Written Florent Luccioni , an important member of the French Jiu-Jitsu community. He and his twin brother Jean Claude are both BJJ Black belts under Francisco Nonato and run Arte Suave Jiu-Jitsu academy in Montpellier, France. He has been training BJJ for 21 years and has spent years training in Brazil. Luccioni also teaches Jiu-Jitsu and self defense to the French Police.
There are many posts on internet forums and advertisements of BJJ academy websites, which present our martial art/sport as an effective martial art for self defense and against a street aggression, even as the “most effective martial art” .
On the other hand, many other experts Self Defense see taking the fight to the ground as a big mistake in a street fight…
As an experienced Jiu-Jitsu instructor, I would be expected to practise the first theory, in order, perhaps, to see my number of students increase. Or maybe, I might look at reality without defending my dogma…
So, is Jiu-Jitsu truly an effective martial art in an urban context? Is it even the most effective, as some claim??
My first reaction when I read people who defend the theory of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu being an interesting martial art for street fighting is always the same … Has that person ever been in this situation? If so, in what context?
On the other hand, others argue that “Old School” Jiu-Jitsu is more effective in a street fight than “New School” Jiu-Jitsu ” that is closer to the sporing aspect.
As a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and instructor, former competitor, Jiu-Jitsu instructor to the French Police and having worked in the security industry in various situations (music festivals, bars, nightclubs, commercial centers) I have acquired a personal opinion on this subject that I will share with you and, perhaps, will not fail to surprise most of you.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is absolutely not suitable for street fighting …
I will use several personal examples to support my point.
To begin with, let’s look at the difference between modern Jiu-Jitsu and the more traditional schools.
Indeed, the traditional school of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was more suited to street fighting than the current school, not only because it was taught as a valuable method of self-defense, coming from Japanese Ju-Jitsu, but also because the study of throws/takedowns was more present.
Helio Gracie, to quote him, saw Jiu-Jitsu as an art of self-defense, rather than as a sport, unlike the vast majority of current practitioners.
All those who have seen the recent video of the training of Budo Jake with Rickson Gracie could see the difference between these two visions of the same discipline.
Indeed, Rickson, demonstrates in this video, a very interesting part of his knowledge that is not shared by the vast majority of current black belts in Jiu-Jitsu, including me: the mastery of Self Defense aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu .
Indeed, in the vast majority of current Jiu-Jitsu clubs in addition to the almost systematic neglect of the study of Self Defense, the teaching of takedowns and throws is often extremely minimalist.
The main reason is the development of competitions which make practitioners focus on the essence of our sport, ground fighting.
This is a mistake, even for Jiu-Jitsu competition and overall study of a discipline, but it can be understood.
On the other hand, the development of modern techniques for competitions actually greatly enriched our martial art on a technical level, but somewhat away from a more a pragmatic look.
Some point out that if we succeeded, for example, to sweep a BJJ brown belt using the Worm Guard, you can probably submit an assailant in a street fight …
Obviously, I highly agree with this idea … but … if you never work on takedowns, and in competition and training, you are always pulling guard, then how do you expect to bring a heavier and more aggressive person to the ground in a street fight?
Indeed, here we see the difference in perspective between two schools of Jiu-Jitsu.
The second reason which led to the same sport to have great differences of view is a perverse effect of the professionalization of MMA.
Indeed, before the modern era of MMA, the sport at the time was called Vale Tudo or NHB and was a way to prove the effectiveness of one martial art face over another.
In this context, the effectiveness, the superiority even, of Jiu-Jitsu was demonstrated, and it was mandatory for “Jiu-Jiteiros” to bring the fight to the ground with a takedown.
It was then that the era of Cross Training appeared …
But the perverse effect for Jiu-Jitsu was that only when training for an MMA fight, would a BJJ fighterwork on their takedowns. The majority of BJJ practitioners have as a result, decreased even deleted, the study of takedowns, when focusing on sport Jiu-Jitsu
The sum of these factors has made the modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a formidable combat sport … on the ground …
So we come to the first argument.
indeed, it appears, from my point of view, that the traditional school of Jiu-Jitsu was more suited to actual combat.
However, we will discuss here the foundation of the problem.
Can we rely on the victories of Royce Gracie in the UFC or other multiple wins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to make Jiuy-Jitsu an effective art, in combat?
I think so.
But I am interested here in a street fight and not a one on one challenge in the street.
Here lies the error of those who believe that the numerous beatings on the street, in the ring, in the cage, given by members of the Gracie family prove this point.
Take for example the fight between Rickson Gracie and Hugo Duarte, and old duel.
No one intervened to help one of the two belligerents.
In this context, of course, the effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu was proven and approved.
But in most “civilized” countries in the 21st century, this form of challenge, which shows a certain nobility even in fight, has disappeared.
Much street fighting is no longer a one on one fight between two unarmed people.
It is with this realization that I show my argument.
Jiu-Jitsu, which advocates the ground fighting, is certainly effective BUT unsuited to modern street fighting.
