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Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Good for Self-Defense?

Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that places a strong emphasis on using leverage, technique, and submission grips to subdue an opponent, making it an effective form of self-defense. BJJ can also teach you self-defense techniques for grappling, which is how many conflicts end. But is BJJ good for self defense?

Self-defense scenarios can, however, be incredibly unpredictable and hazardous, so it’s crucial to remember that. BJJ instruction can equip you with some self-defense techniques, but it cannot take the place of being vigilant about your surroundings and taking precautions to keep yourself safe. Keeping in mind that the purpose of self-defense is to flee from the aggressor rather than start a fight is also crucial.

In this post we take an honest look at how effective BJJ is as a self defense system.

Reasons BJJ is Effective in a Street Fight or Self Defense Situations

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) may be useful in a street brawl for the following reasons:

  • BJJ teaches you how to use maneuvers like joint locks and submission holds to subdue and neutralize an adversary.
  • Training in BJJ can assist you in developing your self-defense skills on the ground, where battles may frequently end.
  • BJJ prioritizes technique and leverage above size and strength, which might be advantageous in a street battle where you could be at a disadvantage.
  • You can improve your body awareness, balance, and coordination with BJJ training, which can be helpful in a fight.
  • BJJ training can help you get in better physical shape so you have the stamina and strength to defend yourself in a fight.
two men dueling inside room

If given someone with BJJ training and with no BJJ training, and put them in a self defense situation, the person with training is going to fare much better for all the reasons listed above. Martial arts training provides more than just the techniques needed to survive in a street fight, it also provides the physical stamina and mental poise to remain somewhat calm through the encounter. For those who have no experience with physical altercations, be in in a controlled gym setting or on the street, a fight can be highly chaotic which can lead to greater injury or worse consequences.

What Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specifically offers that other martial arts training may not offer is ground fighting. Most fights start with people standing on their feet but often times finds their way to the ground. Either someone gets tackled, or someone trips or just falls down from all the chaos. Mostly anyone can figure out how to punch or kick someone without much technique. Knowing what to do on the ground however is very unnatural and only BJJ (or Sambo or Judo) training would let you know how to navigate that situation.

Reasons Why BJJ is Not Effective in a Street Fight or for Self Defense

Some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is better than no Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but it usually isn’t enough to feel fully confident in a street fight.

One potential limitation is that BJJ techniques are primarily designed for ground fighting, rather than stand-up fighting. This means that if you are facing an attacker who is able to keep the fight standing up, you may not have as many options for defending yourself as you would if you were trained in a martial art that includes stand-up fighting techniques, such as Muay Thai or boxing.

Another potential limitation of BJJ for self-defense is that it can be difficult to apply the techniques you learn in a real-world self-defense situation. BJJ techniques are often highly choreographed and rehearsed in training, and it can be difficult to execute these techniques under the stress and adrenaline of a real-world attack. This is why it is important to also train in situational awareness and self-defense strategies in addition to learning martial arts techniques.

Additionally, some BJJ techniques, such as submission holds, may not be suitable for use in a real-world self-defense situation due to the potential for serious injury or death to the attacker. It is important to consider the legal and ethical implications of using any martial art techniques in a self-defense situation and to use only the amount of force necessary to protect yourself or others.

How Long Does it Take to Learn BJJ for Self Defense

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a complex martial art that takes a lot of time and effort to learn and master. Several factors, including your natural ability, how frequently you train, and how well you absorb the techniques being taught, can dramatically affect how long it takes to learn BJJ (or any martial arts).

Depending on your objectives and the amount of time you have to dedicate to training, it can often take anywhere from a few months to several years to become proficient in BJJ. Some people might be able to pick up the fundamentals of BJJ rather quickly, while others could need more time to understand more complex techniques.

How long you’ll have to train for it to be good for self defense is also hard to answer. I would say at minimum BJJ will be useless to you in a live self defense setting even after six months of training. At six months of training BJJ, assuming you’re training 3-4 times a week, you should have a solid grasp of the basics of the sport and can hold your own against other white belts during sparring. Unless you are a remarkable athlete however, it is unlikely it will make a difference in a self defense situation.

