April 7

BJJ for Self Defence- A Complete Review


BJJ is by far one of the most popular Martial Arts in the world today.

But is BJJ an effective system of self- defence? 

Well in this article we break down how BJJ was used in a real fight and examine the pro’s and cons of BJJ for self defence.

Ready let’s dive in.

BJJ For Self Defence Case Study

The above video is a classic ‘street fight’ using BJJ skills to defeat someone. 

OK, so while it wasn’t actually on the streets (a basket ball court), it is still a combative situation between two adults.

So, let’s break it down.

Background Of The Fight And Tactics

The video shows a BJJ Purple belt using his grappling skills when he was attacked after a dispute on a basketball court.

Now when videos emerge like this one I usually think they are fake but Ive had a look and to be honest it looks genuine.

In my own experience one on one situations are actual a major part of violence.

There seems to be a huge over estimation that every fight involves groups, when to be honest that is simply not the case.

Incidents of road rage, neighbour dipsutes and many more are often one on one encounters with (as in the case of this video) bystanders letting the fight go ahead and stepping in when things get ‘too violent’.

This is in many ways an artifical referee situation that could easily end u[ with more people fighting.

But to be clear ou need to have the skills to deal with both situations, group attacks and one on one encounters. 

In the video in the post we saw a total ground fight and it was a master class as such.

The BJJ player looked to be outweighed by his opponent who seemed to have some decent strikes and also was physically strong.

So to go strike for strike with this opponent could have been potentially very difficult for him, instead as the person charged he went to the ground in an almost voluntary manner.

From that point it was pretty much a grappling masterclass as he went from submission move to submission move until he finally ended up in a heel hook position and reasoned with the opponent who we assume gave up and the fight pretty much ended (we dont know as the video stops).

BJJ For Self Defence Real Fight Break Down

You have watched the video and seen my tatical overview, so let’s break down what we see.

The First Punch


In the above shot we see the start of the fight, if you watch the video the black male lowers his stance and plyometrically loads his body up.

Yes it wasnt discreet and by that point you know the strike was coming, but you get the general view that the man has some form of experience. If you look at his feet he is a classic boxers stance and throws a looping overhand strike which is quite powerful.

We do get to see a classic flinch reaction from the BJJ player, his hands go up and he actually blocks the strike taking the sting out of it.

The Slide Out

bjj for self defence


After the 2 bodies collide the BJJ player almost yields and pulls guard and within seconds he slides his hips out and gains the rear naked choke position

The Attempted Rear Naked Choke

bjj street fight rear naked

The rear naked choke is perhaps the most deadly of all techniques because once it is set in you need to be very precise on how long you hold it for otherwise the opponent could die.

In this video two things occur, the BJJ fighter lets go and starts striking and we see some small interference by friends pulling at the fingers of the BJJ guy.

Its almost as if people seem to think “hey that’s not right, you could really hurt him” but they still fail to actually break the fight up.

I have no idea if the BJJ thought ‘ oh shit I could kill this guy’ when he got the back and actually decided to let go of the choke or the friends interfering actually made him lose his grip but it does bring into close examination of the lethality of the rear naked choke.

However I like to think that the BJJ player realised that he really just wanted to control his opponent and we see evidence if this later on.

Use Of Tbe Rubber Guard In Self Defence

BJJ self defence techniques

After the BJJ player loses his grip we start to see some rubber guard on display here, and he soon starts to shift his weight into arm bar position.

You see here that the BJJ player keeps control of the head of the attacker and is destroying the attackers posture who now has no available offensive techniques at his disposal, he is thinking “I need to get up”

Failed Armbar Attempt

BJJ street fight 4 head slam

The BJJ guy goes into arm bar position, and this gave his stronger attacker the chances to ‘spike’ or slam the BJJ guy onto the floor.

I have to say this looks painful to watch. This could have easily resulted in brain injury to the BJJ player and serious neck injury but its enough for the BJJ player to let go of the arm lock and shows the strength of the attacker.



The Spin To An Inverted Heel Hook

The BJJ player shows his skills once again after he lets go of his armbar and tucks under and sweeps his opponent using his legs. Its a great move and really works as his opponent  goes to the floor.

bjj street fight 6 heel hook


Once on the floor the BJJ player gets the ankle as we can see here and is in perfect position to destroy the ankle and the knee of the opponent.

The heel hook looks inverted and this would have caused massive and immediate pain and damage if the BJJ player had used any force but he appears to have reasoned with the attacker.

I do wonder if this was a set up but Ill put my hands up and say I think it was real. It just has the hall marks of a real fight between people who either know each other or are even some form of friends.

The BJJ player seems a really nice guy and actually does his up most to be nice as he could have ended the fight in seconds but his lack of finishing could have resulted in his own serious injury!

BJJ For Self Defence: Does It Really Work?

