Does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Prepare us to Handle Multiple Attackers?

At jiu jitsu times, we like to take reader questions as it gives us an opportunity to help our readers on a personal level.  We recently got an interesting question from one of our readers:

“I want self defense against multiple opponents: will BJJ help me?”

I will do my best to answer this question.

For starters, the ability to grapple is inherently helpful in any violent encounter, even if you don’t personally use those skills.  Very often, in situations in which an individual has to contend with multiple attackers, one person holds the individual while the others attack them, BJJ makes holding someone still very difficult.

Depending on where and under what sort of curriculum you train, there’s a good chance that your BJJ program includes basic self defense, meaning we learn to avoid getting hit and how to close the distance and take a person down to the ground.  It’s hard to hit someone if they are attached to another person that you don’t want to hit, so in a situation in which there are multiple attackers, the ability to close the distance can and will come in handy.

Ultimately, in the realm of grappling arts, the best skill sets for multiple attackers are probably contained within wrestling and Judo in that both focus heavily on the ability to throw and opponent to the ground violently.  That said, most jiu jitsu programs educate their members on how to take people down, and most gyms have a judo or wrestling coach, or in some cases both.  Nothing ends a confrontation quicker than slamming someone on their head…

The best option when trying to prepare for a scenario in which you are doing with several attackers is to train in a mixture of martial arts.  Kali, Muay Thai, Boxing, Judo, BJJ etc all combine to make a pretty lethal combatant.  The reality is that BJJ as a standalone art is best suited for one on one, unarmed combat.

One last factor to take into account is the X-factor of toughness and physicality that we develop over time in jiu jitsu.  The longer we train, the more physically tough we become and the more comfortable we become with violence.

There was however that scene in the movie Redbelt in which the lead character played by Chiwetel Ejiofor dispatches a whole room of opponents which kind of negates everything I’ve said…

What do you other readers think?


  1. I think that multiple attackers defense is an imperfect science, regardless of style or discipline: I do believe the combination of several martial arts expertise, or the mastery of martial arts that involve many styles (krav maga is an example) increases chances of defending yourself against untrained attackers but I dont see a way in which a single person can effectively defend himself against several trained opponents.

  2. Well thought through response. I think in any fight where multiple opponents are attacking the primary goal should be to keep your feet, and keep your distance… where possible. being able to throw someone is especially useful, but going down with an opponent in a take-down will probably mean loosing situational awareness of other opponents. even if you can quickly disable that first opponent, having to find your feet again puts you at an instant disadvantage for the next opponent. i think the best thought in this article was mixing BJJ with another form that has the ability to be lethal from a distance. (all thoughts coming from someone who hasn’t practiced in many years.)

  3. This is rather a trick question, in the sense that, logically, there is NO martial art that is effective against multiple attackers. Obviously many martial arts will try to convey that their “style” will do so, but in reality, considering all factors, there’s no such thing. As Rener Gracie himself pointed out (when asked the same question), he recognizes Gracie Jiu Jitsu as not being the most effective martial art in handling multiple attackers but on the same note he says “if there is anyone out there claiming that they have the key to handle multiple attackers, me and my brother would like to have a talk with that person”

    • Great comment. I totally agree. It does not matter what martial art you study. If more than one or two people are attacking you, you stand little chance.


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