Can You Pass the Gracie Elevator Challenge Against a 275 lbs NFL Lineman?

The Gracie Academy recently posted the image above on the school’s Facebook page and asked their followers if they could survive 30 seconds in an elevator with a 275 lb NFL lineman without being knocked out. While a number of comments spoke about the size, strength, and athleticism of NFL linemen and the challenges these attributes would present in a self-defense scenario, there were also a number of comments consistent with the comments below


While Jiu-Jitsu is a great equalizer for smaller and weaker opponents in self defense situations, let’s be realistic about what it can really do for for the average BJJ practitioner in a fight with a giant 275 lbs NFL lineman. When I say average practitioner, I am not talking about Garry Tonon, Keenan Cornelius, or Dean Lister. The average guy on the mat who is a 30 years old blue belt, trains 3 to 4 times a week and weights 180 lbs. A hard roll for this average guy is to train with their friend who is also a 30 year old blue belt, weighs 190 lbs, and played 3 years of varsity football as a linebacker at a small high school in a flyover state. Now let, lets look at what it takes to be an NFL lineman.

  • Massive size
  • World class athleticism
  • 400 lbs plus bench press
  • Likely runs 40 yard dash in less than 5 seconds.
  • Moves like an athletic 150 lbs person
  • Explosiveness
  • Amazing hand eye coordination
  • Plays a sport built around physical aggression and violence
  • Uncanny mental and physical toughness
  • Likely has been in a few scraps in his lifetime.

Just check out NFL star J.J. Watt working out during HBO’s NFL Hard Knocks and observe how he fluid and fast he moves for a 6’5, 288 lbs monster.

Don’t let J.J.’s  smile fool you. On the field or in combat, J.J. is far from a gentle giant.

So how is an average BJJ practitioner supposed to handle a monster like J.J. Watt? You can hope he breaks his hand on your skull and that you aren’t completely unconscious from the blow. All kidding aside, BJJ is the most practical martial art for self-defense and is a wonderful lifestyle that has improved the life of millions of people. However there are limits to what you and BJJ can do against a one-in-a-million monster. Much like the Gracies succumbing to Sakuraba in Pride, there are ceilings in BJJ in what it can do for you in a self-defense situation against a giant, world class athlete even if the athlete never trained in BJJ in his life.

BJJ can help you survive an encounter with an aggressive attacker, but even then it likely won’t look like any of the fights we see in a Hollywood production. Chances are if it will be clinching and controlling a drunk guy before taking the drunk to the ground. Once it is on the ground, bouncers or others will likely break up the scuffle in a matter of seconds. In the case of a female being attacked, BJJ will provide a foundation to breaking grips or a choke and fending off the attacker to escape.

Through our training in BJJ, we should have been humbled enough from our encounters on the mat with the 120 lbs upper belt who choked us out and the giant 300 lbs white belt we couldn’t move. From both situations, we should know that we should be smart enough to try to avoid all types of physical confrontations with anybody. If all means of disengagement fail and a J.J. Watt type character attacks us, we should apply our knowledge of BJJ to defend ourselves in what could be a life or death situation since it does improve greatly improve our chances of surviving. However, the odds still won’t be in our favor and we should still be humble and pragmatic enough to realize that our BJJ will have its limits against a giant world class athlete with amazing strength and speed.

Just my thoughts. What are your thoughts? What you pass the Gracie Elevator Challenge?



  1. Limits are everywhere indeed, but if BJJ, one of the most effective martial arts in terms of non armed self defense, will not save you from a KO in this scenario, nothing will.
    I don’t think any other resource, other than BJJ + Similar weight will do any better either.


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