Its clear that BJJ has areas where it has weaknesses, by the very nature of the system it is based on techniques which destroy limbs or incapacitate a person due to strikes or chokes.

If you then choose not to use the chokes it reduces your arsenal of techniques by quite some amount.

Could the BJJ guy have done this on the street and not on a basketball court? I think all of the techniques on display could have been used anywhere and yes he was vulnerable to third party involvement (ie a friend getting involved) but what exactly was he supposed to do?

When faced with a stronger opponent the BJJ player used his techniques to control and even reason with his attacker and he got out with little or no injury in an incident that could have turned far worse.

So in conclusion I feel that this video is ample proof that BJJ is actually a very worthy and acceptable self defence system. I see it has very good use for both men and especially females.

However I do maintain my view that the system is totally reliant on one on one attacks and with that it a person looking for a truly well rounded system of self defence needs to look elsewhere or even cross train.

The skill the BJJ player used here was not gained overnight. He has spent years training and dont expect to be that good after one month. Like all things BJJ takes ages to learn but with that you will make friends and get fit.

BJJ Against Multiple Attackers

One of the greatest discussion points around Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a self defence method is the issue around multiple attackers.

This indeed is a serious issue and one where BJJ has problems.

As a system of fighting it was never designed for multiple opponents or indeed the battlefield.

If we take Judo for example.

It owes its heritage to Japanese Ju Jitsu and that of course was used by the Samurai.

The basic self- defence premise is that you should throw an attacker to the floor where you finish them in seconds with a blade, blows or other means.

Speed is the importance here, not a slow and drawn out battle on the ground where you are vulnerable.

This is a major flaw in the armour of BJJ for self-defence.

However this is easily altered by the BJJ practioner spending more time learning Judo throws and not wrestling takedowns.

Throws that leave you standing and the attacker on the floor.

Does BJJ Teach Striking?

There may be BJJ clubs that add striking to their syllabus but striking does not form part of the training for 99% of any BJJ schools curriculum.

And to be honest…..why should it?

There are striking arts such as Thai Boxing, Boxxing and of course MMA that teach these things. So, again cross training in styles is certainly a good idea.

Does BJJ Training Deal With Weapons

I know a lot of BJJ schools and instrictors and I have never known any of them to bring out their plastic knife or gun to a class.

There are good reasons for this.

If you were to do this you would see how easy it is to be cut or stabbed on the ground.

And of course…guns are guns.

That being said I am well aware the Gracie Jiu Jitsu does spend a large propotion of an early students time teaching self defence.

They even have an entire Gracie Combatives syllibus to deal with self-defence issues.

My understanding is that beginners in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu train in the combative programme first before moving onto their sports side.

But I am not 100% certain around this.

Either way, most BJJ schools do not focus on weapons training or even self-defence like the Gracies do.

BJJ For Children’s Self Defence

I have on numerous occasions made my views very clear around BJJ for children.

I have absolutely zero issues with it…..expect I do not believe chokes and joint locks should be taught until a child reaches the age of at least 10 and maybe older.

There is actually a good reason for this viewpoint.

In English law, a child cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions until they reach the age of 10.

This is because they lack the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions.

And as a father of 2 young children, I don’t think it is right that kids do know how to break arms and choke other kids out.

Now, that being said, BJJ has some very useful skills for self-defence (given that a lot of kids fights are one on one) and as it is an art that is based around a system of positional dominance.

Kids can take down their attackers and make their strikes and abilities virtually useless.

That aside I am well aware of how vicious teenagers are and can be when it comes to fighting.

So, I don’t really have any issues with teenagers learning joint locks but chokes are IMHO best avoided due to the serious health issues that can come from using them.

Russian Sambo (considered one of the most vicious grappling arts on the planet) has a system that doesn’t feature chokes at all. Yet, is heavily based around leg locks.

So, perhaps that is best…I’m not sure.

But yes, kids can and do learn BJJ for self-defence and it will be up to parents to decide if they feel their kids should learn chokes.

However please watch the video below showing an amazing use of BJJ for self- defence to transform the confidence of one victim of violence.

Is BJJ Any Good For Self Defence

Yes, BJJ is a great system for anyone looking to protect themselves.

But it is far from complete or perfect.

On a one on one basis a BJJ practitioner is perfectly able to defend themselves from an unarmed attacker.

However, the BJJ students require additional training in order to deal with other threats that exist such as weapons and multiple attackers.

BJJ is not however advertised as a complete form of self defence. It is a sport, a Martial Art and an activity that has far wider positive benefits such as improved fitness, flexibility and confidence.

Therefore I have no issue in recommending BJJ for self defence.

There is no perfect system out there. Self- defence is about being sensible and therefore BJJ is a martial art that will give many benefits to your life and has proven self defence applications.

Thanks for reading



bjj, bjj for self defence, bjj street self defence, MMA

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