Is this an effective art for self-defense? I've been doing it for fun and recreation.

I'm thinking for actual self-defense, I should learn catch wrestling and Brazilian jujitsu.


Classical jujitsu (such as Danzan Ryu) is an encyclopedia of techniques for grappling, striking, and weapons. How it is trained is typically by memorizing kata and performing it with a partner. Each kata is done in some formal, concrete way. That's usually thought of as the "demo" version of the technique. It usually doesn't work very well in most situations. Later on, the practitioner learns variations (henka) of it for each different situation. There can be a dozen variations for the same technique. This means that a kata syllabus of just 100 techniques can easily turn into thousands.

Partnered exercise in classical jujitsu typically happens with compliant partners who will do their part, stop, and let you do any number of things to him with little resistance.

In MMA, Brazilian Jiujitsu, wrestling of all kinds, sambo, judo, etc., it begins much the same way. You will have a partner and a technique you are learning to apply. Your partner will, at first, let you do the technique to him. This is just to learn the technique. Pretty soon after that, your partner will add resistance. When you can deal with added resistance, partners then try to do other things to you to make you aware of where you're vulnerable. They won't tell you what they're going to do. And finally, there's sparring (also known as "rolling") where you and your partner are doing things completely spontaneously, with neither of you knowing what's coming next.

Another thing to realize about classical jujitsu is that the kata were arranged into sections, but the sections were not necessarily organized in the most practical way.

Judo was an advancement over classical jujitsu. When you look at Judo, you'll see that they organize their throws into a taxonomy. In Judo, you learn each technique in a predetermined order. The order is important. The first handful of throws you learn will apply broadly in the most situations. The last throws you learn will apply in more specific situations. And so, a beginner in Judo can gain broadly practical skill in very little time. That was the idea anyway.

Brazilian Jiujitsu also organizes its techniques in a practical way, by the way. The things you learn in white belt are 90% of the techniques that you'll see in competition. It's because those techniques are the ones that have the highest rate of success in competition and which apply most broadly. They're considered "fundamental", because without them, you can't apply the techniques you learn later on.

Another thing to consider is safety. You can't do sparring if you've got broken fingers, you've got a crushed trachea, or your eyes have been poked out, etc. So there must be rules when sparring that everyone agrees to, and the rules should be there only to prevent injuries, rather than limiting what kinds of techniques can be done.

Classical jujitsu doesn't do sparring at all, because they have no rules set up to prevent injury. They believe that adding rules would hinder them from using techniques such as eye gouging that they consider too important not to practice. And so, they don't spar.

But without sparring, can anyone expect to learn reliable self-defense? The answer is no, and this has been proven many times before.

You can still learn the eye gouge, the fish hook, the trachea poke, etc. They're not exactly secret knowledge. But those techniques are far less important than the fundamental skills needed to be able to apply those techniques on a struggling opponent who's trying to do the same to you. You can't get those fundamental skills without sparring.

The biggest realization that came out of the UFC and similar MMA venues is that you perform the way you train. People that didn't train with others who were trying to grab them, throw them to the ground, wrestle, and choke them out were completely unprepared for it when it happened to them in competition.

It's been observed many times that even black belts in styles like karate, taekwondo, aikido, etc. often lose in fights in real life. It's because when they actually have to fight for real, they realize that none of their training prepared them for it. They're like a fish out of water. They don't know what to do. They can even freeze up in the fight.

Bottom line: It's how you train that matters, not the style.

So let me get back to your main question. You want practical self-defense and are trying to decide between classical jujitsu and BJJ or catch wrestling. The answer should be clear now. While classical jujitsu will give you a lot of interesting techniques, how they train is inferior to modern MMA, BJJ, and catch wrestling for the purpose of giving you a reliable means of defending yourself in real life.

Hope that helps.

