Sport/Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) vs Self Defense Gracie Jujitsu

Sport Brazilian Jujitsu vs. Self-Defense Gracie Jujitsu


There is a growing debate these days in the jujitsu community regarding sport jujitsu vs. a self-defense based jujitsu and I wanted to take some time to address it. For starters, I do believe that much of this discussion has to do with money.  Shocking I know, but much of this debate is about who is growing their brand of grappling martial arts which leads to bigger associations and more student’s which leads to more money in their pocket.  Now, you cannot have a discussion about jujitsu without mentioning the name Gracie, which is without any doubt one of the most prominent names in martial arts history.  Whether you like them or hate them, you cannot deny the impact that they have had on the martial arts community in the past 25 years.  We should all tip our caps to them because they really have done an amazing job with bringing back the grappling arts and showing how effective they can be in the right setting.

(Before we get into the controversial stuff, I want to put it out there that I am a BJJ brown belt and I wrestled for much of my youth/early adulthood so I am a fan of the grappling arts).

If you look hard enough at the debate between the sports vs. self-defense aspects of jujitsu, it can be traced directly to the rivalry within the Gracie family itself.   Specifically, it relates to the conflict between the Helio side of the family, which is the self-defense side and the Carlson side of the family, which is the sport jujitsu side of the family (there are course other aspects to this but there are the primary).  The hypocrisy here is that both sides of the family have done the sport BJJ & MMA aspect of jujitsu and they were awesome at it which is in fact what made the name Gracie so popular in the first place (UFC, Pan Am’s, ADCC, etc.).

So, let’s talk about street self-defense vs. combat sports because we need to clear up a few common misconceptions. Anytime you put rules into fighting, it changes the definition to combat sports and thinking any other way is simply not looking at the true aspects of tactical street martial arts.  As soon as you eliminate eye gouging, groin striking, biting, multiple opponents & weapons (knives, impacts weapons and firearms) and put the event between two people into a ring with soft cushy mats it is without any doubt now a competition-based combat sport.  Now, anyone that does not think that a combat sports martial artist of any kind is not tough as hell and can whoop your ass, you should drive your dumb ass down to your local boxing (any kind), wrestling, judo, jujitsu or MMA school and pad up and see how tough these men and women are because you will get knocked out, slammed on your ear hole and choked until you scream like a baby.


Ok, so now that we got all of that out of the way, I think it is important to look at how effective GJJ is on the streets.  The biggest comment that you will here is that all fights go to the ground, so GJJ is the best and most proven martial art on the planet.  There definitely is some truth to that but it is a very cloudy truth at best and everyone points to the UFC as the evidence.  Well, once again the UFC has rules, no weapons, no multiple opponents, soft mats/ring and the fighters have time to prepare for their opponent.  If you look at the GJJ self defense curriculum, you will see that much of it is base controlling your opponent and taking them down to the ground and going down there with them.  Rule number 1 of tactical street martial arts is staying on your feet if at all possible because all sorts of bad things both intended and unintended can happen while you are one the groud (That pecker head Mr. Murphy will show up and fuck everything up.).

Does GJJ deal with multiply opponents well? No.

Does GJJ deal with weapons well? No.

How good is the striking in GJJ? The fact that all pro MMA fighters have a boxing/kickboxing coach should answer that.

I would even say that the take downs are really not that great because they do not practice them as much as they should which is weird to me considering that BJJ/GJJ came from Judo. (In my opinion wrestling and Judo have the best takedowns and there are also some very good stand up grappling systems out there to such as; Silat, Filipino Martial Arts, Tai Chi, etc.)


Now,  I will tell you that if you do end up on the ground with a BJJ/GJJ practioner and you do not have a weapon, a friend or someone who will break up that fight, you are going to get choked, cranked, broken and receive an all around ass kicking.  You will be swimming with sharks and there is blood in the water and your ass is on the menu.  PERIOD!


So, what is the take away here?

1st This whole debate is purely about money but if you are ONLY going to train in jujitsu (I DO NOT RECOMMED THIS OPTION) I will agree that you need at least some ideas of self defense even if there are better solutions out there.

2nd The best answer is to cross train.  The truth is no martial art has all of the answers and the real answer is to develop a skill sets for all areas, ranges and considerations of sport, street & tactical combat.  So, you can either cross train in several martial arts or seek out an instructor who has blended several martial arts together to answer these questions and help you develop yourself as a well rounded martial artist.


I hope that you have enjoyed this and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me any time.



Guro Brian Brown

Owner/Chief Instructor

Atlanta Martial Arts Club

770 873 2234

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