BJJ and Self Defence

This is inspired by the current poll at the Fightworks Podcast: "What Percentage of Sport Jiu-Jitsu Techniques Are Street or Self Defense Applicable?"

BJJ is a great fighting art. That's all the early UFCs proved.

What did challenge matches and the early UFCs prove? All over the BJJ / Grappling media you will see claims that the early UFCs and the Gracie Challenge matches proved that Brazilian / Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the most effective martial art for self-defence. But what does that exactly mean and to what extent does that even matter?

Patrick McCarthy is a karate instructor who opened my eyes years ago to the simplicity of combat thru his books, articles and interviews. He explained early on that Karate and several other martial arts, were initially devised for specific purposes and had drills that addressed specific, commonly reoccurring acts of violence.

There was indeed a time when attacks on our person consisted on hair-grabs, strikes, chokes and takedowns (not to mention dirty tactics such as biting and eye gouging). Some say that was last century, some say that was the 1950’s and 1960’s. I prefer to call it the 6th grade.

Seriously, how often do adults attack each other with punches, chokes, kicks or throws in a one-to-one environment? Without any (visible or concealed) weapons? Don’t just give me a (at best, educated) guess. Ask a police-statistician. Consult some government statistics online. Very very few!

The way I see it (and I may be wrong here) the only cases of person-on-person violence that doesn’t involve weapons are:

1. Rape attacks
2. Child bullying
3. Domestic violence

For those, Brazilian (Gracie) Jiu Jitsu (physically, mentally, spiritually) is beyond good. It’s great. It’s fantastic. It’s amazing.

The picture that the above-mentioned statistics paints is very different from what you see in the UFC (irrespective of old or new) or your average Jiu Jitsu session. Real violence involves weapons, gangs and mob mentality, premeditation, surprise element and in some cases even range and distance. It would be unfair (or even crazy) to pretend that BJJ / Grappling equips us for that.

I read somewhere a quote by Helio Gracie along the lines:

“If a big guy fights a small guy to a draw, the small guy wins!”

If you survive, you win.

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matt said...

Gotta disagree with you on your list of the 3 types of non-weapon person-on-person violence.

I think you're leaving out one of the most common scenarios that any of us is likely to face: adult bullying. Otherwise known as: that drunken jerk at the bar.

Many adult males will be assaulted at a bar, and the most common attacks in that context are the chest-bump, the push, the sloppy headlock, and the haymaker.

Pretty much any of these attacks can be handled in the same way:

1. cover, jab cross
2. pummel for underhooks, duckunder to back control

(with the headlock, you go directly to standing back control if possible or use a gracie-style escape)

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thanks Matt. I left it out on purpose.

I'm yet to see any national or comparably large-scale statistics to prove that that scenario is indeed common (except in the movies or in some self-defence sales pitch!)

Like I said, I'm happy to change my view if I see any proof :o)

A.D. McClish said...

Being a woman, when I think of using BJJ for self defense, I immediately think of the rape scenario. That's why I was asking my question on my blog about when self defense can get you into legal trouble. Fortunately I don't have to worry about domestic violence or childhood bullying. ;)

As far as the bar fights go, I can say that several of the guys at my school are bouncers at local bars. They have to use bjj on a fairly regular basis to get the guys who have had too many drinks and who are causing problems out of their bars. Almost invariably, they go for the r.n.c. Personally, I don't spend much time at bars so I wouldn't really know how common bar fights are.

BJJ Rob said...

Self defense is really person specific. I'm not a woman, so I don't worry about rape.

However, I travel a lot so I do worry about getting mugged/jumped/etc.

Bjj is pretty ineffective if there is more than one attacker (not dissing it, I've got a brown belt). Much better to have a solid striking game under your belt.

Great article!

The Part Time Grappler said...

Many thanks Allie. I'm glad to hear "Fortunately I don't have to worry about domestic violence or childhood bullying. ;)" I would really hope that you've never suffered from a rape or near-rape situation. I don't wish that on anyone.

Its not often I meet someone as honest as you: "Personally, I don't spend much time at bars so I wouldn't really know how common bar fights are." and as this is not part of your reality, you don’t judge :)

The interesting thing is, we think about things and we form opinions. We create our own fears and that makes us sometimes buy things we don't actually need or think in patterns that in turn could harm us or at least cloud our judgement.

I have witnessed 2 bar/restaurant fights in my life and thinking back, neither scenario had any Jiu jitsu or MMA. I would class the work done by a bouncer as a sub entity of fighting, not self-defence. The bouncer goes to work knowing that there is a high probability that he may need to use certain verbal and physical skills and tactics to defuse specific situations. There attention is on the job, or it should be :o)

Fighting and self-defence are different things. The pre-, during- and post-psychology in both is very different, so is the motive and level of mutual agreement and knowledge.

I would fair all right in a fight. The reason I can say that is because I can make a rational conclusion based on my past preparation (skills), my current conditioning (physical) and my general attitude and self-confidence (mental). Win or lose, I’d do all right.

If I was ever attacked without prior knowledge, I bet you I would be completely outnumbered, out-armed, surprised and with more on the line to lose than my attacker. I would get properly shafted :o) and that too is a rational conclusion based on the statistics I have seen and analysed and you know what? I have made complete peace with that. I hope I will never see that day but if it does happen and I do survive I will never blame myself or doubt my training.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Many thanks for the kind words Rob.

While I do agree with you on BJJ v multiple attackers. I don’t know how anything other than pre-meditative avoidance and excellent running skills can help you against mugging.

A couple of kids once tried to snatch my wife’s handbag off her shoulder a few months ago. She reflexively held on to it and they couldn’t take it. She looked at them. They looked at her. It was obviously their first time. She told them if she catches them, she’d slap them all the way to next Sunday. They took off like the wind.

Of course, if the attackers were bigger, armed or dangerous looking, she would have reacted differently. Either way, inner confidence is all that could have, if anything could have, helped coz to be honest; she’s not much of a runner!