Offense Vs. Defense: Which Is More Important?

What is more important in jiu-jitsu?  Defense or offense?  No really, I want to know!

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to training.  Some say to explore the worst possible positions and figure out how to deal with them intelligently; they say it is better to become unsubmittable than to try to be the best at actually hitting submissions.  The notion is that while there may always be someone bigger and stronger that can power through submissions, through proper body mechanics one’s defense can become truly impervious.

On the other side of this great debate is the notion that the best defense is a good offense.  If I’m attacking you constantly I don’t need to worry about stopping submissions because you’re worried about stopping mine.  Also, if I recognize attacks from all angles, chances are you will be unable to settle comfortably into any dominant position because you are being attacked.

For many, time on the mat is limited.  You only have so many hours to train in a day, and if you intend on competing you should be building an arsenal of skills that will work for you on the competition mat.  If relentless, tireless offense is the secret to success, should you ever even spend time in bad positions?

As much as many may think, there is no single answer to this question.

Here are some possible scenarios in which one may hold precedence over the other:

In a points setting, your offense may be a more valuable tool because it will allow you to score points and possibly even get the submission over a potentially tougher opponent.

In submission only, you can use a sharpened set of defenses to exhaust your opponent as they try to submit you, only to come back around and submit them once they’re nice and pliable.

The thing about defense is that there are infinite options for an opponent to utilize when attacking, while offense is about setting the pace, and selecting the path of a match or fight.  If you work a whole lot on your armbar defense but then get leglocked, that armbar defense didn’t do you much good.  On the other side of things, if you hone a battle plan in which you use your armbar to set up a leglock, but your opponent has spent countless hours working on the proper defense to the specific sequence you like, your time may have been spent in vain.

So for those out there who have a specific opinion on this matter, why?  Why is defense more important than offense?  Or why is offense more important than defense?  Orrrr…. are they of equal importance?


  1. I started BJJ at 51, w two artificial hips. I’m old and slow. Defense was simply essential. Then again, as I progressed through the ranks, my coaches said it was time to open things up and attack. Now, as a 58-yr old brown belt, my typical roll is attack, fall back on defense if necessary, and then counter attack as the opportunities present themselves. So for me, as an older and disabled BJJ practitioner, defense comes first, but it sets the stage for sneaky counter-attacks.


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