5 May 2010

BJJ self defence

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.”  
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.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. It seems lately that this is constant topic of discussion and even contention in the BJJ community. What I'd really like to hear is what are these techniques and practices that are totally and completely sport-oriented, that would have absolutely no bearing in a self-defense situation? I have nowhere to pull for this info because I don't really go around trying to get into fights. Still, I hear a lot of generalized arguments and would love to hear some specific do's and dont's and why. What are your thoughts?

SkinnyD said...

For some reason that last comment published me as "anonymous." Not intentional. :)

Meerkatsu said...

Oooh nice blog design you got there Daniel!

Ok there are aspects to BJJ as I train it that make it rather impractical to convert into something realistically useful for self defence purposes. Stuff like spider guard and gi wrap chokes are obvious examples.

The emphasis on points and advantages in tournament jiu-jitsu is nice for sport, but moves away from the whole idea of why we are doing this, ie positional hierarchy in a one-to-one fight. And in many clubs I notice, not much is mentioned of WHY certain moves are there or were created in relation to self defence. Over time you kinda figure out why.

My personal thoughts are that BJJ as a combat sport is awesome and should be practised with full vigor, but if you have any interest at all in the self defence heart of BJJ, then it necessitates a step back to the roots of the art, and that is where your Gracie Combatives et al come in.

Finally, coming from a trad JJ background, I find it ironic that a lot of BJJ gyms are now re-introducing a BJJ self defence curriculum. As I said, the heart or root of BJJ is for self defence - but this came from the early judo/jujitsu of Japan, which is also the root of my old trad JJ style. And if you look at the techniques, there is little to separate them.

Of course, in BJJ, sparring rules and it is what makes BJJ so special.

[All my own opinion, others may think differently]

Liam H Wandi said...

Right! I'll have to write something about this now :)

In a nutshell, I think a lot of people follow the Volcano-insurance policy (from Family Guy), i.e. they buy insurance in case a volcano errupts and devours their home.

The way I see it, it's all cost-and-benefit analysis. If you were bold, how much time would you devote to training defence against hair grabs? In similar fashion, I strive to make my life better and defend against possibilities of needing to defend myself. I live in an ok neighbourhood and always avoid the alleys. I ate and drink healthily and never carry much cash or valuables...you get my drift.

I'm not saying I'll never get in a situation that forces me to defend myself. I don't know that. I just don't find that risk large enough to even justify thinking about devoting my valuable time to training for it, nevermind investigating what's effective and what isn't.

I remember someone asking my Iai-do (yeah! I said it!) sensei: "why do you practice Iai-do?" and he replied "for the same reason some people practice badminton. Because I really like it".

A.D. McClish said...

Haha, Liam, great comment. I take BJJ because I love it and have fun with it. I can see where Meerkatsu is coming from. BJJ is a self defense art, but it has been somewhat watered down to protect people who want to compete in the sports arena. At our school what happens is we are taught techniques in two ways. 1) This is the way you would do this technique on the street. 2) This is the way you would do this technique in a tournament. A lot of times we learn techniques you can't use in tourneys like bicep locks and cervicals. We learn them because they are a part of BJJ. But we don't use them in grapples in class or in tournaments because they are too dangerous. I think that there should be a balance. Learn both the sport way and the street way, if you're interested. If not, like Liam said, just have fun with it!

Meerkatsu said...

I agree with you all on this. Afterall i did give up a nice cushy sensei gig to dedicate myself to bjj as i wanted a better use of my time. The bjj self defence sytems are out there and people can use them if they want.
Allie i like your instuctors way of separating comp technique from dirty nasty stuff :)

Liam, i think for those who have never done any ma before, some sd drills would at least give perspective.

SkinnyD said...

Thanks for the compliment. The blog is a work in progress - luckily I have some good examples to emulate :)

It seems to me that a dedicated practitioner could effectively integrate an understanding of the basic street-effective BJJ manuevers. In our school the instructor does differentiate between tournament BJJ and self-defense BJJ, but the difference doesn't really stand out because for me it all blends together into one lump of jiu-jitsu.

Honestly, though - maybe it's just the white belt in me - this question does nag at me a lot. I'd like to think that because I'm learning BJJ, I'd be a formidable opponent in a fight (one-on-one). Even though the likelihood of me ever getting in a fight is low, still, it's an important aspect of learning BJJ for me. Eventually I'll arrive at my own conclusions, I guess.

Meerkatsu said...

SkinnyD, I'm sure your growing skills would prove to be a tough weapon if ever you were caught in a confrontation. As I said in my post, it's all about tipping the balance in your favour - everything you learn and train for all goes in to your personal bodily melting pot. And that includes what Liam talked about - common sense awareness issues such as not putting oneself in potentially hostile situations and generally be sensible with life.

BTW. unless you have already done so, do feel free to join the Guild of BJJ Bloggers Facebook group I have set up. You can share ideas, promote your blog and pick up or share technical blogging tips. Just search for "Guild of BJJ Bloggers" or "G.O.B.B" on FB.

Thanks for all your contributions to this post guys.

Jason (JiuJitsuMap.com) said...

I read a review a while back from Slideyfoot about one of Geoff Thompson's books. It sounded like very profane and full of fight stories but not much advice. Does Animal Day or Dead or Alive fit into that category in your opinion?



Meerkatsu said...

Oh yeah, there is a lot of puff in the books don't get me wrong, it's in no way a 'bible' of self defence. But it at least offers cold hard facts and a good deal of truths that knock any notion of fantasy martial arts out of people's heads. Animal Day is more instructional, Dead or alive is half theory, half personal anecdotes. I don;t know what Watch My Back is like.
Anyway, I picked my copies up for pennies in a book market, read them afew times, absorbed the info and that was that. Other 'real life experience' self defence manuals are available I am sure.

SkinnyD said...

I'll check out the guild. Thanks as always for a great post.

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Daniel Sesseven said...

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