Is BJJ Good For Self-Defense? The Truth On BJJ For Self-Defense

Is Brazilian jiu-jitsu good for self-defense?

One of the main reasons people want to learn martial arts is for self-defense. The only problem is that there are so many different martial arts to choose from. Today we are going to talk about whether or not BJJ is good for self-defense.

BJJ is very effective for self-defense. Many people would even say that BJJ is the most effective martial art for self-defense. However, If self-defense is your goal you should find a BJJ academy that focuses less on sport and more on self-defense.

One issue is that some BJJ schools focus more on sport BJJ than self-defense jiu-jitsu. So make sure to shop around before choosing a school. Particularly if your main goal is finding a martial art with the purpose of self-defense. 

The Best Martial Art For Self-Defense Is BJJ Mixed With Other Art Forms

There are a few scenarios where BJJ is not ideal for self-defense. One good example would be against multiple attackers.

Of course, if you are facing multiple attackers you will always be at a disadvantage unless you have a powerful weapon. That said, BJJ is probably the most effective martial art for self-defense in a one-on-one situation.  

The thing to consider, of course, is that there is no reason you need to limit yourself to one martial art if you want to learn how to defend yourself. You might, however, want to at least put more focus on one martial art until you master the basics.

BJJ is a great place to start if you want to learn self-defense. Of course, there are pros and cons to choosing BJJ for self-defense. We will discuss some of the cons later in the post but for now, let’s look at why BJJ is great for self-defense.

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Great For Self-Defense

Though most people know of BJJ through MMA, it was originally taught for self-defense. Historically, BJJ evolved from Judo. However, Helio Gracie modified the art to be more effective for someone without as much size or strength. 

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.

Find A BJJ School That Has A Self-Defense Program

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.

Some BJJ Schools No Longer Focus On Self-Defense

One thing I want to talk about in a little more detail is the difference between traditional BJJ and sport BJJ. At one time practically all BJJ schools put a major focus on self-defense.

However, as the sport of BJJ has become more popular, some schools have shifted their focus on competition BJJ. So you might join a jiu-jitsu academy that does not have a self-defense program at all. 

Many jiu-jitsu academies have shifted their focus away from traditional self-defense BJJ to focus more or completely on the sport of BJJ. This is something that has happened to many martial arts around the world.

For example, when most people think of judo they think of Olympic judo. However, Olympic judo is just the competitive sport version adapted from the original martial art. The martial art of judo has far more techniques and practices than the of sport judo.

Of course, you can still find judo schools that teach the full art, however, many schools put their focus on students who want to compete in the sport. So if you want to find a judo academy that teaches the full art you have to shop around and make sure the school teaches more than competition judo.

Traditional Vs Sport BJJ

As the sport of BJJ is getting more and more popular many schools are putting all of their focus on the sport. Before sport jiu-jitsu, self-defense was typically the first thing you would learn when you joined an academy.

Nowadays, you might go to a BJJ academy for years without learning some basic self-defense techniques. This is not to say that there is something wrong with sport jiu-jitsu. However, you do need to know the differences. After all, there are many things your opponent can do in a street fight that is not allowed in BJJ competitions.

In fact, there are things you might learn in sport jiu-jitsu that will cause you more harm than good in a street fight. If you ask me, I think it is best to find a school that teaches both self-defense and sport jiu-jitsu.

That said if self-defense is important to you, then make sure you pick a BJJ school that focuses on self-defense. If you find a school that is considered Gracie Jiu-Jitsu this is usually a sign that they still focus on self-defense.

Check out this video that goes into the differences between street and sport jiu-jitsu.

Finding The Right BJJ Academy For Self-Defense

If you are interested in BJJ for self-defense the most important thing for you to do is find the right academy. As previously stated some BJJ academies focus more on self-defense than other academies do. So check out multiple schools in your area before committing to one academy.

Very likely you will be able to try a class or multiple classes for free before having to commit to a particular BJJ school. Ask the students and the instructors if the school is more focused on self-defense or competition BJJ.

Most schools that do focus on self-defense are also likely going to have programs for sport BJJ as well. Again, there is nothing wrong with sport BJJ, its just that you must be able to identify sport BJJ from a real fight. 

