fights with no weapon ivolved so it is a waste of time to train for anything but this type of one on one fighting. Even if this is a true statistical statement do we ignore any other type of attack because it is in the minority? Weapons certainly exist, run a daily google search for knife attacks or shootings across the country. Your in box will be full! People do get attacked by multiple attackers, people do get shot or stabbed and sexual assaults do happen. Because 50,000 of 80,000 daily attacks in the U.S. don’t involve a weapon or multi attackers that’s good enough reason not to train for weapons and multi attackers? What kind of logic is that…oh yeah, it’s the “I make money off of what I teach” kind of logic.

BJJ is an awesome sport but to train it alone for self defense absolutely ignores real world violence. It is absolutely betting the practioners life on the fact that there will only be one attacker and there won’t be a blade involved. BJJ’s philosophy is to patiently control an opponent until they can be submitted. In the real world every scumbag has a scumbag friend near by. We should always be looking to end things as quickly as possible and to get the heck out of there. I have a friend who told me about a buddy of his that went to a “BJJ for the street” gym. He got into an altercation in a bar and pulled guard on his attacker like he was taught. The guy drew a knife and stabbed him seven times. Another friend told me of a BJJ black belt who wrapped a guy up in a bar in just a few seconds, looked awesome doing it…right up until the guy’s buddy kicked the black belt in the face, broke his jaw and knocked him out. If you are on the ground tied up with someone you are absolutely making the assumption that he doesn’t have a knife and doesn’t have a buddy. These are not assumptions that will keep you safe.

Have you ever tried bjj on concrete or blacktop? I’ve had friends who have and they inform me that there is no good position. Being on the bottom gets you ground into hamburger. Knees and elbows get torn to shreds when in side control. The mount sounds good until the opponent starts bucking and your knees slam over and over into the pavement.That magic mount is such a strong position in the MMA ring. In the real world the dude on the bottom puts you in a big bear hug until his buddy can get over to ya and kick your head off. I had a friend who was a bouncer at a bar years ago. One night he took down a thug and broke his arm at the elbow with an armbar because the thug kept fighting. After breaking the thug’s arm he let loose, started to sit up and got cold cocked by the guy’s other fist. Broken bones and joints suck, but they aren’t an end all. Self defense ain’t over til you are safe and out of there.

I hate seeing women’s self defense instructors teach women to hit the ground. Women should be fighting with one goal and one goal only…to escape. Being wrapped up with the scumbag on the ground makes escape harder. Bad plan in my opinion. Worse yet is all of the law enforcement training I see being done with BJJ alone. Do you know why BJJ practitioners pin their opponents face up? To give the opponent a better chance of escaping. Law enforcement officers should definitely be putting suspects on their face, worrying about weapons and expecting a scumbag’s buddy to jump in. Trying to patiently control until you can submit isn’t smart in that context.

A while ago we did some training on a bus. Multiple attackers, blades, handguns, etc. We had some BJJ guys in the training. How much of their BJJ do you think worked in that situation? The only way anyone got on the ground was to fall just right in the aisle. Aisles are pretty tight, there was no room to move once there. They ended up just wailing on the attacker with fists, biting and head butting because that’s all they could do.

I will hear “but we can practice against a fully resisting opponent, that makes us the best.” BJJ practitioners are training against someone fully resisting a grappling match, not fully trying to kill you with a knife, kick to your head while you’re down, shooting you, etc. Yes, fully resistant attackers are a good training model but only if you are training for what you will find in a real life violent situation. If you are going full out on an opponent who is fully resisting and you both walk away unharmed what good could what you are doing possibly do you on the street when you need to put someone down, go through more than one and get the heck out of there? Self defense is going forward with rage and aggression, doing maximum damage in minimum time and getting to safety. IF you can go all out and the opponent is going all out and this “training” lasts for more than fifteen seconds that should be a red flag…you aren’t doing anything that causes damage!

I’ve got news for you, unless you are breaking limbs and tearing ligaments you are not going 100% all out and being realistic with a fully resisting (fully fighting back) opponent. You stop before you injure for safety reasons. I can certainly kick a shield full out and then, when kicking my partner to the groin, pull it at the end so as to not do damage. If we are going full out in training we would run out of training partners in a hurry. All training has limitations, there is nobody who trains purposely hurting people. If we carry this line of thinking to the next step they are saying that nobody training a knife art can really be getting good training unless they are actually slicing and stabbing their training partners, that the best way to really learn to shoot a handgun is to shoot at people who are shooting back at you. Do the special forces in our military go to boot camp to actually shoot at each other, throw grenades at each other, knock each other unconscious in hand to hand training, etc.? Of course not, yet these guys are the best of the best and are trained very well. A good couple of reads on how the military (and anyone else) can train effectively without going 100% with their techniques causing damage is Sharpening The Warrior’s Edge by Bruce Siddle and Training at the Speed of Life by Kenneth Murray .

I get grief for stating what i think is an unarguable point. That is that if a system says it’s against the rules to eye gouge, slam a head on the pavement, bite, kick to the groin, punch the back of the head, stomp on an Achilles, knee to the throat, etc., etc…that system isn’t teaching self defense but is sport oriented.

Again, I am not bad mouthing BJJ at all. I am bad mouthing those who are telling students that BJJ is all the self defense they need for real world violence. I believe BJJ is a great PART of a total self defense system. Now, instead of name calling and talking about my dear mama in the comment section how about we have a discussion we can all learn from where the above points are refuted? BE SAFE!

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4 Comments

  1. 100% agree.

  2. I agree as well. Thinking about this while training the other day. With more and more ppl ( bad guys and good guys included) taking just a few or more classes of Bjj and it’s obvious popularity for submission in MMA. Are more and more fights going from knock out punches to physical submission (dislocations and breaks)? Not defense from guard or mount… While training first contact and counter, to combat a punch,a kick, a knife, a stick, a choke, and a gun. How about an obvious attack intending to put you on the ground.

  3. I love BJJ and spend ~6 hours per week on the mat, but I don’t kid myself for a second that it’s anything close to a soup-to-nuts self defense system.

    While BJJ boosters will quote some statistic like 90% of all fights end up on the ground, looking through websites like ActiveSelfProtection or WorldStar HipHop, which feature spectator videos and CCTV footage of real world fights, shows that BJJ really isn’t the best way to address most criminal assaults.

  4. Agreed. I love my BJJ classes, but I also love my kickboxing and MMA classes. I feel more powerful and as though I am learning more real world skills through kickboxing/MMA in general. I am as yet still relatively new at training, but I had been skeptical about people that have said BJJ is the main way to defend oneself. I’d rather not get taken down in the real world, thank you. Actually just wrote a post somewhat related to this earlier today… https://iwillnotliveinvain.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/he-got-me-against-a-wall/


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