A few days ago I got to my gym early, so I decided to look around a bit. There are many pictures of famous BJJ practitioners quotes from them that are framed and hanging on the wall. I usually never payed attention to what they said, but I now had a chance to look at them more closely. They were all pretty interesting, but there was one that grabbed my attention:

Jiu Jitsu is for the protection of the individual: the older man, the weak, the child, the lady and the young woman.

-Helio Gracie

This made me wonder more about the self defense aspect of BJJ. I know that some gyms that teach "Gracie Jiu Jitsu" also teach basic kicks and punches. If BJJ was made for the purpose of self defense, then how come strikes aren't legal during competition? I have never heard of an experienced BJJ practitioner punching someone in the face while rolling. Why are strikes against rolling etiquette? If it really is for self defense, why isn't it practiced that way anymore?

NOTE: The gym that I go to claims to teach Gracie Jiu Jitsu, yet never teaches any strikes and barely ever teaches defenses to them.

  • 1
    Short answer: because BJJ descends from early Kodokan judo, and judo removed strikes early on for safety reasons in practice (randori). Kano had envisaged a more comprehensive martial art reintroducing striking into randori but never lived to achieve this goal. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 16:42
  • Because then it would be MMA ;) Just kidding. But really, BJJ is solely focused on the grappling aspect of a fight. BJJ is great for self-defense, but nobody is claiming its a comprehensive combat system.
    – TheBatman
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 18:46
  • 2
    It's because coaches get caught up in teaching competitive BJJ. They can't train world champions by wasting time having you defend real attacks.
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 17:26
  • I wouldn't call it "wasting time". As a life skill, it is more important to be able to defend yourself than to be able to win gold medals.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 22:07
  • 1
    @LemmyX I agree. I've had coaches who refuse to teach practical application, and it's really bad. They consider it a waste of time.
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


BJJ inherits this treatment of striking in rolling from judo. Strikes were removed from judo randori (free play) because Kano could not figure out a way to train them safely. Only relatively safe techniques were used in randori to allow full-force practice. Striking and defending against striking were relegated to kata (prearranged exercises).

The basic theory: it is more important to practice with liveness than it is to favor the most dangerous techniques.

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