I've heard a lot of people say that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become more sport-focused over the years and less about self defense. I understand where that's coming from, because there are so many moves taught today that could get you seriously injured in a streetfight (De La Riva guard, collar + sleeve/arm grips [leaves your face open] etc). And I also know a few moves that are only for self defense and wouldn't be practical/would get you disqualified in a tournament(standing headlock pickup escape, knee on belly slam etc). What are some moves that wouldn't be a good idea for self defense? What are some moves that would be? Is there any kind of formula for telling if a move would work for self defense?

2 Answers 2



Many BJJ schools have a self-defense curriculum tied into no-holds-barred or MMA competition techniques. This should involve learning how to safely stand up, specialized escapes, and how to protect against various strikes, and then training those techniques in modified BJJ sparring (as in, with light slaps) or in something closer to MMA sparring. Experiment often uncovers techniques that work unexpectedly well.

There are also some concepts that any BJJ curriculum should include, such as distance management (very close and very far are best; medium distance very bad), and the importance of clinch skills.

Anyone interested in BJJ for self-defense should start rolls from standing frequently, drill standing punch defenses, and roll with slaps or strikes at least occasionally.


One of the best sources of information in the video-driven golden age of martial arts is to watch MMA fights and street fight videos. However one cannot simply see someone getting beat up in some position and conclude that the technique that got them there, or the technique that failed to let them escape, is useless. Too many people's jiujitsu skills are flawed, or simply inferior to the top fighter's grappling skills. You need to be critical and technically proficient enough to see why a technique failed in a particular instance.

Anyone interested in BJJ for self-defense should be familiar with the grappling habits of the most successful MMA grapplers (Maia, Nogueira, GSP, Mir, Werdum, and many more) as well as the most common habitual acts of physical violence outside of sport.


What are some moves that wouldn't be a good idea for self defense?

Inverted guard & any of the new stuff you see in sport BJJ.

What are some moves that would be?

Scissor sweep sequence. Virtually any sweep that'll get you back on top. Try anything that gives you incredible control & can remain on top. For example: the mounted triangle. Crucifix position is quite nice. Kimuras & Americannas. Watch more no-gi Jits. However, I will say if they are wearing decent clothes, then one of the most powerful chokes is the bow & arrow. Tons of control, many options to transition, & the guy is helpless.

Is there any kind of formula for telling if a move would work for self defense?

None I've heard of. But here's some solid advice... If there are multiple people, then don't stay on the ground long. Try to avoid it. Use throws & make distance. Try a standing guillotine. Quickly switch to Muy Thai grip & knees if he doesn't go out & his buddies are near. If you must lock a submission while on the ground, then don't submit him. Once you're there, instantly break his joint & move on to the next position or threat.

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