BJJ Poll: What Percentage of Sport Jiu-Jitsu Techniques Are Street or Self Defense Applicable?


You know that one of our favorite sources of poll questions are you, The Mighty 600,000. We recently received a voicemail from a listener to the show who said:

Hi, this is Josh from Pasadena and I’ve got a poll suggestion. It goes, “How much sportive aspects of jiu-jitsu cross over into street self-defense situations percentage-wise?” …It’s a very interesting question. It’s a very big debate and I think a lot of people would like to vote on something like that.

Cohost Dan and I agree that this is indeed a very important question. It cuts to the heart of what Brazilian jiu-jitsu is, right? We tweaked the wording of the suggestion just a little bit and came up with “What Percentage of Sport Jiu-Jitsu Techniques Are Street or Self Defense Applicable?” Even if the poll isn’t perfectly crafted it’s a starting point for conversation on this important topic.

So please vote in the poll by letting us know which option most closely reflects how much you think sport jiu-jitsu will work in a self defense situation. And feel free to leave a comment too to explain how you made your choice!

20 thoughts on “BJJ Poll: What Percentage of Sport Jiu-Jitsu Techniques Are Street or Self Defense Applicable?”

  1. I believe as a student of BJJ, that all aspects of sport BJJ can translate into a real life self-defense situation in adjusting your applicaion. My vote is a 100%. I believe with all my being in BJJ, that is why it’s my religion, my way of life, the path that I discovered that is mine and my fellow brothers and sisters. In all aspects, from self defense to a philosophy for life.

    Now with this weeks poll, it really comes down to the variables of the situation you may find yourself in. If it’s more than one person attacking you ( if there is a weapon or not ), it will change your tactical approach of removing yourself and/or someone else from danger.

    A high level, high technical and conditioned BJJ athlete has all the tools and knowledge to be able to apply his/hers BJJ techniques in a real life dangerous situation effectively. It’s not a black or white thing, this or that, once your fully connected to BJJ you know what will be the right response to what challenge is in your way. In the office or on the street.

    This is a very good topic to discuss and debate. I didn’t go to my first BJJ class to learn how to defend myself, I went because I knew that BJJ was for me. Some religious people go to church, my church is my academy. It’s fun and a healthy lifestyle to live and in the middle this beautiful art you are empowered with the knowledge and techniques that once it’s connected and it flows through you, your able to apply these techniques and defend yourself if needed in right time. With everything, your mind, body and spirit.

  2. it does seem to me that from 1993 till about 2000 that bjj and vale tudo and nhb (as it was called then) were almost synonymous.

    if you trained bjj then you also as a matter of course trained to fight. i never ever remember talking about ‘points’ during training back in the late 90’s or early 00’s.

    i think there has been a divergence. it is subtle, but i still think it is there.

    i am thankful my first exposure to bjj was back in the ‘old’ days. i just wish i had stuck with it from when i very first started. ( i trained from 1998 till 2001. then not again until 2008. im a purple now, but all my friends from the first time training are all black belts now…….)

  3. I chose option one (less than 25 percent) although I think it’s more like 30%. If someone tried to play spider guard with me in a street fight, I’m pretty sure I’d tap dance on their nuts. Inverted guard, I’d tap dance on their head. The idea of pulling guard in a street fight, retarded. Arm bar or triangle from the guard in a street fight may win you the fight, it may also get your head slammed on a nice hard slab of concrete.

    That said, I think most serious practitioners of jiu jitsu know these things and wouldn’t do anything stupid in a street situation. Just my 2 cents.

  4. Yet the idea of pulling guard is one specifically suggested in what is supposed to be the epitome of BJJ as self defence, Gracie Combatives (right here, lesson twenty one). What makes a technique ‘sport’ or ‘self defence’? It’s impractical? Surely pulling guard would fit in there? Or maybe flying triangles?

    Another thing, how much of self defence is about technique, and how much is entirely unrelated? For example, awareness, confidence, avoiding dangerous areas etc? Is it even a matter of technique?

  5. true. if you’re not practicing situational awareness, it doesnt matter how good at bjj you are. or anything.

    using my mind and my whits have saved me more than anything else. and if those didnt work then letting the other person know i am NOT going to be an easy target has done the trick.

    no need to get bloody and bruised. bj is great and i love it. simple.

  6. The state of mind of a true martial artist is key in his approach in any situation. Growing up in Queens New York during the 90’s I saw my fair share of dangerous scenarios.

    I was always a bigger than the average sized kid growing up. I’m 6’0 230lb today. How many street fights I’ve been in to date? Zip. Zero. Nada. I’ve broken a up a few though. Not one street fight under my belt and I’m proud to say that. I have countless grappling matches under my belt either be from competition or the academy. I do think before my BJJ education began in 2001, in any situation I may of found myself in I pretty much got the benefit of the doubt and how I carried myself didn’t bring me into anything even close to having to hurt or defend myself from someone else.

    When we use our Jiu-Jitsu it’s not black or white, this technique or that. It’s the BIG PICTURE. It’s life in and around you and how we stay connected.

    To Quote Rickson,

    ” You must allow yourself to be in the zero point, in the neutral point and be relax and connected with the variations, so you pretty much flow with the go…this a point beyond the knowledge it’s years of years of playing around gives you this kind of sensibility. “

  7. I think jiu jitsu has done a better job of keeping the martial much more practical in a self-defense situations, but I think the explosion of sport jiu jitsu is creating techniques that are purely sport moves.

    I’m not going to say that spider guard or a flying arm bar will never work on the street because I’m sure they could, but so could a spinning crescent kick, but it doesn’t work too often and if you mess up the consequences could possibly be dire.

