There's a big debate out there about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and street fights. Some swear that getting a blue belt in BJJ makes you pretty much unbeatable against any untrained person. Others say, "BJJ is only good for the ground, you are helpless on the feet!" This is a valid objection. But is that really the case? 

Today I want to explore whether BJJ works in a street fight. I'm a martial artist training in BJJ, wrestling, boxing, and kickboxing, and I'll break it down for you.

How does BJJ stack up to these other martial arts when it comes to street fights? Stick around if you want to know whether you should learn BJJ for self-defense.

Table of Contents

  • What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
  • How Does BJJ Work?
  • 7 Reasons Why BJJ Techniques Work In A Street Fight
    • 1. Defense Against Grabs 
    • 2. Emphasis on Takedowns and Ground Control
    • 3. Training to Submit Larger Opponents
    • 4. Preparedness for Ground Fights
    • 5. The Versatility of Techniques
    • 6. Response to the Inability to Run Away
    • 7. Potential to Immobilize Opponents
  • 5 Reasons Why BJJ Is Not Effective In A Street Fight
    • 1. Different Schools, Different Focus
    • 2. Not All Techniques are Equal
    • 3. Trouble with More Than One Guy
    • 4. Takedowns Aren't the Big Focus
    • 5. Extra Training Might Be Needed
  • Is BJJ Effective In A Street Fight? My Final Take

What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is a martial art that became famous thanks to the Gracie family. Jiu Jitsu is about grappling and ground fighting. As a BJJ practitioner, you'll learn to take your opponent to the ground and submit them. That's what makes this Brazilian martial art so unique.

It's not just for sport; many people train BJJ for self-defense too. It promises techniques that let the smaller guy defeat the bigger, stronger attackers. Pretty cool, right? And when you train, you wear a BJJ Gi, or a rash guard if you're doing No-gi Jiu-Jitsu.

How Does BJJ Work?

Okay, so how does BJJ actually work in a fight? First, you have to know it's not about being super strong. It's about being smart. In BJJ, you use leverage and technique to win.

Let's say you're a BJJ practitioner, and you're up against someone bigger. You use the power of leverage to get them into a bad spot, then use a submission to make them give up. That's the strength of BJJ.

A big part of BJJ is ground fighting. Most BJJ techniques happen when you and your opponent are on the ground. You will use joint locks or chokeholds to make them tap out. That's what's called a submission. It's a way to win without really hurting anyone.

When you spar in BJJ, you're always trying to get into a good position before you make your move. It means you get yourself into a strong position on the ground before you go for the kill.

So, as you can see, BJJ promises us a lot. But does all this make BJJ good for street fighting? Maybe. Let's look at both sides. Does BJJ work in a street fight? Some say yes, others say no. Keep reading to find out more.

7 Reasons Why BJJ Techniques Work In A Street Fight

Let's look at why many people say that BJJ is the best self-defense martial art.

  1. Defense Against Grabs 

Unlike boxing, BJJ teaches you what to do when someone tries to grab you. In a distance people can't hurt you. But let's say someone grabs your neck or puts you in a headlock. BJJ teaches you what to do. You'll know how to break free, take them to the ground and submit them. 

  1. Emphasis on Takedowns and Ground Control

In BJJ, you learn how to take someone down and control them on the ground. People usually don't see this coming, as many will try to strike with you. Taking somebody down and controlling them there is a safe way to stop a fight without hurting anyone. You'll be able to control them until they give up or help arrives.

  1. Training to Submit Larger Opponents

What if you're smaller than the other guy? BJJ shows you how to defeat bigger guys using smart techniques. You're not trying to out-muscle them. You're outsmarting them. Trust me, I've seen a purple belt submit a white belt who weighs more than twice than him. It's pretty crazy to witness. 

  1. Preparedness for Ground Fights

A lot of street fights end up on the ground. If you train in BJJ, you'll know what to do down there. You have a big advantage over someone who doesn't know the first thing about ground fighting. They'll be lost on the ground, but you know exactly what to do. 

