self defense headlock bjj.

Self Defense and Does BJJ Work on the “Street”?

Whenever a discussion about martial arts pops up, the topic of self defense isn’t far.


While some martial arts focus on the sport competition aspect and some on applications in the military, law enforcement and self defense, they all claim to be effective when it comes to defending yourself from an attacker.


At their essence, that’s what all martial arts supposed to do: train you so that you will be better than someone else.


We all want to know if we can use what we learn to defend our loved ones from harm.


But before we can look at how BJJ does on the street, let’s look at some realities of self-defense:


  • Unless you live in a dangerous area, you are unlikely to ever get into a self-defense situation in your whole life.


  • If you do live in a dangerous area, it is very likely that a serious confrontation will have knives or guns present. As far as I’m aware, no martial art other than the famed “Nike defense” (run) and “don’t-be-there-fu” work against those.


  • Bar fights aren’t self defense. They are escalated conflicts that spun out of control. In the vast majority, you can de-escalate if you check your ego.


  • A lot of what law enforcement professionals do depends on de-escalation, the power of numbers and intimidation (bouncers want to look buffy and scary for a reason).


The reality is this: fighting should stay in the gym, which is a safe environment. There, no one is going to stomp your head, pull a knife or shot you in the back. Outside, you may not be as lucky.


If this sounds harsh, it should. While many people teach self-defense, every single one of the smart ones repeats one rule: don’t get into a dangerous situation in the first place.


But, for the sake of the argument, let’s take a look at some answers BJJ would have to aggression.


Note that I said aggression, not attack.


Aggression manifests in many ways and often precedes a physical attack. Aggression can be bullying, posturing up or outright threats. In all cases, it is a sign of a conflict escalating and it can possibly lead to violence.


Here’s what BJJ does to prevent that.


1. Confidence for Self Defense


No, your number one self defense against bullies, would-be thugs or the drunk guy in the bar isn’t your triangle, armbar or Osoto-gari. It’s your confidence, that in the case you absolutely had to do something, you could.


People who prey on others sense fear. They want to intimidate, often because they themselves are not confident. They look for someone who will be afraid of them; and if you don’t fall into the trap and can stand up to them in a confident way, they will back down.


This is the biggest benefit any martial art can give you when it comes to self-defense, and it comes with hours of training. It comes with the certainty that if you can throw and submit other trained people, you can deal with someone who has no knowledge of fighting.


2. Smaller ego


When you train, you will get beaten. A lot. In BJJ you start out at white belt: that means that there are blue, brown, purple and black belts that could twist you in a knot with one leg while drunk and blindfolded.


In short, if you have a big ego, it will get bruised. A lot. Some people can’t handle this process and quit when they realize that it will take actual effort to become better. They can’t accept that some people are better than them.


But if you manage to get your ego under control, it will benefit you in all areas of your life. For example, when someone is pushing for a fight, trying to get you angry, you will be able to walk away, because you have nothing to prove.

self-defense keswick bjj classes.

3. Learning to face your fears


You’re not going to find bullies in a Jiu Jitsu class, but you will have to face and overcome your fears.


When faced with a self defense threat, you can have one of three reactions: fight, flight or freeze. These are genetically hard coded into us, but with a lot of practice, we can retrain them. We can become calm enough under pressure that we don’t resort to our instincts, but can instead asses the situation and act accordingly.


If you have a fear of physical confrontation, BJJ is an excellent way to face it. Because it is a martial art based on grappling, you don’t have to worry about getting hit. You can progress at your own pace until you desensitize yourself completely and your fear dissipates.


And now, finally, here’s what you can do as a BJJ practitioner against an attacker on the street.


If he has a gun or a knife, you run.


If he doesn’t and there are more of his friends than yours, you run. Oh, your friends are trained too? Go look at #2 again – are you trying to prove something?


Any other case when escape is possible – run.


If escape isn’t possible, and there is only one unarmed person attacking you, BJJ proves to be quite effective.


That is because you’re not likely to get attacked by someone who knows how to fight on the ground. You can use your technique to get him in a position where he can’t attack you and you can either control him long enough help arrives or submit him and get out of there.


But if we’re talking about a one-on-one, unarmed situation, how serious is it, really?


Here’s the main point: fighting outside of the gym is stupid.


There are many factors besides your ability that will determine not only whether you ”win”, but also if you will survive. That is why walking away is the best choice.


I’ve done security at bars and clubs for 10 years, have been a striker since 2000 (won Bronze at WKA Kickboxing World Championships in Spain), and a Grappler since the year 2000 as well (Multiple Black Belt Division Championships) and, with a very well rounded experience level, I beleive that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the best Martial Art hands down for self defense.


You should make sure that, if you’re interested in self-defense, you find a gym that actually teaches and offers that aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and not just the Sport Jiu-Jitsu. A good gym will have both cultures under the same roof.

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