How to Use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Self-Defense

In the last decade, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has exploded in popularity here in the U.S., thanks in large part to the growth of the UFC. BJJ tournaments are now held regularly around the world, with many international tournaments and events like Metamoris now being broadcasted online.

While learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu comes with a number of benefits and may become your biggest passion, it’s important to know that you’ll need to adjust your approach if you ever find yourself in an actual self-defense situation. You won’t have a padded floor below you, for one, but let’s take a look at some other adjustments you must make.

Avoid the Fight at All Costs

First of all, if possible, avoid the fight. Swallow your pride if you have to, but get out of the situation ASAP. Even if you’re a black belt with years of experience, you never know what could happen. The attacker could have a knife or a gun. They could have friends.

Don’t forget, too, that you could seriously hurt the other person and wind up facing charges, despite the fact that you were defending yourself.

So the following is only for situations where you have absolutely no choice but to use your BJJ.

Get to the Ground ASAP

Unless you’re comfortable with striking, you need to get the fight to the ground right away. Your opponent could land a lucky haymaker and now your head is going to bounce off the ground on the way down. That’s how people get seriously injured or worse.

Obviously, you can’t pull guard either. Do so and you might get slammed. Work for a takedown and get control on the ground. If your opponent knows what they are doing or they catch you unaware with a tackle, get to guard ASAP.

You’re Either on Top or Using Guard

Ideally, you want to be on top of your opponent where you have the most control. Once again, if you do get on top, take off if possible.

If you aren’t on top, you need your opponent in your guard. There’s a reason it’s called guard, after all.

This is where there’s a big difference between BJJ in the gym and in real life. You want to keep your opponent either as close as possible, practically chest to chest, or you want your feet on their hips pushing them away.

Anything other than that and your opponent will have the space to work punches to the body or your face. While you can slip one of those strikes and turn it into an arm bar, that’s a big risk to take.

Do Not Give Your Opponent Your Back

It’s never a good idea to give up your back in BJJ. Some high-level guys can get away with this (Jeff Glover actively gives it up on a regular basis), but it’s generally a bad idea.

In a real fight, it’s completely unacceptable. Even if you can tell you have your attacker outmatched, don’t get cocky, not even if you’re trying to get away. If your opponent knocks you down and doesn’t follow you to the ground, keep eye contact as you get back to your feet.

Stay Calm but Go for the Finish

This first tip is going to be difficult, obviously. However, take confidence in the time you’ve put in at the gym. Your opponent most likely doesn’t have this experience. With that advantage in mind, do our best to stay calm and breathe.

At the same time, this isn’t practice. When you’re sparring in practice, you’d never finish an arm bar, even if your partner refused to tap. That’s just gym etiquette.

On the streets, though, you can’t afford this kind of caution. If you have an arm bar from your back and you don’t finish it, your opponent will most likely break free at some point and now you’re in a compromised position.

Like we’ve mentioned several times, whether you’re finishing a kimura or a rear naked choke, once you’ve won, it’s over. No need to go further. Now it’s time to call the police.

Hopefully, you never have to use these tips. Nonetheless, if you ever find yourself targeted by an attacker, make the above adjustments and BJJ could save your life.

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