BJJ is a great martial arts for MMA, but unlike other arts, BJJ often sells itself as being particularly focused on "self-defense".

If that is the case, why does the art not allow slams?

I know that the founders of BJJ sold it as a "weak man's martial art", where even a small person could use BJJ techniques on a bigger opponent.

Yes, sure, in an octagon on a nice, comfortable mat. But on the street, the bigger opponent is just going to grab you and slam you into the pavement. Even if your head somehow escapes getting busted open, the back and glute pain alone would be excruciating.

So allowing slams (and hence teaching DEFENSE against slams) seems to be a crucial part of BJJ. But not only don't they train that, they actively encourage falling into a slam, due to the notion of "pulling guard".

  • 6
    May I ask how long you have been training in BJJ?
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 14:21
  • Yes, I agree with @JohnP, this does depend on how long you have been training. Since slams are dangerous, they sometimes don't teach tem until higher levels, similar to why they don't usually teach submissions to kids under the age of 7.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 17:14
  • 1
    @LemmyX - That's part of it, but also many of the BJJ questions are ones that I would expect from someone that has not been training in BJJ/MMA styles for very long (i.e. they are questions I would expect people with less than a year of training to be asking). Answers that reflect that knowledge would help with understanding where it fits in the scheme of things.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


Allowing slams (and hence teaching DEFENSE against slams) seems to be a crucial part of BJJ. But [they] don't they train that.

Every BJJ gym I've trained at for more than a couple months has taught me how to prevent and defend against slams. Techniques to prevent being slammed were in three of the first BJJ instructional videos I watched. Most BJJ purple belts and above know how to prevent getting picked up and slammed. I know this because when I try to stand up against them in training, they knock me over, catch me in an armlock or choke, or just stop me from standing up using one of several basic BJJ techniques that we learn for this purpose.

In sport BJJ competition, we don't slam because it's too likely to hurt people. I'd like to modify the rules similar to the old judo rule for daki age, where picking someone up for a slam (but not finishing it) was a scoring technique. But banning a dangerous technique to avoid injury is a reasonable choice. Those who want to accept more risk and train with slams can do MMA. That's a reasonable trade-off.

  • Why did they ever ban slams if BJJ folk know how to prevent them? Other legal things can hurt people (like stacking), so why ban this specifically?
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 20:40
  • 1
    @tye649 If stacking were the flu then slamming would be coronavirus, that's why. Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 10:29
  • @mattm I ask because I recall seeing that someone got paralyzed in a tournament by being stacked.
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:00
  • 2
    @tye649 Think more rigorously about the risk-per-occurrence: a dozen people get stacked hard in every BJJ tournament (let alone in practice) but most of the result is just a few sore necks. A freak accident will happen but the severe-injury incidence is low. In contrast, slams are very rare (because illegal) but despite few examples to pick from, most BJJ/MMA/street-fight-video fans can rattle off several bad knockouts/injuries from slams just off the top of their heads. A slam is basically an explosive high-speed chaotic cousin of getting stacked, so of course it's way more injury-causing. Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 20:48

First of all, there are two main kinds of BJJ. There is sport BJJ and there is self defense BJJ. There are many BJJ moves that would be great for tournaments but would be horrible for self defense (e.g. collar and sleeve/arm grips, they leave your face vulnerable). There are also some moves that are great for self defense that might get you disqualified in competition (e.g. scissor take down). Just because you have not learned any slams does not mean that they aren't part of BJJ. They just aren't part of SPORT BJJ.

I have actually learned a few slams during my time doing BJJ. For example, if someone puts you in a headlock, you can pry their face to the sky and reach under their leg to pick them up. Since this has no use in competition, it was made for the purpose of self defense. We practiced "slow-dropping" them, which is to help teach us to just drop your attacker onto the ground.

And remember, there is a large difference between sport and self defense BJJ. Just because a move isn't legal in competition doesn't mean that it isn't part of BJJ (for example, the scissor take down). You can also turn many techniques into slams. For example, a basic hip throw can be done with extreme force to "slam" your attacker's back onto the ground.

When people say that Jiu Jitsu is great for self defense, I would argue that they are right. No one ever claimed it to be a comprehensive all-inclusive self defense system, but it is probably THE most helpful grappling art for self defense (just my opinion, of course). For more backup, look at one of my previous questions: Why isn't striking part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

But not only don't they train that, they actively encourage falling into a slam, due to the notion of "pulling guard".

Guard is a great position, although it does come with some risks: Groin attack danger in full guard (especially stages 3, 4)?

If you have your attacker in your guard and they start to pick you up, LET GO WITH YOUR LEGS. Nothing good will happen to you if you stay attached to them. There are several sweeps that you can do once you let go, including the overhead sweep and the Omoplata sweep.

  • 2
    The problem with your answer is that 90% of BJJ that is taught everywhere is sport BJJ. Unless you can find a school that offers self-defense specific classes, you're going to learn non-practical technique. If I walk into the school nearest me during a class, what are the odds of them working punch defense at that moment? I suspect low.
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 19:24
  • 1
    @tye649 actually, in my experience, most schools teach both, but one is usually prioritized over the other. You also don't need any self defense-specific to turn a normal throw or take down into a slam. Just add more power! Read paragraph 4 of my answer.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 19:28
  • If you advertise self defense, but only teach it 10% of the time, then you are lying to people. And of course you should train your throws without putting in power because you want to protect your partner. In reality, I'm looking for you to land on your head.
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 19:37
  • @tye649 you train throws without power, which is helpful for both competition and practicing throws without injuring you training partner. All I am saying is that as long as you know HOW to do a throw or take down, then you can turn it into a slam by just applying more force and power.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 19:42

Coaches focusing on training world champions is my guess as to why they don't teach slam defense. Why slamming was ever banned, I have no idea.

BJJ schools should stop advertising self defense when they hardly ever teach it. The focus tends to be on sport BJJ, which has some bizarre rules (one of which you have pointed out).

Rickson Gracie believes that BJJ schools need to change and refocus on self defense. Back when MMA started in the US, BJJ schools (specifically Gracie JJ) were teaching technique for Vale Tudo (fighting without many rules), which is much closer to self defense. I've only seen striking defense taught if you go to a self-defense lesson instead of a "normal" class (at a place where I trained briefly).

If Rickson's efforts succeed, then we might see schools focus on strike defense, slam prevention, etc.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.