Is BJJ Good for Self Defense?

Table of Contents

There are many reasons to practice martial arts but the most important reason for learning a martial art is simply to know how to defend oneself.

BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-jitsu) is a grappling martial art that was designed for use on the streets of Brazil, it has been used in Vale Tudo no holds barred events in Brazil and has shown its dominance in the UFC. BJJ has taken the martial arts world by storm the past 2+ decades as it has been used countless times in MMA as well as by police departments and special forces soldiers in real world combat.

People often ask why BJJ works and what is the difference between BJJ and other martial arts. BJJ’s main difference to many other martial arts is the emphasis on ground fighting and grappling techniques. This is not to say that other martial arts are devoid of grappling and groundfighting techniques but it is safe to say that BJJ takes ground fighting to another level.

Why is BJJ Effective for Self Defense?

The martial arts community has been asking itself what makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so effective and the answer is easy, BJJ is based upon the principle of using leverage against an attacker, it gives someone the ability to defend themselves by using scientific principles such as body positioning, using natural levers, weight distribution and body movement in order to better attack and defend against an opponent. 

BJJ Guard Self Defense
BJJ Guard Self Defense

The founders of BJJ, the legendary Gracie family set out to create the perfect self defense system from the martial arts they learned. The Gracies were men of smaller stature and thus made sure that only techniques based upon leverage that were high percentage in success were added to the original BJJ curriculum. Gracie Jiu-jitsu was first and foremost a self-defense martial art and it has proven it’s worth through thousands of challenge matches, often with BJJ practitioners fighting and beating opponents weighing 50kg or more.

BJJ is About Contact

BJJ is an art that depends on contact, once someone decides to grab you, you have the solutions to deal with it. Should someone not grab you, you simply can run away – he who runs away, lives to fight another day.

When practicing BJJ,it is very common to have a lot of physical contact during practice, this contact training builds up skills that work against resistance. It also builds up emotional resistance against the shock of getting bumped, hit, thrown and pushed so the emotional shock of this happening to you in a self defense situation does not hinder you from defending yourself.

BJJ is Primarily a Ground Fighting Martial Art

BJJ deals with ground fighting and grappling on the ground, a majority of fights end up on the ground and BJJ gives a practitioner the ability to dominate and defend themselves should a fight end up on the ground.

BJJ Mount Self Defense
BJJ Mount Self Defense

There is an extreme emphasis in regards to attaining top position when on the ground with special emphasis is placed on obtaining full mount as in a self-defense situation mount is truly superior ground position as it gives you the ability to safely and effectively strike as the opponent’s head will generally be lying on hard surface such as concrete, you can control the opponents hands, submit the opponent, analyze your environment for other attackers and get up from the ground should you need to with ease.

BJJ has a solid solution to when a person may find themself on their back with an opponent on top. The position is called the guard. The guard gives a person the ability to defend, attack and sweep the opponent all from being in the bottom position. The guard is a position that truly differentiates Brazilian Jiujitsu from other martial arts, it has been shown to be a highly effective ground position when in bottom position on the ground.

BJJ Allows for Non-Violent Responses to Attacks

BJJ gives the ability to gauge what level of violence is truly needed to handle a situation, does the situation require striking, does the situation require a submission, does the situation require a pin of the opponent until the police arrive, BJJ addresses all of these situations and more. This is vital as with defending oneself comes responsibility and it is not uncommon for persons that defend themselves to face legal recourse, BJJ gives the ability to use minimal violence possible in response to an attack – the level of violence is up to the practitioner and scenario they are faced with.

The Function of The BJJ Gi for Self Defense



Jiu-jitsu practitioners wear a gi when learning the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The gi can be used to apply chokes, used to aid in leverage and grips in going for submissions, holding positions and escaping positions. The use of the gi has a lot of real world application as all the gi grips and chokes can easily be applied to the clothes that people wear on the street. Many of the gi chokes can be applied should an attacker be wearing a jacket, sweater and even a t-shirt. The choke is an extremely effective method to subdue an attacker as no matter how large an attack is, if they cannot breathe, they cannot fight.

Will Self Defense BJJ Work Without a Gi?

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu top defense
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu top defense

The answer is a big YES. Should an attacker not be wearing any upper body clothing, no problem, BJJ is also practiced without a gi, in which there are many chokes, submissions and pins that are fully effective when an opponent is just wearing shorts. There are many BJJ gi techniques that can easily be used in a Nogi self defense situation.

BJJ Builds Fighting Fitness

BJJ builds extremely effective fighting fitness, it is a completely different type of fitness, one that is based upon stamina and translates very well to a self defense situation. Most fights last mere seconds to 90 seconds where after the fight, the fighters are drained of energy. 

BJJ will give you the fight conditioning to last that amount and time and much more should need be. The reason being that BJJ not only trains the practitioner to be in amazing shape but to be efficient in their movements, so that they are using the right amount of energy in whatever they are doing within the fight, this is excellent as a BJJ fighter will be in a better conditioning situation should the fight end up going longer than expected.

BJJ is A Gross Motor Martial Art

Most martial arts are filled with fine motor movement techniques that work with a non resisting opponent but once there is proper resistance added from an opponent, the element of surprise and adrenaline, these fine motor movements simply do not work. We see it time and time again in MMA fights and Police body cam videos, simple gross motor movements work and have an extremely high percentage of success.

A great analogy is that of the scalpel and the hammer. If you were to have a full adrenaline dump, be in a nightclub with loud music and flashing lights, would it be easier to use a scalpel to gently cut out letters on a sign or would it be easier to grab a hammer and smash the sign. The answer is easy, the hammer is the way to go and BJJ is just that, it is the hammer in the fight, it’s gross motor movement based and whatever works stays in the art and whatever does not work, well it is left out of the art.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for a martial art that will help you defend yourself, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is at the top of the food chain. Regardless if you are new to martial arts or wanting to add BJJ to your self defense system, BJJ is a must as most fights will hit the ground and when they do, you will definitely be in a better place with some Jiu-jitsu knowledge.

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