There is more and more debate over self defense as Brazilian jiu-jitsu splits into BJJ for MMA, no-gi submission grappling, IBJJF gi sport tournaments, and the old-school Helio Gracie self-defense philosophy.
If you ask 10 new students why they decided to check out BJJ, you will almost never hear the answer, ‘I want to be a Mundials Champion!”
The vast majority of students who join a martial arts class are interested in getting fit and learning a new physical skill, but the #1 reason remains learning how to defend oneself in a street altercation.
Have a look at the excellent demonstration of self-defense techniques from the traditional Gracie Jiu-jitsu.
But when you step on the mats of the more popular BJJ schools in your city, you are much more likely to see spider guards, berimbolos, and other advanced techniques used in sports grappling competitions.
Critics of this style of training say that the original self-defense essence of the BJJ is being eroded and lost amidst jumping to guard and the emphasis on points for sweeps. Some of the fun but clearly 100% sports oriented positions like Jeff Glover’s “Donkey Guard” underscore this argument.
These critics have a point! It is misleading to advertise BJJ as a self-defense art if the beginner is going to skip headlock escapes and get right into leg drag guard passes.
Yet the other side of the argument goes something like this: “Do you really think solid blue or purple belts who have accrued hundreds of hours of grappling experience are going to have much difficulty defending themselves against an untrained opponent in a street fight?”
Top coach John Danaher doesn’t think so. He says defeating the average, untrained opponent in a street altercation would be very easy for someone with jiu-jitsu training.
So where is the correct balance? How much self-defense training is needed in a BJJ academy?
The best wisdom on the subject is that Fundamentals classes should contain self-defense situations and show escapes from common street confrontation scenarios.
As the students gain experience, their training gradually shifts into what is the most addictive part of BJJ: rolling with your training partners in the academy and having fun learning the full array of techniques.
After six months to a year of classes, students will have less concern about their ability to deal with a self-defense situation and their interest will be fueled by rolling with their classmates.
How much self-defense do you think should be taught in BJJ academies?
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