Jiu-Jitsu No Longer Needs MMA

parkour (1)

Non-Speculative Training

To say that jiu-jitsu is the single best fighting martial art nowadays is similar to stating a fact like smoking is bad for you. Yes, there are exceptional cases of the eighty-five year-old who still smokes a pack a day, but we all understand this is the exception. Everyone else died. In a similar vein, since the dawn of the mixed martial arts movement, all fighters understand the absolute necessity of jiu-jitsu for their repertoire. The case has been won. Each time it is brought up again, the Fighting Supreme Court refuses to hear it on the grounds that the issue has already been settled. Fighters with other “main” styles may not be jiu-jitsu fighters themselves, some having a wrestling background or Muay Thai or perhaps something very close like catch wrestling, but in order to succeed, they need to at least know how to defend against jiu-jitsu. Therefore in 2014, the necessary, fundamental art for self-defense and fighting has already been established to be Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The principles that make it jiu-jitsu are 1) ground control, 2) submission through leverage, and 3) constant practice against a live and resisting opponent who is also trying submit you, too.

Yet, it seems every two weeks, the issue arises in one form or another. The most egregious forms are immediately shot down: no, there’s no fucking way boxing is a better martial art than jiu-jitsu. However, this does not prevent the unnecessary splintering of the issue further. Yes, jiu-jitsu is best, but within jiu-jitsu, which jiu-jitsu is best? Should you wear a gi or train completely in no-gi? Should you supplement your training with judo or wrestling? What of weapons? Do you want to do weapons training? Guns? Disarm guns?


Unnecessary splintering

Exactly whom are we imagining is attacking us that we get into heated debates about the best style within jiu-jitsu? It must be another jiu-jitsu fighter. That is the only imagined human being whereby this issue could even be entertained faithfully. All others, those in which some dude at a bar or a school fight, whatever, breaks out, is pretty much settled. If you are a jiu-jitsu practioner, and the other is not (and they are unarmed), you pretty much got this. You cool. This truth holds no matter what style you practice: hard core Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (trademark); Miyao berimbolo inverted sport points to win advantages; 10th Planet; Carlson Gracie fuck you up with pressure and attacks. It don’t matter what you pick. If the dude attacking is not a jiu-jistsu fighter, you good. That’s the rule.

Remember Ryan Hall’s famous pizza brawl? The man who named his academy 50/50, a position that is the bane of self-defense and submission-only purists, was confronted by a bigger drunk guy at a pizza parlor, and what did Ryan do? He shot for a double, mounted, and held the guy down, being comfortable enough to have a fucking conversation with people, explaining to outsiders that he knows what he’s doing and not to worry, he’s not going to hurt the guy. Ryan Hall, Mr. 50/50. Shot, mounted. Over.

In the same vein, people who think a Miyao is going to fucking invert and do a berimbolo in a similar situation are out of their minds, or rather, they are forgetting the principle foundation of jiu-jitsu fighting. Maximum efficiency, minimum effort. The mantra, the founding principle established by Jigoro Kano for judo, carries over to jiu-jitsu. It’s the principle that governs our training and all our rolls. If a dude has zero ground skills, what’s going to happen? Flying omoplata? Hell, no. That’s to catch other skilled opponents off-guard. What’ll happen is the Ryan Hall Pizza Brawl move: takedown, pass, mount, hold a conversation, and finish eating the pizza until the cops come.

Yet, in all honesty to defend yourself, if that is your #1, absolutely primary, concern and reason for doing jiu-jitsu, and that you believe the sporting aspect holds no place in your training, then you should also be doing parkour. Parkour: as in those folks who go running up walls, vaulting over picnic tables, jumping off rooftops into a rolling break fall, and continue to run. Train in that, too. Train the “flight” response, too, if you want to be a self-defense purist. I repeat: the best thing you can train in is parkour. Learn to run, learn to vault over obstacles. Get away from attackers by going up or jumping down and creating space between you and them. Live. To speculate about possible self-defense scenarios is a fool’s errand.

The truth is we are not training for the streets. We are doing a martial art, but it is not, in any way, a dress rehearsal. Our art teaches us to think on the spot of being attacked, to be creative, to know how to control, where we need to be in relation to our opponent. Bare-hand, any jiu-jitsu trained martial artists wins (gi, nogi, mixed gi, pants only, turkish oil wrestling, no matter, wins). Add a knife to the attack or a group of his friends, and then you would have been better off doing parkour. At that stage, it would have been more beneficial to have trained the flight response. Run. Live. Add a gun, pray, cower, face death stoically, whatever. Or pack your own heat, which then means your jiu-jitsu training is really not for self-defense anyways because you are carrying a permitted weapon all the time.