    In that sort of situation simple is always best.

    That said another interesting poll question is how many academy’s still teach weapon defense?

  8. Self Defence doesn’t exist. For some bizarre reason (I blame the movies!) people think that self defence is a mano-a-mano deal with no (visible or concealed) weapons and on an even surface. They presume that there will sober, limber and free of injuries and there will be no crowd intervention. They also assume that the attacker will want to engage in a fight.

    Fighting and Self defence are different things. The differences are psychological: Why does someone want to attack you? Do they want something from you (a wallet, another material possession)? That’s premeditated and they won’t just show up unarmed. Not in 2010!!

    Jiu Jitsu is one of the greatest activities in the whole world, isn’t that enough?!

  9. It depends where you are in training. A legit BJJ black belt, with strong fundementals can apply sporting techniques to a street situation.
    However, a white or blue belt who trains for sport may have problems. You arent going to pull half guard in a dark alley way (I hope).
    This is a question that Rorion and Royler have spoken about.

  10. Also we don’t want to get back to the everlasting question : if the guy do this and that… what do you do ?
    Self defense is for me a whole different environment where you can ‘t really control thee surroundings or the emotional state you might be …will you be alone ?.. or with your family ? sitting in your car ? In a stair case ? out of breath…and so on… there are some good system out there that explore that aspect … jiujitsu has some good stuffs for sure … I love sport jiujitsu too.. But I know that lots of it might not be street ready …. there are so many factors involved in self defense that deserve a special kind of training …not necessarily in a dojo .

  11. I’m straight up tired of hearing about sport Jiu-Jitsu, real Jiu-Jitsu, pure Jiu-Jitsu, vale tudo Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Machado Jiu-Jitsu, yo momma Jiu-Jitsu, pitboy Jiu-Jitsu, pork fried rice Jiu-Jitsu, this or that Jiu-Jitsu, mosh pit Jiu-Jitsu, surf Jiu-Jitsu, 10th planet Jiu-Jitsu, Neptune Jiu-Jitsu, 3rd planet Jiu-Jitsu…

    I believe in Jiu-Jitsu, 100% in Jiu-Jitsu. The first name is not as important as the last name in this equation. I use Jiu-Jitsu for each and everything I do..

    Self-Defense? My Self-Defense is from natures elements. If it’s cold outside? I put on a coat before leaving home. That is my Jiu-Jitsu. Simple.

    Have an annoying person around me? I remove myself from the problem. That is my Jiu-Jitsu. Simple.

    If it’s raining outside? I have my umbrella. That is my Jiu-Jitsu. Simple.

    I begin my Jiu-Jitsu from the time I wake up to get out of bed, to the moment I go back to bed to sleep, morning through night. My Jiu-Jitsu is about awareness and simplicity. On and off the mat. Each and everyday of my life Jiu-Jitsu is applied to the moment where life happens. NOW. Whatever is the obvious thing for me to do, is what I will do..with or without my gi.

  12. I remember old pre Zuffa UFC Vitor Belfort fights, where Vitor would straight up knock out his opponent, with punches and post fight his whole crew in his corner screaming out.. JIU-JITSU! JIU-JITSU! JIU-JITSU! JIU-JITSU! Where it was obviously evident that he used his boxing, he still used Jiu-Jitsu. You see Jiu-Jitsu is like corn, you can find it inside every product in your local supermarket. : )

  13. Bruce Lee would say : Jiujitsu is just a name don’t make a fuss about it… ( he said it actually ) .

  14. he said it about jeet kune do ( sorry ) but since jiujitsu evolves …. you can incorporate many elements according to the situation …that’s a very interesting poll .

  15. I think it is also due to the fact that in tournaments , we have jiujitsu vs jiujitsu which make the art evolves of course but maybe out of context of fundamental self defense.
    I do switch sometimes during training between rolling using a more functional and basic jiujitsu no fancy and tighter … and a more open and fun jiujitsu ( open guard , spider guard X guard…) and for me both a pretty different…
    So now can one competes in a self defense state of mind…
    I think we already have a few examples…

  16. I voted, but I’ll be honest. I don’t know how much my opinion counts, because I have never had to defend myself in a street fight. All I can say is, more than any other style I have trained in, BJJ has given me the confidence that I can defend myself because I have made the techniques work on actual people who were trying their hardest to submit me.

  17. When I looked around at a few styles of Martial Arts, BJJ looked like the most fun. The first time I walked onto the mat at my Academy, totally pie-eyed, my instructor, Jim Kelly, had me put him in my guard and told me that position will first and foremost allow me the advantage to prevent a rape should I ever find myself in that situation.

    I doubt each sport technique would directly apply to a circumstance requiring self defense (for reasons mentioned above). However, because each requires the 3 elements of situational awareness, base, and posture, knowledge of any technique will be applied in a self defense application.

  18. I think that the most obvious answer seems to be the one nobody wants to say. Blame bjj for not being effective self defense be aide the person using it had poor judgement on what to do in a certain situation. Guard of any kind in self defense is not meant to be “pulled” from standing as some may do competition settings. It is only intended to be a better position than say mount or side control. I’m not going to drop on my back and put my legs around some muggers back on he pavement, but if I get into a fight and some dude tackles me and is on top on the ground already…
    Just use your heads and don’t try and find an all powerful answer, cuz there is none

  19. In my opinion, BJJ isn’t very effective on the streets. Sure its good to know how to defend from the ground position, but in a street fight anything goes. Throat Strikes, groin shots, skin-pinching, eye-gouging, finger twisting etc. If you’re in a street fight and you’re trying to pull an armbar, you won’t get out of the fight unscathed.

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