Jiu-Jitsu: Sport Vs Street

There is an ongoing conflict within the Jiu Jitsu and that is Sport Vs Street. Proponents of Sport Jiu Jitsu argue that Sport is the evolution of Jiu Jitsu to address the reality of an educated grappler. Proponents of Street Jiu Jitsu argue that the rules are made up and the points don’t matter, the only thing that matters is the ability to defend oneself using Jiu Jitsu. In spite of my relative inexperience and naïveté I’m going to go ahead attempt to take a stab at this age old discussion.

The first question that needs to be asked is what is the definition (and difference between) sport and street Jiu Jitsu. Sport Jiu Jitsu is Jiu Jitsu developed specifically to address another grappler who is not trying to strike you. In other words, your hands, legs and posture can all be focused entirely upon grappling, instead of focusing on not getting hit. Sport Jiu Jitsu includes points and submission only, and has positions and moves in it that would be very risky if the other person were allowed to strike.

Street Jiu Jitsu is considered by many “Pure Jiu Jitsu” in that it supposedly requires no special rules, it is “street ready”. This is the Jiu Jitsu that Americans were first introduced to by way of Royce Gracie in the early days of the UFC. This is the Jiu Jitsu that includes low push kicks followed up by closing the distance to a clinch, a takedown and then a choke from the back. Street Jiu Jitsu is best applied against an individual that has no idea what Jiu Jitsu is or that their intended victim knows it.

Here is where things get interesting: Sport Jiu Jitsu still incorporates the same fundamentals that “Street Jiu Jitsu” encompasses, minus some of the “weapon disarmament” and other stuff that is really nice if the other guy lets you do it, but probably wouldn’t go over well in a real time altercation. Street Jiu Jitsu really doesn’t do much to address multiple assailants, and doesn’t really have a good answer for a crazed armed assailant. That said, if you want self defense: get a gun, learn how to use a knife (and a stick for giggles), but don’t maintain the delusion that your ability to execute a slick arm bar will stop a criminal from shooting you, and in 2015 America, that’s really the most likely outcome of a physical altercation between strangers.

There was an instance a couple of years back that “Street” proponents tout as an example of “Pure” Jiu Jitsu vs. “Sport”, and that is the time Andre Galvao, one of the best sport guys in the game, had a submission only match against Ryron Gracie, and they went to a draw. The main detail that supporters of “Street” Jiu Jitsu leave out of the discussion is that Galvao was neither allowed to nor trying to hit Ryron. That said it really was an example of Sport Jiu Jitsu vs. Street Jiu Jitsu in a setting that allowed for indefinite stalling and in which the Street proponent was trying to stall and get a draw.

Another example of Sport Vs Street came up in a recent incident in which a sport Jiu Jitsu practitioner got into an altercation on a basketball court which ended with him securing a heel hook, threatening to destroy the attacker’s knee and both backing off from that point. A lot of people claim that “Pure Jiu Jitsu” is about avoidance of conflict, and situational awareness. The Sport guy clearly made several mistakes in the incident, but the reality is that on a broad scale his behavior is no different than many of the stories involving the Gracie Family. I believe it was Rickson that once said “If we fight for money, I’ll stop when you ask me to. If we fight for honor I’ll stop when I feel like it.” This is not an art developed by fundamentally peaceful or peace-loving people. That’s a misconception we all need to let go of. Should we get into fights on basketball courts? No, that’s a terrible idea that will be likely to get people shot. Was the guy in the basketball video reprehensible? Nah.

I have never once heard a Jiu Jitsu competitor bash “Street” Jiu Jitsu. Most of the ire and criticism in this debate is coming from one side of it. People have all sorts of motivations for doing BJJ, and depending on that motivation, you may be drawn to sport or to street or to both. The most important thing is get on the mat and train, but don’t be all judgy and preachy about it, not everyone has the same thought processes.

Emil Fischer an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete page at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here