Here is quote from one of the last interviews Grandmaster Helio Gracie gave:
“The Jiu-Jitsu that I created was designed to give the weak ones a chance to face the heavy and strong. It was so successful that they decided to create a sportive version of it. I would like to make it clear that of course I am in favor of the sportive practice and technical refinement of all athletes, whatever their specialty may be, as well as good nutrition, sexual control, avoidance of addictions and unhealthy habits. The problem lies in the creation of a sport-oriented Jiu-Jitsu, based on rules and time limits, which benefits the heavier, stronger, and more athletic individuals. The primary objective of Jiu-Jitsu is to empower the weak who, for not having the physical attributes, are often intimidated. My Jiu-Jitsu is an art of self-defense in which rules and time limits are unacceptable. These are the reasons for which I can’t support events that reflect an anti Jiu-Jitsu.”
Taken from http://inosanto.com/?p=940
And yet here we are, 2010, and BJJ schools up and down the country are teaching techniques that would not stand much hope outside the strict rule set of BJJ tournaments. It doesn't bother me personally because I train BJJ for the technical and sporting side of things anyway. But some people might ask, how can I use BJJ as a self defence?
To be honest, I have no idea myself. You could say that the overal fitness, conditioning, 'alive' style of sparring, and understanding of positional dominance one receives from regular BJJ training could tip the balance in one's favour. But for specific self defence training, I imagine you would get more benefit from one of a number of BJJ-based self defence systems currently available. Here are a few I've come across recently:
1. Gracie Combatives - "The Fastest Way to Street Readiness" claims the website. Well not sure about that, but this at-home training instructional program does offer the self defence elements of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to those who live too far from a BJJ academy.
2. Crazy Monkey Defense Program - BJJ black belt Rodney King's Crazy Monkey self defence style has a jiu-jitsu element to it, known as Monkey Jits. I'll be covering this in more detail in a later post as it is a fascinating topic on its own.
3. Gracie Barra Fundamentals - 16 week rotating course taught by GB schools and also available on DVD focusing on self defence and basic positions. Better description here.
4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Self Defence- the book by Royce and Charles Gracie covers basic defences to stuff like headlocks and bear hugs.
I'm sure there are quite a few others out there too.
When I ran a traditional ju-itsu class the whole syllabus we taught was geared towards self defence, not sport. Over time, I soon realised that absorbing a ton of techniques and hoping for the best is not the answer for anyone concerned about their personal protection - in fact I don't think there is a perfect answer to such problems. It's a subject area that gets discussed a lot by people more experienced than me, so I'll leave it at that myself. But I can recommend reading the jiu-jitsu sensei blog articles written by Lori O'Connell, a traditional ju-jitsu instructor over in Canada who writes very good stuff on the whole martial arts and self defence thing.
In the meantime, for your average BJJ-obsessed guy or girl not interested, or not able to attend specific self defence classes, there are things you could do to help tip the balance. Most academies now offer MMA, boxing or Muay Thai classes and it seems logical that adding some strikes and kicks to positional grappling skills would be a good combination. Oh and I recommend a Geoff Thompson book, like Dead or Alive, or Animal Day.