Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Good For Self Defense?


You may have heard that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the best martial art for self-defense, but why exactly is that? I wanted to know why BJJ is so good for self defense, so I did some research found 9 reasons why BJJ is amazing for self-defense. Let’s talk about these reasons below.

Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Good For Self Defense?

Yes, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is good for self defense for the following reasons:

  1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gets you comfortable with fighting.
  2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu works well for people of all sizes.
  3. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is effective against bigger opponents.
  4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches you how to gain control over people.
  5. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu helps you practice against real opponents.
  6. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gets you in good shape.
  7. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu makes you mentally tough.
  8. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is versatile.
  9. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Ground Fighting.

1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gets You Comfortable With Fighting

Have you ever been in a situation where someone is trying to choke you unconscious? I have and it is NOT a nice place to be in. If you train BJJ, this will become an everyday occurance for you.

Training BJJ gets you comfortable with being uncomfortable, and unlike striking arts such as Muay Thai where you spar around 20% of the time, in BJJ you spar closer to 100% of the time you train. BJJ rolling is very close to a real fight, minus all the punching and kicking.

This means that if you ever do have to defend yourself, you will not be left shocked from the physical nature of the fight, nor will you be uncomfortable grappling with someone and taking it to the ground.

In a street fight for example, an untrained individual will likely turn their back on the attacker in an attempt to shield themselves. While this is a natural reaction, it is the WORST thing you can do because now you have lost sight of your opponent and will be unable to defend yourself if they start swinging.

Someone who is more comfortable with fighting and grappling with others will not make this beginner mistake and will be much more capable of defending themselves in a fight.

See the above video to see why BJJ is excellent for self-defense.

2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Works Well for People of All Sizes

Picture this, you’re a well trained kickboxer and weigh 130 lbs. Now, a larger opponent who weighs around 180 lbs. grabs you and won’t let go. Now what do you do?

The issue with smaller men and women who train martial arts is that martial arts for self-defense are not created equal. Smaller individuals have lighter bones and weigh less making it more difficult for them to do a lot of damage to a larger opponent. But smaller individuals can defeat a much larger opponent with Jiu-jitsu.

Some arts like BJJ are superb for self-defense while others such as Aikido have little to no real-life application

The problem with smaller individuals that train kickboxing is that even if they are very skilled and technical, they can only defend themselves against people of a similar size or maybe a little bigger. This is why there are weight classes.

Smaller individuals can only generate so much force against their opponents. Being bigger just adds more force to your hits because of the added weight. That is just facts.

Striking arts like Muay Thai or Karate work by overwhelming your opponent with power, speed, and athleticism, but become much more difficult to use against larger opponents.

This is why it is good for smaller individuals who are looking for ways to defend themselves to train BJJ. With BJJ, you can learn ways to choke out and grapple with individuals much larger than you which helps to negate the size factor.

I’ve seen this myself. I have a good friend who weighs maybe 120 lbs. and regularly taps out untrained people significantly bigger than them who come into the gym using BJJ.

And even more, my friend has only been training for 6 months! A smaller individual with a purple belt, and around 3-4 years BJJ experience, will annihilate almost all untrained individuals who try to face them.

In every other martial art, including Muay Thai, I don’t see this being true. BJJ is the best martial art for smaller individuals and for this reason is often considered to be the best martial art for self defense.

3. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Effective Against Bigger Opponents

Unlike other martial arts like Boxing or Muay Thai that rely on speed, power, and athleticism, BJJ is relies on technique more than anything. I get regularly tapped out by people way smaller than me, and this is normal in BJJ. It’s a big ego check, but I guess it is just the nature of the beast.

Nowhere is this evidenced more than in Royce Gracie’s UFC domination where he regularly submitted people way bigger than him, (UFC had no weight classes back then) and in turn showed the world for the first time the effectiveness of BJJ.

Just look at the video above of some of his highlights! I don’t see any martial art being comparable to BJJ when it comes to pure technique.

