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Is "self defense" bull sh*t?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has sold itself as a self defense centered martial art, but is that accurate? For decades the Gracies have trotted out their champions, taking any fight to prove that their way was the best. Royce Gracie, most famously proved that BJJ works in a fight back in 1993 in the first UFC. While there is no doubt that if you want to fight, you need to know Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (amongst other things). Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an art that needs to be practiced, and with that practice comes a competency that is useful in fighting. Without those years of practicing are self defense practices centered around BJJ the most useful items we can be teaching people? Should self defense be broken out into a completely separate course?

Learning how to fight and self defense are two different things. Fighting is a sport, it has rules and we teach best practices within those rules. The goal of fighting is to win the fight. To prove that you are superior in the chosen arena. In self defense, there are no rules. The goal is to survive and get away from the dangerous situation. You don’t care about a win, you care about surviving.

In a BJJ class you may go over a specific technique, drill scenarios, or flow through chained scenarios. All of which can be good ways to learn the sport of Jiu Jitsu. Also, those techniques may have practical applications in a fight scenario. That said, If you are looking to survive in a real scenario, most techniques will be useless. Even staples like a rear naked strangle are useless if you don’t understand how to get to the back.

In these BJJ classes you will spend the next X amount of years sharpening these techniques so they work against other people who are learning the techniques as well. The more that you sharpen each technique so it works on the person a belt ahead of you, the less likely it is to be applicable and used in a life or death scenario. The risk for going for them is to high in a real life.

In a good self defense class you spend 3 hours learning things that are directly applicable to life or death scenarios. Great information that each person should know, and completely useless if you never practice anything you learned again. These classes tend to have no weekly follow up, no drilling, and no discipline. They get people that are fearful by nature to sign up under the illusion that after they will be safer. The fact of the matter is, if you don’t take habitual action to be competent at self defense, you will not be competent at all.

There are a lot of overlapping principles between what I would perceive as a relevant self defense curriculum and BJJ. Guard is useful in both. Breaking an opponent's posture, using your legs to create space, etc. That said, both items need to be practiced. Why not have separate times, offer separate and consistent classes. I don't think it should be a carrot to get people into training our sport unless self defense truly is the focus.

Just like one bar can offer BOTH food and drink, let's not blend a burger and call it a smoothie. BJJ helps us with our confidence, our character, our discipline, it is a great workout, AND can help us in a self defense scenario. Self defense classes go over things that are missed in most BJJ classes. Being aware of your surroundings and paying attention. Not making yourself a target. Grip breaks, making the squeeze not worth the juice. These are concepts that are not taught in most BJJ dojos and are staples of self defense. In self defense those staples need to seared into our head so if/when the situation arises you will use that neuropathway instead of thinking you can attack berimbolo an assailant.

No, self defense isn't bull shit if you practice it consistently. So what is the best answer if you truly want to learn self defense, but do not want to spend the time learning a martial art? Go to a specific self defense class and be consistent in your training in specifically self defense. Make a commitment to you and your loved ones that it is important to you. Practice what you learned as often as possible to keep it top of mind. If there is not a self defense specific and consistent class go to an individual class with friends. Get together with said friends once a month to practice. Make it fun, have a few drinks (makes it more realistic anyway).

If you are reading this, and seriously interested in specifically learning and practicing self defense, send me a message. I have a curriculum that you could use, on top of going to an instructor.


PS. I know there is a stigma against men wanting to learn self defense. That is garbage. Proper self defense tactics are for everyone so don’t be shy.

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AJ Perkins
AJ Perkins
Nov 19, 2021

To be honest, one of the reasons I started BJJ was for self defense. I was bullied often as a child, and I never learned how to defend myself. The bullies enjoyed picking on the big shy kid.

Believe it or not, at the age of 59, someone made threats to cause me bodily harm six months ago. This was a real threat, and I won't go into the details. It was then I started BJJ to help me defend myself and toughen me up!

PS I'm a guy.

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