  1. The Versatility of Techniques

BJJ gives you a lot of tools in your toolbox. I've not witnessed a martial art with as many techniques as BJJ. Here you can attack different parts of the body in many different ways. It's hard for someone to defend against everything you might do. You'll have an answer for everything they are trying to do. 

  1. Response to the Inability to Run Away

What's the first thing you should do in a street fight? Run away. Don't risk your life, if you can avoid it, leave! But what if you can't? That's where BJJ comes in. Other than Judo, no other martial art shows you what to do if someone grabs you.

  1. Potential to Immobilize Opponents

Boxing is about knockouts, but BJJ is about control. You can put the other person in a position where they can't move. You'll have the ability to break their limbs if things completely escalate. This way you ensure they can no longer harm you or anybody else. 

Are you convinced? Does all this make BJJ perfect for street fights? Well, opinions differ. But these are some strong points in its favor.

5 Reasons Why BJJ Is Not Effective In A Street Fight

Even though BJJ has strong points for self-defense, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Here's why:

  1. Different Schools, Different Focus

Not all BJJ schools are the same. Some might have you rolling on the mat, where punches are ignored. BJJ practice focuses more and more on BJJ competitions and is, therefore, less focused on how to use BJJ for street fighting. That's why you'll learn more and more moves that only work against other BJJ players. 

So, if your school doesn't focus on real-world fights, you might be in for a surprise out on the streets. 

  1. Not All Techniques are Equal

Sure, moves like the Berimbolo look cool in competition BJJ, but will they help in a street fight? Probably not. Some BJJ moves do not apply to real-life situations. That's also why you see many BJJ moves that are not being used in Mixed Martial Arts fights. You have to know which moves will actually work when it counts. 

  1. Trouble with More Than One Guy

If it's you against two or more people, BJJ is not the best choice. You could be taking the one guy down and choke him out. But what if his friend decides to kick you in the head? BJJ isn't made for fighting off a whole group. It works best in 1-1 situations.

Therefore, you want to stay on your feet and use boxing or Muay Thai when it comes to having multiple attackers. Of course, here again, if you can, please just run away. Even skilled and trained fighters will struggle with more than one opponent. 

  1. Takedowns Aren't the Big Focus

BJJ has some takedowns, but not many. The focus is rather on ground control and submissions. So, if you need to get someone on the ground fast, BJJ might not provide you with everything you need. 

  1. Extra Training Might Be Needed

Because BJJ isn't perfect, you want to mix in some wrestling or judo. BJJ is effective, but it often doesn't work by itself. So, by complementing your BJJ practice with other martial arts training, you'll be ready for anything from the get-go.

So there you have it. BJJ has some awesome techniques, but I don't think it's got everything covered for street fights.

Is BJJ Effective In A Street Fight? My Final Take

I'm a big fan of BJJ. It taught me a lot about how to stay safe and how to handle myself on the streets. Knowing BJJ gives me more peace of mind when I'm out. It definitely gave me the confidence and tools to defend myself.

But I must say, if you ever are in a street fight, you'll want more than just BJJ. Fights start standing up, so you'll need some skills there, like boxing or kickboxing. Adding in wrestling can be super useful for getting someone to the ground.

Is BJJ the best martial art for street fights? Probably not. But I don't know which one is. So, the best answer I can give you is to mix it up. Get yourself some MMA training that combines BJJ, wrestling, and striking. That's your best bet for staying safe.

And let's not forget, the smartest fight is the one you don't get into. So always keep your eyes open and try to stay out of trouble. 

Author Bio

Heythem Naji is a psychologist and an MMA enthusiast who writes about health and BJJ on his blog. Heythem's Blog integrates the complexities of mind and body, giving comprehensive, actionable insights by combining professional expertise with a personal narrative. Learn More


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October 04, 2023

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