Another fundamental error in the defense of ground combat and its alleged involvement in street efficiency, is the argument that Master Helio Gracie often gave to defend, understandably, his discipline:
“In the street, unlike the UFC and rounds of 5 minutes, there is nobody to stop a fight.”
From my personal experience, there is however, almost always someone to intervene and … sometimes without our knowledge.
Through my work in security, I was, directly or indirectly, engaged in fights or street assaults, and I’ve realized with experience, that very few situations lend themselves to ground fighting in the street.
Even against an opponent alone and unarmed, whether in a football stadium, a parking lot, road rage incident, many situations prevent you from developing a safe strategy to use Jiu-Jitsu in the urban context .
Even when you bring the aggressor to the ground, you are in danger because your mobility and your tunnel vision put you in a vulnerable position.
I will return later to the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts in a street fight, because I do not think there is a miraculous style.
However when compared to Boxing for example, as my Boxing coach once said “to beat someone with boxing, you just need to do one thing well, to do with Jiu-Jitsu you have to do several things well “…
Indeed, in theory, it only takes one well-placed strike, while we, Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, need more chained attacks …
My experience made me fully consistent with this additional argument: the time factor of a fight or worse, an assault in the street.
From my point of view, in the street, we must also try to avoid conflict, (I’ll get back to that later), if possible, to avoid prolonged contact on one attacker to give us the opportunity to change opponent.
I’ve experienced, the use of the famous “double leg to mount” on the street (You are silly when you are 17 years old…). My satisfaction was short lived as I received numerous blows on my head from a policeman’s stick….I was lucky that they were given by a policeman’s stick and not by a knife held by a junkie.
Another time, as a teenager, I got my nose broken from an unexpected attack. The moral of the story: on the street, no one tells you the rules of engagement before starting.
Another time, I was attacked by three people all armed with knives: as I said the assailant may be weaker than you, but he is much more vicious, it is neither a sport nor an honest citizen, he is rarely alone and unarmed …
I have dozens of personal examples and Jiu-Jitsu (despite all the love I have for it) was useless in these situations …
Obviously, no martial art, in my opinion, can realistically protect us against a knife attack, but at least with Jiu-Jitsu if you did not initiate the ground fighting, you can escape and flee the conflict.
Same thing for an unarmed assault against multiple attackers (also experienced) …
So many limitations are imposed on the rational use of Jiu-Jitsu in the street.
So, Jiu-Jitsu is it ineffective in the street? No it is not.
It is simply inappropriate and sometimes dangerous in this context.
In addition to my Jiu-Jitsu club, I teach Jiu-Jitsu at one of the largest Police schools in France.
As I said, it depends on the context, in an urban context of policing, Jiu-Jitsu can be very effective, it allows you to control an attacker without having to harm them, which is an important thing for a member of law enforcement.
However, the nuance here is that in most cases, the balance of power is reversed, a policeman is rarely found alone in a conflict and is usually also armed, so in this particular context, they can use Jiu-Jitsu to control a person, while his armed colleague ensures a secure perimeter.
So what alternative is offered to us?
Krav Maga? Boxing? MMA? Something else, all combined?
I sincerely believe that some disciplines can prepare us for perceived stress in a context of urban violence.
What I’ve noticed through the years: in the street, most people actually do not know how to fight but they are VIOLENT, unlike in a martial practice, governed by many rules, written or not.
All disciplines have their limitations and advantages.
Jiu-Jitsu, despite the limitations outlined, provides a realistic aspect with training against a resistance opponent (unlike, for example, in Krav Maga or similar sports, where withholding is required and necessary).
Self Defense sports are not so realistic: we can not, or hardly, reproduce realistically strikes to the soft parts (throat, eyes, genitals) in training: that diminishes the realistic aspect of these activities.
They teach effective combinations … (if implemented correctly).
All forms of boxing are effective: preventing the clinch, working powerful strikes but what happens if you are grappled? If you break your hand with the first strike …
MMA appears to be an obvious alternative: strikes, takedowns, You learn to get up from the ground …But how about aagainst multiple attackers armed with knives?
Being physically strong can also be of great help: physical strength in a street fight, often brief and violent, helps tremendously …
No martial art, Jiu-Jitsu included, will prepare us to feel the stress of an attack, but you can learn to manage space, anticipating an attack, defuse a conflict and manage an aggressor, surprise or flee …
But they do not teach that in most Jiu-Jitsu classes. You learn to have fun, develop self confidence, to socialize, make friends, and enjoy this wonderful sport altogether.
And that’s a lot …
There is no miracle recipe. During a Self Defense seminar I attended, the speaker, former member of the French military forces , member of the Association ACDS (School of Self Defense), gave us some tips that I keep in mind all the time …
All your knowledge, whatever your martial art, MAY serve you in the street, but most of all: use a little common sense …
It is in this perspective that each of us must behave to avoid the tragedies that sometimes come to those who want to be a hero in the streets …