Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Good For Self Defense?

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

In the 1920s Japanese jūjutsu evolved into Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) with a stronger emphasis on grappling, ground fighting and submission holds.

Jiu-Jitsu concentrates on skills that control opponents, gaining a dominant position, and neutralize them using a number of moves.

The moves are used in a defensive or offensive manner to kill or neutralize an opponent using pins, joint locks, and throws and submissions.

Rear Naked Choke
Rear Naked Choke

Jujutsu was created to combat the professional soldiers of the time in feudal Japan. Some techniques have connections to Mongolian wrestling, a practice that dates back to 7000BC.

Japanese jūjutsu evolved into Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Japanese jūjutsu evolved into Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Many of the submission techniques were born out of the need to defeat an armed and armored enemy. Opponents may or may not possess a weapon, body armor in be located in an environment where striking is ineffective.

Technical and Strategic Differences Between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Japanese jiu-jitsu.

Some have classified Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is a mile wide and mile deep, where BJJ is inch wide and a 10 miles deep. BJJ practitioners use deep bench of chokeholds and joint locks to submit their opponents from the ground level.

While Japanese Jiu-Jitsu has similar moves to a lesser degree it also has more potentially lethal techniques, a cadre of takedowns, and small joint manipulation.

Another point of difference is that Japanese jiu-jitsu has a strict code of tradition and art form. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is more relaxed and allows practitioners to test boundaries.

Guillotine Choke
Guillotine Choke

Jiu-Jitsu Strategy

The system of position then submission. Practitioners learn to maintain, attack, and escape from every imaginable position on the ground.

Jiu-Jitsu Self Defense Considerations

Keep in mind that there are no strikes in BJJ. Just about all MMA and Self-defense practitioners augment a striking skillset like Muay Thai or Boxing.

During violent encounters on the street every attempt should be made to avoid going to the ground. Giving up your mobility invites other variables including;

  • Less visibility and sensory use.

  • Reduced defense capabilities against multiple opponents

  • You become within edge weapon range.

However, you never know where you'll find yourself. And, the best way to avoid ending up on the ground and being dominated there is to have an understanding of clinch fighting and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Everyone should have a basic understanding of ground fighting so you'll be better able to avoid it. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an excellent source of training.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Training and Practice

Sparring in BJJ is called rolling and looks like wrestling to laymen. Classes begin warmup and stretching. Techniques are demonstrated by the instructor then drilled in with a partner back and forth taking turns. Once the student is accustomed to the move they progress to limited resistance.

Since Jujitsu was developed from techniques of "Wrestling in Armor" it was uniquely suited to underwater combat where kicks and blows from the fist were so slow as to be ineffective. Many of the US armed forces have adopted Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills and techniques by adding them to their official self-defense course curriculum.

Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Good For Self Defense?
Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Good For Self Defense?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques

There is an endless knot of moves, techniques, and variations on positions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu . The positions and techniques listed below are some that we feel are fundamental and a necessary base for ground grappling training for self-defense.

Standing or Kneeling

  • Scissors Sweep

  • Push Sweep

  • Technical Stand Up

  • Guillotine Choke

The Guard

Maintaining the Guard

  • Closed Guard

  • Closed and Open Striking Guard

Escapes from Guard

  • Elbow Escape

  • Stand up with groin punch

Locks and Chokes from Guard

  • Kimura

  • Guillotine

  • Straight Arm Bar

  • Getting the Back

  • Triangle

  • Omoplata

The Mount

Escapes from Mount

  • Bridge and roll (arm and foot control)

  • Buck, fists in the pelvis

  • Knee To Elbow Escape

  • Bridging Or “Upa” Mount Escape

  • Feet Over Shoulders

Submissions from Mount

  • Chokes

  • Straight Arm Bar

  • Americana

The Headlock or Scarf Hold

Escape from Headlock

  • Face push with headlock

  • Framing the Arm

  • Bridge and Roll

  • Walk Around

Submissions from Headlock

  • Arm Bar with Leg

  • Bent Arm Lock with Leg

  • Step Over Arm Bar


Escapes from Knee On Belly

  • Elbow Push Knee and Shrimp

  • Scoot Under

Submissions from Knee On Belly

  • Baseball Bat Choke

  • Straight Arm Bar

  • Cross Choke

Side Control

Escape from Side Control

  • Shrimp to Guard

  • Leg Over Head

  • Shrimp to North-South

  • Sweep

Submissions from Side Control

  • Arm Across Face

  • Arm Bar

  • Americana

  • Kimura

The Top 3 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Moves

Even in the professional combats sports, you’re more likely to get knocked out than you are to get submitted. Most street fights last less than 30 seconds and are over before it goes to the ground.

Regardless, it’s clear that the Rear Naked Choke is dominant, it’s responsible for more than a third of all submissions ever achieved in the UFC (fig 3). Astonishingly, the top 3 submissions account for around 70% of every submission. If you were going to prioritize any of your submission defenses, these would be the ones to practice! .

Jiu-Jitsu Submission Type Total

  • Rear Naked Choke--392

  • Guillotine Choke--188

  • Arm Bar--155

  • Triangle Choke--68

  • Arm Triangle--63

  • Kimura--35

  • D'Arce Choke--25

  • Anaconda Choke-18

The Top 3 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Moves Fig 3
The Top 3 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Moves Fig 3

Reference Source


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