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?
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.