Most Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Schools Are Great For Self-Defense

Many schools still run by the Gracies teach what is called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or GJJ. These schools make sure to keep self-defense as the central aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. So if there is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school in your area you might want to check them out. 

In addition, you might want to do a google search for BJJ schools that focus on self-defense in your area. Of course, it is still best to go to school and ask around yourself.

Even many schools that focus on competition might have self-defense written on the windows or websites of their academy to help draw more people in. But then you get there and never learn the first thing about self-defense. 

Of course, if you are not in a large city or are in a certain part of the world you might not have too many schools to choose from. Either way, it is still a good idea to learn BJJ from the most qualified person in your area. 

Is Sport Jiu-Jitsu Useless For Self-Defense?

Though it might not be as ideal as self-defense-focused BJJ, sport jiu-jitsu is not useless for self-defense. After all, if a world-class sport jiu-jitsu champion got into an altercation they would still very likely be capable of defending themselves.

In the same way, I would bet my money on a pro boxer being able to defend themselves even though they do not train specifically for self-defense. As long as you are using common sense, then sport jiu-jitsu will still give you a huge edge over an attacker. 

The problem is that this would only apply to someone with a good amount of training under their belt in sport jiu-jitsu. If you go to a school that focuses on self-defense you will likely be better prepared to defend yourself in a shorter amount of time.

That said, it would probably still be an unlucky day for a guy who tries to pick a fight with a high-level BJJ competitor. This would be true for anyone picking a fight with someone who has years of training in any combat sport.

The great thing about competition BJJ is that it allows the art to continue to grow and evolve. That said, in some sense, it could evolve to become less practical for self-defense. On the other hand, it puts new techniques to the test and allows us to refine our skills.

So the best thing we can hope for is to keep both self-defense and sport jiu-jitsu evolving. This way they can both evolve together.

Live Rolling and Competition Help Prepare You

Competition grappling also encourages people to stay in good shape and improve their physical bodies. Though the technique of jiu-jitsu is focused on leverage, being bigger, stronger, and more athletic doesn’t hurt your chances of being able to defend yourself.

Also, BJJ competition can help you deal with the adrenaline dump from fighting another opponent. By competing in BJJ, your body will release the same fight-or-flight hormones you would experience in a real-life situation.

So you could argue that sport BJJ can help prepare you mentally for situations outside of competition.

The ideal way to move forward is to focus on the growth of both self-defense and sport jiu-jitsu. Sport jiu-jitsu in my opinion does help the art evolve. Just remember that outside of competition there are no rules or weight classes.

Why Women Should Train BJJ For Self-Defense

The area where Brazilian jiu-jitsu self-defense will come in most handy is against one attacker. Though you cannot choose how many people will attack you, very often it will be one person. This is especially true for women. Most often ( but not always ) when a man attacks a woman they will typically act alone.

For this reason, I believe that BJJ is a skill that all women should learn. Of course, as previously stated the best thing to try and avoid these situations altogether. That said, it is not always avoidable, so it is better to be as prepared as possible for a situation like this.

It is also very common for men to have to defend themselves against one attacker as well. This situation is where BJJ can be utilized the most. BJJ is designed to fight off or control one opponent. This is why BJJ is the best martial art for police to learn. 

By learning BJJ a police officer will be more likely to detain someone without necessarily having to use deadly force. So for one on one self-defense and law enforcement, BJJ is in my opinion the best martial art to learn.

Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Good For Self-Defense Against Multiple Attackers?

The place that Brazilian jiu-jitsu has some weak spots for self-defense is when multiple attackers are involved. Of course, if you really think about no martial art can prepare you for every possible situation. Even a well-trained boxer would probably have a difficult time against multiple people at the same time.

Truthfully these conversations and questions can go on forever. What is the best martial art vs multiple attackers? What if they have a weapon? But what if your attacker is a grizzly bear? The thing is that there is nothing that can prepare you for every possible situation in life.

No Martial Art Is Perfect For Every Situation

The best thing you can do is to try and be prepared for as many situations as possible. That said, against multiple attackers it would be best to have knowledge of multiple martial arts. The goal in BJJ is often to take an opponent to the ground to minimize the amount of damage they can do.