The Question of Jiu-Jitsu’s Value Has Already Been Settled

I just want us all to be level-headed enough to understand that jiu-jitsu is its own thing for its own sake. All forms of sports are judged this way. Us grapplers enjoy doing all forms of jiu-jitsu: gi and nogi, with its own arbitrary rules we complain about.

I caution the quick “analogical” move we make with jiu-jitsu sometimes, whereby the value of it somehow exists outside of it, in a hypothetical encounter in the street, or in an encounter in the cage, where it becomes another sport, with it’s own arbitrary rules and attire, disallowing the grabbing of clothing and gloves, and where the ground game is discouraged and given lesser value in the judge’s scorecard than the striking portion of the MMA match.

Jiu-jitsu does not need MMA; nor does it need the street to be valuable. Doing so would be making jiu-jitsu’s value dependent upon another sport, particularly one huge organization (UFC), and the few people that control that particular combat enterprise, which privileges striking for an uninitiated, punch-kick hungry audience. Jiu-jitsu is valuable on its own. It is a beautiful martial art that we fall in love with, and in which the grand, very grand majority of us, will never translate it onto the pavement, the bar, school yard, or the MMA canvas.

Train jiu-jitsu. The question of its value has already been settled.

And if you are still not sure, don’t do the my jiu-jitsu is better than yours thing. Go find a map, pick a route, run and learn how to climb, jump over obstacles, and evade the imaginary super being you are training for. After all, training the flight response has worked for many species, including our own, for millions of years longer than jiu-jitsu has existed. Let’s not forget that.


6 responses to “Jiu-Jitsu No Longer Needs MMA

  1. I think I’m in partial agreement and partial disagreement, but you’ve laced enough snark in there that I might be missing which parts are serious.

    I agree that for true self-defense purposes, the unarmed martial art you study is one of the less important considerations. Awareness, avoidance, de-escalation, escape and evasion, deployment of superior weaponry (if all else fails), and handling of the emotional and legal aftermath are all arguably more important. Therefore an ideal self-defense program might involve not only parkour, but the hundred-meter sprint, examination of lifestyle choices, and scenario-based training aimed at developing awareness and making appropriate tactical decisions under stress.

    I also agree that pure sport BJJ needs no external justification for those who enjoy it as a sport. If you are having a good time practicing sport BJJ or Olympic TKD or Kendo or Basketball or Soccer, who cares whether it is “street-effective” or not? That’s not the point.

    Where I do have a problem is if a student is only learning to play the modern sport game – pulling guard, never training with punches, etc – and they think they are learning the “necessary, fundamental art for self-defense and fighting.” I’m sorry, but they just aren’t.

    I see the Ryan Hall vs drunk video brought up in these arguments and I think: “Seriously?” On the one hand we have a world-class professional athlete, who has trained for MMA as well as sport BJJ, and who is probably one of the smartest guys in the sport. On the other hand we have a mouthy drunk who for all we know has never won a fight in his life. It would be more shocking if Ryan didn’t easily dominate the confrontation. The video does help dispel the idea that Ryan would just drop to inverted guard in a street fight, but no one who understands how smart Ryan is would expect that anyway.

    A better test case would be to find a student of average ability who has been training pure sport BJJ for a year, rolling from his knees in class every day, has had a few hours of takedown practice in the entire year, and has never trained to deal with punches. If this student gets into an actual fight, he might find that he would have been better served with boxing lessons.

    I think of BJJ has having three primary facets – self-defense, vale tudo/MMA, and sport grappling competition. I love them all and I think they complement each other. I just think it’s a mistake to train just one facet and think that you are getting the whole martial art.

    • Thank you, Tony. Great response. Not sure how we could find that “test case.” Although plenty of stupid street-fight videos are out there. My only quick response to you is that I’m not sure we agree that there is a “pure sport bjj” out there. Even so, he’d still train takedowns and could pretty much dominate. Heck, in any high school, are the best “fighters” partly because they can easily hold and control people, and that is truly pure sport. Appreciate you reading this and I enjoy your own site.

  2. I like this article. Fleeing to safety is one of the best self defense avenues. Unless you’re trying to teach a bad person a lesson or your trapped why not run? I train martial arts in case I get blind sided and I can’t get to my weapon.

  3. Tonydismukes- How much time is the average person going to devote to martial arts and self-defense? The only thing a jiujitsu student needs to learn is how to avoid punches if they are fighting an untrained thug. If someone wants to learn how to apply jiujitsu while getting punched, just have a friend try and punch you while you’re taking them down.

    Different people react differently to pain and punches. Some people get excited when punched or in pain. Some people hate it.

    Before I had any martial arts training I simply used football techniques to beat a striker. Just used movement and then tackled them to the ground.

  4. I’d like to add that football can be a great self defense tool, it teaches you how to break away from someone if they are trying to hold you. Stiff arms, dip and rip, spin moves, side stepping.

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