Much is made of the differences between the various styles of martial arts. What is common to all styles of combat is a core problem that each tries to answer. How can one successfully defend oneself against an attack by a bigger and stronger opponent? All martial arts must answer this fundamental question.
Grappling styles such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu offer the best answer to this question. BJJ has proved to be very effective as it focuses on taking an opponent to the ground, where he doesn’t stand a chance if he lacks the proper knowledge to defend against various positions and submissions.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is applicable both in street altercations and MMA competitions, it is considered by many to be the perfect martial art for self-defense.
How Effective is BJJ in a Real Fight?
Unlike the vast majority of fighting styles, which have favored kicking and punching as the best route to victory, BJJ focuses on getting a hold on your opponent and using this grip to take him down to the ground. Once on the ground, the opponent can be controlled in a pin or submission hold.
The effectiveness of BJJ can be best observed in modern and early mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions as they are they provide the closest resemblances to a real fight.
In order to determine the effectiveness of BJJ, we will examine the early MMA competitions. Of all the many fighting styles represented in early MMA competition, none had a more decisive impact than BJJ. All of them were dominated by practitioners of BJJ.
Especially surprising to most viewers was the fact that the BJJ fighters were almost always considerably smaller than their opponents. In addition, the victories were relatively bloodless affairs. The BJJ fighters did not have to hit their opponent to establish victory.
Rather, they quickly took them to the ground and then caught them in various strangles, forcing them to give up. In the few cases where BJJ fighters were taken down by their opponent, they were able to use their ground-grappling skills to win fights from underneath opponents.
Unfolding before everyone’s eyes was the realization of the martial arts dream- to see a fighting style that allowed a smaller weaker man to overcome and defeat a larger, stronger, skilled opponent with a minimum of violence and blood.
Progressive martial artists quickly took note of the results and sought to learn BJJ, either as a style they wished to emulate, or at least so they could learn how to counter the devastating moves and techniques that were wreaking havoc in MMA competition.
Upon examining the first MMA competitions, we could learn that BJJ made quite an impact. As a result, it permanently changed the approach to fighting; therefore, proving its effectiveness versus other martial arts that focus on striking.
Ground Fighting and Self-Defense
There is an opinion that in an actual street fight the ground is the last place you would want to be. Many people reason that putting oneself on the ground in a street fight is equal to suicide. By doing so you expose yourself to the danger of being kicked by other people, of being bruised on hard pavement, etc.
Followers of BJJ do advocate grappling for self-defense purposes. Nonetheless, we must be clear that this does not mean that BJJ practitioners always advocate taking the fight to the ground. There will be times when common sense suggests that avoiding a ground-grappling situation is the sensible thing to do.
BJJ offers various techniques in a standing clinch situation for defeating a larger opponent without touching the ground. Moreover, by constantly working on takedown defense, practitioners become very adept at countering takedown attempts.
Ironically, this makes grapplers the best qualified to remain on their feet during an attack should they choose to. BJJ makes perfect sense, an option you can deliberately choose. There is no more effective means of overwhelming an aggressor than to take him to the ground where he can be dominated.
Critics of BJJ for self-defense claim that biting, groin grabbing, and eye-gouging, significantly undermine its street effectiveness. If your attacker does that, you can do the same. Moreover, you can use BJJ to get a superior position from which biting and gouging will be more devastating than his.
There are numerous counters to such foul tactics. An experienced BJJ practitioner can readily adapt his body’s position to protect his vulnerable groin and eyes during a street fight. Accordingly, these threats represent more of a nuisance to the experienced grappler than a real threat.
Effectiveness Against Multiple Attackers
Probably the most common complaint with BJJ for self-defense is that it is useless against multiple opponents. This is entirely true. BJJ will not allow you to defeat several attackers at once. However, no other martial art will save you from multiple attackers either.
BJJ makes no claim to teach a method of overwhelming mass attackers. Should you be heavily outnumbered, BJJ will not save you. It is better to avoid those situations or be smart and run away.
The martial arts world is full of overinflated claims that one can defeat multiple attackers at once. The irony is that many of the stylists who made such claims proved entirely incapable of defeating even a single attacker when put to the test in mixed martial arts competition.
Such claims are the stuff of fantasy and belong to the realm of martial arts movies
Sport BJJ vs. BJJ for Self Defense
BJJ has progressed dramatically in the last couple of years, and it continues to grow rapidly. With the addition of more and more creative people, new moves and techniques are made daily, yet not all techniques can be utilized effectively in street altercations as they can be dangerous to try.
In BJJ, there are a few moves designed specifically with sport BJJ in mind, where being hit by your opponent is not an issue. It is vital to distinguish between sport BJJ and BJJ for self-defense, since pulling guard and trying out berimbolos can be disastrous.
Only utilize takedowns to get your attacker down on the ground or clinch fighting techniques. Once on the ground, there is very little that your opponent can do since chances are that he is untrained in any martial art, let alone BJJ.
Is BJJ Effective Against Anybody?
The short answer would be that BJJ is most definitely effective against a large number of people. However, there are certain factors such as the skill level of a practitioner and the weight difference between the aggressor and the practitioner that need to be taken into account.
Since BJJ is a martial art that focuses on incorporating technique and leverage as a means of defeating opponents, a practitioner with less than one year of experience is able to defeat larger opponents. Regular people do not have a clue about how to throw a proper punch, let alone how to grapple.
Practitioners with less than one year of experience, are able to throw most bigger and stronger people on the ground. As soon as the fight is taken to the ground, even the basic ability to punch is taken away, leaving the untrained aggressor with limited options.
The next thing to do is to secure and maintain a dominant position, a practice that every practitioner should be familiar with. Dominant positions allow for punches, chokes, and submissions that untrained people can hardly defend against.
Although many larger and untrained people may be beaten, the aforementioned scenario may not always be the case. it is important to note that the weight difference can be overwhelming. For example, a 145lb practitioner may find himself in a tight situation against a strong 256 lb person.
On the contrary, stronger and heavier BJJ practitioners are armed with technique as well as their size and strength; therefore, they may use their abilities to defeat almost anybody.
We have seen that the core problem at the heart of martial arts is that of protecting oneself against attack by a bigger, stronger, and more aggressive opponent. MMA events gave the best available means of evaluating the different responses to that problem.
Traditional martial arts based upon striking and kicking proved incapable of dealing with BJJ attacks. The record showed that BJJ was undoubtedly effective against other martial arts. Additionally, it is effective in street altercations due to the fact that people do not know how to fight on the ground.
‘’I am a shark, the ground is my ocean, and most people can’t even swim.’’
– Rickson Gracie