The Fallacy of “The Street”

A few days ago, an article I wrote back in February about butt scooting was reposted here at Jiu-Jitsu Times.

I saw several responses saying that butt scooting veers from the original “street fighting” origins of jiu-jitsu. I think this demonstrates a certain fallacy of thinking that exists among specific elements of the jiu-jitsu community.

Depending on the kind of “street fight,” jiu-jitsu may not prepare you.  If you think it prepares you for all physical confrontations, you are wrong.

That’s right; I said it.

However, jiu-jitsu DOES somewhat prepare you for self-defense situations.

To clarify, if you wind up in a situation in which you are dealing with a single, unarmed attacker in a relatively stable environment, jiu-jitsu will make you a superior combatant. More often than not, jiu-jitsu practitioners prevail in situations like these.

But many “street fights” today do not fit that description. Weapons are involved and people generally aren’t alone when they get into fights.

Lots of fights happen in bars, too, where the floor is sometimes covered in broken glass. Worse yet, bottles can be used as weapons.

The reality is that if you got into a street fight to begin with, you are likely woefully unprepared for adulthood. There are a lot of things you can do to avoid a street fight, like talking the situation down, calling the police, running, and avoiding places where people who may want to start street fights frequent.

If all else fails and you have to fight someone, you are unprepared. I promise.

The reason I say this is that most people do not have the stress inoculation needed to intelligently deal with these sorts of situations.

A big issue is the factor of the unknown. When Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was initially developed, it was developed in a society where most fights happened one-on-one and without weapons (like knives and guns). It was a different time.

I am NOT saying that you should refrain from training self-defense. The reality is that incidents can happen in which the self-defense we learn in jiu-jitsu comes in handy. I’ve read a few articles about women who were trained in jiu-jitsu and wound up using it for self-defense.

But here’s the thing: if a woman is using jiu-jitsu for self-defense, chances are the man attacking her is not taking her seriously, and that lack of respect actually becomes a weapon that a smaller, possibly weaker person can use against an aggressor.

Self-defense aspects are important, especially for people who may be put into self-defense situations throughout their lives. A staggering number of women are assaulted every year. If more of them knew jiu-jitsu, that number would go down substantially.

(Of course, if boys were taught to be gentlemen, that would also have a huge effect, but that’s a different conversation.)

Bearing all of this in mind, the best way to test the readiness of your technique is the one way that “purists” rail against the loudest: competition. The reality is that the only way outside of getting into street fights to truly test your technique against a fully resisting opponent who doesn’t care if they hurt you is on the mat at a competition. Your teammates aren’t going to pull out all the stops when they roll with you. So keep training how you train, and if you compete, chances are you are just as prepared (and unprepared) as someone who trains for “the street.”

The moral of the story is: avoid street fights. They’re unpredictable and unhealthy.


  1. i mean all the gracies have histories of street fights wich they won with jiu jitsu. brazillian street fights. as in the most savage streetfights. so i dont see your point.

    • Re read the article. He makes the point that was a different time and unlike one likely to be found in an a current day American street fighting scenario. He makes that point pretty clearly.

  2. Really, Ramos?? Your gonna complain about the article ending to soon? I was wrapping duct tape around my head and praying the self infatuated author would grow tired of the sound of his own voice! Instead, he takes an idea that should have taken one sentence to express and like an inebriated Billy goat, brays on endlessly!

  3. I saw your article on “butt scooting”, and was rather perplexed by some of the things you said in that article. Now this article. I am now fairly curious as to what the qualifications are to write for JJ Times.

    The discussion point, issue that I am curious about is your statement that Jiu-Jitsu “somewhat” prepares you for self defense. My first reaction was one that I needed to erase because it was not the most polite approach. I have been training BJJ since 96, and I am very very sure that BJJ absolutely prepares one for a self defense situation.

    We must practice different styles, or take different approaches to the art, if you are not aware that BJJ is very effective for self defense. Or, perhaps I have misinterpreted your approach to BJJ and the art in general. If you are not aware of stand up grappling, perhaps it would be a good idea to go back to your instructor and get drilled in on stand up grappling.

    As for butt scooting… That’s another can of worms…

    • Insofar as your comments about being perplexed, that’s kind of the point of these articles, to perplex and evoke reaction…

      I can’t speak for the qualifications to write for Jiu Jitsu Times, but my qualifications are simple:
      1. A bachelor’s degree in English and Rhetoric
      2. Training martial arts since 1993, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu off and on since 1999
      3. Extensive competition experience

      I’d suggest that you try your BJJ out on a group of 4+ men, or against one or more armed people who know how to use their weapons. Better yet, try standup grappling against someone with a knife who knows how to use that knife… BJJ prepares us for self defense against single unarmed opponents. It only somewhat prepares us for “self defense” as an entire, nebulous concept.

      If someone is confident enough in their guard to butt scoot successfully, chances are they’re not too worried about getting taken down.

      • “I’d suggest that you try your BJJ out on a group of 4+ men, or against one or more armed people who know how to use their weapons. Better yet, try standup grappling against someone with a knife who knows how to use that knife… BJJ prepares us for self defense against single unarmed opponents. It only somewhat prepares us for “self defense” as an entire, nebulous concept.”

        I appreciate your attempt to get into blogging… but this statement makes it clear you don’t know anything about fighting in any of those situations

        • … And informative articles (which this is written as) is not to perplexed and provoke reaction (thats for facebook idiots)… they’re for industry experts to give proven information, stats and facts… which none of this is, its opinion without foundation or experience.

  4. Fights today are the same they’ve always been … If anything, they’re easier not harder than the old days.
    Most people writing articles about what goes on in ‘The Street’ have never fought or their fighting experience is like in high school or a party.
    Brazilian Jiu-jitsu give you more opportunity to win a street confrontation than any other martial art. You make a list of specifics that BJJ doesn’t train (and some do in fact) but fail to acknowledge no other martial art does either. Other martial arts don’t train for broken glass on the floor, and bottle, and any martial art that says they’ll train you to handle multiple opponants consistantly is lying to you.
    Also, the standing clinch work of BJJ (and wrestling) is one of the most superior things you can learn to evade multiple opponents… anyone who has actually faced multiple opponents knows this is true. Also, the ability to get off the ground whenever you want is an ability that BJJ’rs have that no one ever gives credit for.

  5. You’re kidding? Right? Other than avoiding the situation, the most effective concept to fighting/disarming an armed attacker is isolation of the weapon. What martial art concentrates most on isolating individual limbs?

    There’s also no martial art that prepares you for multiple attackers, because there’s no really great way to fight multiple attackers. Granted, I’d rather be standing then grappling vs multiple opponents, but chances are you will eventually hit the ground.

    I assure you. Bjj works against blade wielding attackers. I’ve been in that situation.

  6. Emil shows a better understanding of the realities of a fight than most BJJ practitioners I run into. I think some of you need to re-read the article. There is no advocating for another better martial art and he is not saying that BJJ does not help in a self-defense situation. He’s just pointing out that there are limitations to what the training can prepare a person for.

  7. The best martial art for defense against 4 or more, armed attackers is concealed carry. BJJ should give you an advantage over a simple situation, which most are in a disagreement that turns into a fight.


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