Now I still recommend learning striking to be a complete, all-round fighter. You will need to know both to be effective in a fight. To see why BJJ goes along well with the art of the eight limbs, Muay Thai, check out my my post here.

4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Teaches You How to Gain Control Over People

Do you know why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is considered the best martial art for controlling your opponent? Because imagine getting in a fight and punching someone, and now they are out for blood and are charging you full force. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can stop someone dead in their tracks without having to hurt them. Using your BJJ techniques can be a quick and painless way to end an altercation.

BJJ relies on using frames and leverages to control the other person’s body weight. If BJJ was mandatory for police officers to learn, then I can guarantee that it would be beneficial for anyone looking to improve their self defense skills to learn as well.

Certain positions like knee on belly allows you to control someone on the ground, as well as run away or strike depending on the situation. Omoplata is a shoulder lock position you see in the above video. It gives you complete control over someone, especially if they are untrained.

Now if someone has a gun or a knife BJJ will not protect you obviously, but I believe that BJJ has an advantage over other martial arts such as Muay Thai in those situations. BJJ is a lot better for knife situations because it gives you better control of your opponent. In positions like Omoplata, you clearly can see your opponent’s hand so if they went for a knife or a gun, you have more than enough time to react and stop them.

I still wouldn’t advise using Omoplata in a street fight situation since you’re on the ground, but assuming there is only one attacker it gives you far more control over what your attacker can and cannot do compared to other moves such as the Thai clinch.

In the end, other striking arts just do not give you as much control over your opponents as BJJ does.

5. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Helps You Practice Against Real Opponents.

I used to train Karate when I was a kid a long time ago. I remember going through all the Karate motions and kicking the air, but not much live drilling was done in Karate, and sadly these arts have become watered down due to Olympic rules so I never really had the chance of fighting any real opponents.

Everything you learn in BJJ is tried and proven to work against real opponents. In that sense, BJJ is similar to Muay Thai. The issue with traditional martial arts like Wing Chun or Karate is that you don’t get a lot of practice against real opponents. Sparring isn’t practiced often in these martial arts and everything is more theory-based.

Having some idea of how to fight is better than nothing, but wouldn’t you feel more comfortable if you had actually grappled with someone rather than just learned about how to grapple. I know I would.

BJJ was put to the test in UFC 1 and came out victorious because of the fact that it is super effective against other martial arts like Kickboxing and Wrestling. Every BJJ practitioner will have a lot of experience rolling (fighting) after class and testing what they learned with other people who are trying to choke them out! What better practice for self defense can you get than that?

Even worse are fake martial arts (see the above video) where the Dojo masters practice death touches using chi which is more than useless in a street fight situation and could get you killed or seriously injured.

For a martial art to truly be effective, live sparring against an opponent who fights back is key. Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and BJJ all fit this category. In other martial schools such as Taekwondo & Karate it is harder to find places that do live sparring. For this reason, those who practice BJJ are much more comfortable fighting people than those in other martial arts.

6. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gets You in Good Shape

BJJ is a martial art designed for fighting. Although the warmups themselves are not too challenging when compared to Muay Thai, drilling and rolling in BJJ is super tiring. Rolling in BJJ will stimulate your heart rate and help keep your body healthy.

In a self-defense situation, your body could be tested aerobically (with air) or anaerobically (without air) or both. If you have ever fought someone before, even just playing around, then you know how taxing on your body it can be.

BJJ tests your body in every situation and will prepare you to go the distance in a fight if needs be. Part of defending yourself is just having the stamina to stay afloat.

The issue with training pure self-defense arts like Krav Maga is that it is not as intense of a workout as BJJ. I remember sparring with someone in my gym who had a background in Krav Maga and he was super tired after rolling because he didn’t get the same conditioning in his self-defense classes.

BJJ burns roughly 700 calories per hour making it amazing for losing fat and improving your overall fitness. With continued training, you will improve your strength, explosiveness, and heart health.

So although BJJ teaches you to fight, it also prepares your body for the physical demand that comes into play in a self defense situation.

7. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Makes You Mentally Tough

BJJ is a very difficult thing to learn and even more challenging to get good at. Around 90% of white belts quit before they achieve a blue belt. It’s not always easy.

Learning BJJ is like learning another language but this time the language is not words but body movements. This language will cause your body to ache after a good workout with all the drills and rolling you will do in your training.

All this training not only will improve your fighting skills and physical conditioning, but it also will make you even more mentally tough. And if you ever get into a situation where you have to defend yourself or your family then being mentally tough is extremely important.

In BJJ you will be constantly placed in situations where you are being choked or your limbs are being stretched beyond what you think is possible. But as time goes on you learn to teach your mind to fight through these difficult positions and to not give up.

And in a street fight you have to be mentally tough. You can’t just tap. You can’t just give up. In most situations this will not be an option and so you will have to be mentally tough enough to push through and defend yourself. Sometimes defending yourself is more of a mental thing than a physical thing.

Look no further than this quote from Ricardo Almedia a fourth-degree Renzo Gracie blackbelt, it perfectly explains why BJJ and other martial can do for everyone to improve their mental toughness.

Jiu-jitsu and martial arts do not build character, they reveal it. We are all born with unmeasurable courage and determination, but it is as we go through the trials of rigorous training that we rediscover those gifts.

Ricardo Almeida 

8.Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Versatile

Often when we think of martial arts we think of Karate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and most recently MMA. What do all those martial arts, aside from MMA, have in common? They all start from the ground and are striking arts.

BJJ’s objective on the other hand is to get someone to the ground. A grounded opponent has a less explosive, less athletic potential making them easier for you to gain control of.

The Javelin world record is 98.48 m/923 feet set by Jan Železný. How far could Jan throw the Javelin if he was sitting on the ground? Not far at all. And this is the advantage grappling martial arts have over striking martial arts. They help to remove some of that explosiveness.

Getting someone to the ground is what allows BJJ athletes to defeat opponents far bigger and stronger than they are which is perfect for self defense. You won’t know how big your opponent is that you will be defending yourself against if the time ever comes that you do have to defend yourself.

BJJ would cause a prime Mike Tyson punch to be greatly reduced if he were having to punch from the ground rather than standing. Now Mike Tyson is one of the baddest men ever to walk this Earth, but the way to beat him would be getting the fight to the ground. Face to face you wouldn’t stand a chance.

Now, I do not recommend going to the ground in a street fight because you have no control over what happens. You lose a lot of vision of what is happening around you, as well as losing mobility when you go to the ground in a street fight.

But if you are fighting someone bigger than you with striking experience, the only way you can win as a BJJ fighter is to force the fight to the ground. You will get smoked trying go toe to toe with someone who is bigger than you unless you really know what you are doing. You will fair much better on the ground.

9.Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Ground Fighting & Most Street Fights End On The Ground!

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the art of ground fighting and a study by Bakari Akil (Ph.D.) at Middle Georgia College published research where he noted that 42% of fights end up with both fighters on the ground! 

I haven’t been in a street fight, but I’ve seen quite a few and I can tell you that this study is right. Many of them do indeed end up on the ground. Training ground fighting allows you to be comfortable on the ground since this is where many fights end up.

Training ground fighting gives you a huge advantage, as every average joe knows how to throw a wild haymaker and even a basic kick, but people can get knocked out by wild sucker punches. Now put them in a Jiu-Jitsu class and they are a fish out of water.

Groundwork has way less luck involved. I don’t see how it is possible for an untrained individual to beat a trained Jiu-Jitsu practitioner on the ground, but I can see a trained striker losing to an untrained fighter as one punch can be enough to put someone out. Especially if they didn’t see it coming or are bigger than you.

I still recommend learning to strike to complement your BJJ training and to truly be a complete martial artist. I train Wrestling, Muay Thai and BJJ and love them all equally. For striking, I recommend training Muay Thai. In my post here I go into more detail as to why Muay Thai and BJJ is the perfect combination.

Recommended Products and Conclusion

In conclusion, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is great for self defense and I highly recommend it for that. I wish you all nothing but success in your trainings.

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