Self-defense in martial arts is often presented as a different kind of training than what we usually do in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. The idea is to have lock-step responses to a variety of stylized and recognizable attacks. These attacks are things like wrist grabs, hand chokes, bear-hugs, and hair grabs etc, and the responses are supposed to be fit to need–as opposed to a singular crotch kick each time.
I spent my first twelve or so years in a Karate based “American Jiu-jitsu” style that featured an array of memorized techniques that were listed on belt rank sheets that included everything I mentioned above, plus some weapon defenses. I became a black belt, and performed my material at a Federation called the Kyudan in the Bronx in NYC where it was headquartered. I was a lad of twenty-five or so.
There are kind of two big versions of self-defense: a hit and run, and a controlled hold. Both require a ton of training to execute safely and even when done well all too often a true opponent is going to give you more of a fight than the “theory” of the class allows for. Bigger, stronger people are difficult to put on the floor with an elbow or wrist lock. They’re even more difficult to hurt effectively with a targeted kick. In other words even self defense moves are very likely to result in a FIGHT.
Many martial arts schools will be happy to sell you a clean hands style of self-defense. They’ll all but quote Mr. Miyagi and tell you if you do it right then it can’t be defended against. But the fact is statistically things go wrong in confrontation and you’re most likely going to end up in a dirty struggle. And that struggle is very likely to wind up on the ground. Why not train with the worst case scenario in mind?
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is mystifying to some and downright scary to others. But the truth is we are being realists about self- defense. We start our program with worst-case-scenarios and work our way up to using takedowns to get our opponents in unfamiliar territory where even the smallest of us can use gravity to our advantage.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is self-defense. Learn to play Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and your self-defense will take care of itself. Also, you’ll be immune to 99% of what passes as self-defense material out there!
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