The next step would be to get in a dominant position to either control or choke out your opponent.  Of course, if there is more than one person you would be putting yourself in a vulnerable position by taking your opponent to the ground. In the case of multiple attackers, you want to try your best to stay on your feet.

The environment in which an altercation takes place makes a major difference as well. It could be in an empty parking lot, in a crowded bar, or when you are sitting down at a restaurant. The truth is you never know what kind of situation you will find yourself in.

One important thing I would like to note is that even though BJJ is not the best for multiple attackers or in every environment, you do not have to limit yourself to learning one martial art. You can do BJJ and Muay Thai or BJJ and Karate. 

In addition, BJJ is the perfect self-defense martial art for many different occasions. So I would encourage you to learn BJJ while also incorporating skills from other martial arts as well.

What To Learn To Complement Your BJJ For Self-Defense

jiu-jitsu for self defense

There are a ton of martial arts that you could learn that would help you to become more prepared to protect yourself. In addition, there are other things (certain weapons ) you can purchase at certain stores that can help protect you in certain situations as well.

Of course. there are plenty of places in the world where you can not purchase these items as well. Or maybe you are against purchasing these items yourself. Either way, it is not something I want to get into detail about in this article. It does, however, at least need to be mentioned.

As far as hand-to-hand combat goes it is a good idea to learn a striking art to go along with your BJJ. Personally, my goal is to become a world-class grappler and proficient striker. Of course, I would love to be a world-class striker as well but I only have so many hours in the day.

Learn BJJ and Striking For Self-Defense

Before I got into BJJ I had a little bit of a background in boxing and Muay Thai. I think that both of these martial arts are great to learn in combination will BJJ.

Boxing is great for self-defense because you can learn the basics in a relatively short amount of time. Of course, becoming a really good boxer takes time, however, there is a shorter learning curve than with many other martial arts.

Muay Thai takes a bit more time to learn than western boxing. This is because you can strike with all eight limbs. That is both your hands, elbows, knees and feet. So, of course, you will have to learn more techniques with this art.  However, it is an awesome martial art and certainly worth the time.

There are other great striking arts as well such as the other kickboxing styles. There are also some great techniques to learn from different styles of karate and other traditional martial arts as well. Thankfully, many BJJ schools also offer classes in striking arts as well.

So whether or not a BJJ school also has a striker program might be something to consider when choosing a school. Otherwise, training in multiple styles can become expensive.

Other Grappling Arts For Best Results

Also, don’t forget that you can and probably should cross-train in different grappling arts. Not only will doing this help you with self-defense, but it will also help your jiu-jitsu game as well. There are techniques from judo and wrestling that can be excellent for self-defense.

Certain throws and takedowns from these arts could devastate an attacker in a self-defense situation. Not only could a throw quickly end a fight, but it could also get the fight to the ground where you can be more effective in using your BJJ.

Many BJJ schools also offer judo classes and wrestling classes as well. So see if you can find a good BJJ school that also has other grappling classes as well.

In Summary

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an excellent martial art to learn for self-defense. However, if self-defense is your main focus then you should probably go to a BJJ academy that puts a major focus on self-defense. You might just have to do a little research and check out a few academies before choosing your school.

Of course, sport jiu-jitsu does have its place as well and can be a lot of fun. So personally, I would want to go to a school that teaches both.

Competition BJJ can also encourage you to stay in shape a focus on getting stronger. Which of course is never a bad thing if you want to be prepared for self-defense.

Of course, like any martial art, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has its strengths and weaknesses. It might not be the best for multiple attackers or every situation. However, a good ground game is a crucial aspect of a well-rounded self-defense system. Especially since many if not most fights end up on the ground.

Of course, almost all fights start standing. So why not learn from some other martial arts that can help complement your BJJ? See if you can find an academy that also has a striking class and perhaps even classes for other grappling arts.

After all, all we can do is be as prepared as we possibly can and hope we never have to use what we learn from jiu-jitsu class in a real-world situation. Because the best self-defense strategy is to avoid having to fight in the first place.

Recent Posts