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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – The Grappling Angle on Self Defense

By Matt Cram, 3rd Degree Black Belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – The Grappling Angle on Self Defense

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also commonly known as BJJ is arguably the single most effective martial art on earth. Yet, it may surprise you that BJJ, by and large, rejects striking (punches and kicks) as the most efficient skill needed for self-defense. Instead, BJJ strongly favors the locks and holds of grappling as most important for defending oneself. There are several reasons for this, let’s explore them.

On a very practical level, striking techniques are very attribute driven. A larger, stronger, more athletic person can generate far more force in their strikes than a weaker, smaller one. This is why in boxing they have weight classes. A 140 pound athlete has almost no chance of knocking out a 190 pound athlete. Furthermore, if you ever had to defend yourself, it is most likely against a bigger, stronger adversary. So, to trade blows in such a situation would be futile.

On a philosophical level, the idea of striking is questionable as well. If you are able to move about and throw punches and kicks, it begs the question “why are you still there?”. You should be running! I call it the Nike defense, and it is the best technique there is. Therefore, in BJJ we believe the need for real self defense starts when you are physically immobilized. Techniques for escaping situations such as being bear hugged, being put in a choke or head lock, or perhaps being dragged into a vehicle are featured prominently in BJJ. In addition, Jiu Jitsu seeks to take any standing assault situation and bring it down to the ground. Being down on the floor can act as an equalizer where size and strength discrepancies are diminished. The close physical distance makes it difficult to strike, shifting the advantage in favor of the one with the greater knowledge, and technical understanding.

Finally, the greatest aspect of grappling is its ability to be completely real and remain low impact. Part of being a good grappling partner is to maintain realism, so that when you escape a headlock or pin to the ground, you know you actually did it. It wasn’t just theory and your partner didn’t just let you out. In BJJ, you can truly test your techniques and still go to work the next day (or even later that day). This is in sharp contrast with a full contact boxing or kickboxing session.

The result of this type of training is an unparalleled sense of personal confidence. You will truly know what you are capable of and that knowledge will shine like a search light within your eyes. This brings us to the beautiful paradox of martial arts – you learn to fight, so you never have to. This is because strong, confident, happy individuals make poor targets for violence.

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