  • While I do not dispute anything said in this answer I would like to add that in Danzanryu it can be very dojo specific. There are DZR dojos that practice sparring, and there are some that compete in judo tournaments. If all your dojo is doing is kata then yes you will be ill prepared for a real situation. It may also be that they do not stray from kata until a higher rank so take a look at what the brown+ classes are doing and see if their training allows for "constructive resistance". Feb 27 '19 at 20:30
  • Yeah, if they're training with live, resisting opponents who are in no way compliant, then that's very different. Most of the time when I've observed and trained in classical jujitsu, they believed they were practicing with resistance and non-compliance. In actuality, what they tended to do was to resist their partner applying a standing-arm-bar until their partner struck them in their floating ribs, for example, and then they let them complete the arm-bar. But that's them letting that happen. That's not the same as what BJJ and Judo do. Feb 27 '19 at 20:38

I am tired of reading, "it won't work in real situations." If you are talking about rolling or competing, yes, it won't work. In fact nothing really works in a street fight. Pure anger, aggression, absolute craziness, added with the ability to psych the other guy is what will work. I've had real fights with other Marines, homeless guys with knives, gang bangers in jail, drunken guys, and even against a guy that threatened me with his BJJ.

Here is the absolute truth. If you fight, and the other guy happens to fight back, and your adrenaline and crazy factor has kicked in, no strikes against the head will hurt. If you scare him enough, typically, he won't fight. And when the blows start, adrenaline slows everything down. You will see his punch coming and if you have had training, your training will come to you. If your training is BJJ, great, you will take him to the ground, choke him out, etc. I got a black belt in hapkido and taekwondo. Even while I trained in it, I knew it "wouldn't work." In fact it did work twice. The first time I was in a shoving match against a bigger guy. He lifted me off my feet in a classic shirt grab. I froze, but when I finally gathered my composure, I twisted his head with a pressure point applied, and it ended the fight- that surprised the shit out of me. Another time, someone charged me, and I did a classic step out of the way, driving his head into a wall. Again, I was surprised the shit worked.

I've also bitten, stuck a finger into an eye socket, grabbed balls, and that shit worked too. I've kicked a homeless guys thight twice with my boot while he was holding a big kitchen knife. That shit worked too.

So, if I now want to learn an art for its art's sake, and learn how to cleanly throw a guy, or lock him into compliance and look good doing it, dont complain. In all my fights they were a bad asses, but I doubt they had any training. And that is the theory behind classical jujitsu- tricking. If a bjj guy is wanting to fight me, then he will know the tricks, but again, I doubt he would want to fight for bad reasons.

The BJJ guy who threatened me? He was just as scared as I was to make the first move. he was much bigger than me. I ended up throat striking him, and he called the cops. They dropped the charges, but tried to charge me for a police baton they found in my car, which was also dismissed. At the time, I was a green belt in a Japanese combat jujitsu (that rolled) and was prepared to roll, but he didn't react. Again, my psych out was scarier than his.

So again, let guys learn what they want. If street situations scare you, pull aside a guy that has really scrapped and ask him how these techniques could be applied. Learn to harness the adrenaline. Get over the fear factor. Remember that a strike won't hurt. And in jail? I've been jumped, I've had fight matches, they are different. Two guys jumping you is to try and scare you. You fight back and you get respect. Take a beating and it will be constant. In fight matches, they are not trying to kill you, just mutual combat for sport. Break his arm, or choke him out, and you better have back up or his gang will try and stab you when you aren't looking.

I like Danzan Ryu for all its throws, locks, pencak silat. Is it totally realistic? Nothing is. As for joint locks? It won't work against a guy that knows the escapes. Case in point, I laughed at cops trying to "tie me up." I'd tell them they were doing it wrong. But again, that was me. It worked fine on others. Secondly, they dont get trained on a weekly., daily routine. I had a cop try and sweep me and I just kept jumping out of the way, he ended up trying to tackle me. Without thinking, I grabbed his trachea. I only let go because I surrendered after his buddies were kicking me in the head. So yeah, nothing truly works, but will in the right situations

  • 1
    You sound crazy! I don't want to get in fights. I've started BJJ and in my comparison it's probably more practical for self defense. DZR is really fun and good too though.
    – ev1lchris
    Jul 6 '19 at 0:12

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