Does BJJ Work In Real Life? The Truth About BJJ For The Streets

Does BJJ work in real life?

If you are looking to get started in martial arts then you have probably considered BJJ. After all, jiu-jitsu is the fastest growing martial art in the United States and perhaps even the world. That said, you might wonder how practical this martial art really is. After all, does BJJ work in real life? 

BJJ works in real life and can be a very practical form of self-defense. That being said, not everything you learn in sport jiu-jitsu will work in real life and can even cause you harm. For example, you would never want to pull guard in a street fight but you might in a BJJ tournament. 

Pulling guard in real life exposes you to strikes from your aggressor as well as gives them the potential ability to slam you on the concrete. So does BJJ work in real life? It does but you have to be smart about it and know what will and won’t work in real life or in a street fight. 

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Works In Real Life

Though most people know of BJJ through MMA, it was originally taught first as a self-defense art. Historically, BJJ evolved from Judo. However, Helio Gracie modified the art to be more effective for someone who is not as big and strong as their opponent is.

Helio Gracie was not as big as some of his other family members were. Because of this, he put much more focus on how to master the art of leverage. That way a much smaller person who understood leverage could defeat a stronger opponent who only utilized strength.

For this reason, BJJ is an excellent choice for self-defense for many people who are not naturally big and strong. In fact, this is exactly why I believe that all women should learn the basics of self-defense jiu-jitsu.

Fights Are Best Avoided When Possible

A good self-defense jiu-jitsu school should teach you more than simply how to choke someone out. They should also teach the basics of situational awareness and training on how to de-escalate a situation. Of course, this is not always possible. That said, the best form of self-defense is to avoid a hostile situation if it is possible.

The problem with some self-defense martial arts is that they might give people too much confidence to deal with a situation. In turn, they might choose to fight instead of avoiding a bad situation that could have been prevented.

It is important to realize that even though BJJ is effective, dealing with a much larger and stronger opponent is still very dangerous. In fact, getting into a fight with anyone has risks that are better to avoid if you can.

Also, the risk is not always that you will get hurt. Often times it might be that you could seriously injure someone else. So if you can avoid a dangerous situation altogether then that is always the ideal choice. However, this is not always possible so you want to always be prepared to defend yourself if you have to.

BJJ Works In Real Life But You Need To Be Realistic

Simply put BJJ works in real life but you need to be realistic about it. If you are 4’9 and 85 lbs you probably should not go pick a fight with a 4oo lbs powerlifter even if you are a black belt. Yes BJJ is a fantastic martial art and does work but like everything it has limitations. 

In the past and even to this day Hollywood martial arts movies have given people the impression that they can basically become superheroes. In fact, many martial arts teachers still pretend to have such powers to this day. Though MMA and many other combat martial arts have exposed many of these con artists.

Of course, I am not saying that all other arts fall into these categories. There are certainly amazing martial arts such as BJJ, judo, full-contact karate, Muay Thai, and many many more. But what I am saying is that there was a weird mysticism associated with many martial arts that need to be exposed.

Even though BJJ works in real life and is a legit martial, people can still have too big of expectations of what this art can do for them. No martial art is going to give you the skills you see in a movie where one guy walks into a room of 20 large men and wipes the floor with them. 

Does BJJ Work In Real Life Against Multiple Attackers?

One criticism from many people about BJJ is that it does not work in real life against multiple attackers. I understand what these people are saying and they are not wrong.

After all, you probably do not want to bring someone to the ground to choke them out if they have friends standing by. That’s just gonna give one of their friends the opportunity to hit you over the head with a beer bottle. 

That being said, there really is no perfect martial art to use against multiple attackers. After all, at some point, all martial arts have their limitations. People are not going to stand back and attack you one at a time like they do in the movies.

If you have to fight off multiple attackers you are at a huge disadvantage no matter what martial art you practice. Sure maybe Mike Tyson could take on multiple attackers in his prime but you’re probably no Mike Tyson. 

That said, if you are interested in self-defense then you probably want to mix in a striking art such as boxing to supplement your BJJ training. You might even want to learn some street-effective takedowns and throws from arts like judo and wrestling.

BJJ like any martial art can not accommodate every situation.  But you do have to start somewhere and to me learning to deal with one person first is a good place to start. Then once you have a basic grasp of that self-defense system you should supplement your training with something else.

A Few Closing Thoughts

BJJ works in real life but it won’t turn you into an action star you see in the movies. No martial can do that in the real world. That being said, BJJ is a very effective form of self-defense. You should note however that there is the martial art of jiu-jitsu and there is the sport of jiu-jitsu. 

Some BJJ schools do not focus at all on self-defense but only focus on the sport. You need to understand that much of what someone would do in sport BJJ does not work in real life. In fact, it might put you in an even more vulnerable position. 

That said, boxers are also focused on the sport of boxing and not self-defense. That does not however mean that you would want to pick a street fight with a boxer. All combat athletes are going to be more dangerous than your average human being. So yes BJJ athletes who only focus on sport jiu-jitsu are likely going to be able to handle themselves in a real-life altercation. 

You just simply need to understand that not everything you do rolling in BJJ class should be used in real life. Most of what you should and should not do is common sense. However, sometimes common sense is not as common as you think. 

Joshua Paul

Joshua Paul is a BJJ purple belt who lives in Austin, Texas. Joshua loves all forms of grappling and when he is off the mats he is likely spending time with his wife and son.

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