Sport Jiu Jitsu vs Jiu Jitsu for Self Defense

Another factor is how you are training BJJ. Most Jiu Jitsu schools teach sports Jiu Jitsu. Sports Jiu Jitsu emphasizes winning matches in a tournament or competition setting. It sacrifices more realistic aspects of a fight in lieu of working to maximize your positioning and training against opponents focused on submitting you rather than trying to harm you.

There are schools however that do focus or at least offer classes tailored toward self defense – many of these run by the Gracie Family network of schools. In these classes you learn practical ways to use BJJ against people who are actively trying to harm you. If your main goal is to learn BJJ for self defense, you should seek out those types of classes.

Is BJJ or MMA Better for Self Defense?

Both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and mixed martial arts (MMA) can be effective for self-defense in different ways.

With BJJ you are focusing exclusively on how to control an opponent and force them to submit, even if they are larger or stronger than you. This can be especially useful in situations where you are facing an attacker who is trying to physically harm you. When you train BJJ exclusively, you’re going to learn ground fighting much faster than if you are instead focusing on MMA which requires you to focus on multiple martial arts.

MMA is effective for self-defense because it teaches you how to defend yourself in a variety of situations, including standing up, on the ground, and in the clinch. MMA training also helps you develop physical fitness, strength, and endurance, which can be beneficial in real-world self-defense situations.

All things equal, a fully trained MMA fighter will likely fair better in a self defense situation than a fully trained BJJ fighter because they are going to be a much more well rounded fighter. That being said, learning BJJ is usually one part of learning MMA. For a beginner, it may be wise to specialize in BJJ as a martial art before training MMA.

Is BJJ or Muay Thai Better for Self Defense?

man in black and white boxing gloves

Muay Thai can be effective for self-defense because it teaches you how to deliver powerful strikes using a variety of techniques.  Additionally, it aids in the development of physical stamina, strength, and fitness, all of which are advantages in actual self-defense scenarios. Clinch work is another skill taught in Muay Thai training that can be used for close-quarters self-defense.

Muay Thai has several limits as a self-defense martial art, though. The fact that Muay Thai methods are largely developed for stand-up combat rather than ground combat is one potential drawback. As a result, you might not have as many alternatives for self-defense if you are up against an assailant who can knock you to the ground, as you would if you had been trained in a martial art that teaches ground fighting methods, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). 

It can be challenging to use the methods you learn in a practical self-defense situation, which is another possible drawback of Muay Thai for self-defense. The execution of Muay Thai techniques can be challenging under the pressure and adrenaline of a real-world onslaught because they are frequently carefully orchestrated and practiced in training. In addition to mastering martial arts techniques, it is crucial to practice situational awareness and self-defense tactics. 

Whats the Best Way to Learn Self Defense?

Just saying “learn brazilian jiu jitsu” is not adequate enough to help someone genuinely looking to learn self defense. I would recommend the following if self defense is your true intention:

  1. Take a self-defense course or class: There are a variety of self-defense courses and classes available, from quick workshops to longer, in-depth courses. You can learn a range of self-defense skills and tactics in these programs, including how to defend against typical attacks, how to use your body as a weapon, and how to spot and stay out of potentially hazardous situations.
  2. Develop situational awareness: An essential component of self-defense is being aware of your surroundings and being able to identify and steer clear of potentially dangerous circumstances. This may entail exercising caution when driving or strolling in unfamiliar areas, maintaining a safe distance from strangers, and following your gut if something doesn’t feel right.
  3. Look for additional resources: Books, online programs, and instructional videos are just a few of the tools accessible for learning self-defense. You can also ask local self-defense specialists or instructors for assistance and direction.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that studying self-defense is a lifelong process, and it’s always a good idea to keep growing and honing your abilities. The greatest self-defense approach will depend on your unique demands and circumstances; no one method or technique can ensure your protection.

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