JJT Reader Question: How Much Can Sport Jiu-Jitsu REALLY Help In A Fight?

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A Jiu-Jitsu Times reader writes in: “Hello. I was wondering if you have ever written any articles. On the difference between Jujitsu and practical fighting. I don’t know why it annoys me so much when I see Jitsu players saying that they have a fight coming up. Especially a guard player that was if they’re on the bottom and a real-life situation would be getting punched to death
If you could please refer me to any articles. Or collaborate on writing a new one I really want to know what popular opinion is. I Loved You Jitsu with all my heart but I believe it’s part of an overall thing in the teams that don’t pack 2 self-defense and get into just the technical to Jitsu things that would never happen and actual self-defense scenario drives me nuts. Thanks for your time I appreciate everything you do love your page!”
You are not the only one in the vast BJJ community who is discontent with the direction of sport jiu-jitsu rules and strategies away from the original real fighting art as developed and tested by the Gracie family.
Following the atomic bomb that was the UFC in the world of martial arts, which obliterated previously held conceptions about what was the most effective style for winning real fights, the first wave of Brazilian instructors came to western countries and started teaching. In those early days, BJJ was synonymous with No Holds Barred fighting (NHB) and the first BJJ clubs in the USA were tough environments!
A good watch for you on this specific topic would be the awesome “Roll Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal” documentary.
In the 20+ years that BJJ has come to the USA (and other countries throughout the world), the original fighting has art as both evolved and split. Sport jiu-jitsu competitions — such as those with IBJJF rules,¬†for example — have proliferated and helped grow the sport exponentially. But along with that growth (which is a good thing!) has come a divergence of the rules in various types of grappling competitions. Competitors whose primary goal is to win the gold medal with intelligently gravitate towards the best strategy and techniques within the rule set to win. And those rules also largely determine HOW jiu-jitsu is taught in the BJJ academy.
The broad art that we know as Brazilian jiu-jitsu has irrevocably split. It has evolved and differentiated so much that I argue that the various grappling competition rule sets have created new and different grappling sports.
There are BJJ schools that never even acknowledge that one could be struck by an opponent (One school I visited didn’t have a single pair of boxing gloves to be found.) and concentrate on sport BJJ positions like spider guard and the berimbolo. Many of the “old school” practitioners lament this state of the fighting art. But it isn’t all negative. For one, there are FAR more options available for students who wish to get involved in BJJ and MMA.
Different schools will have different emphases: sport jiu-jitsu enthusiasts generally love the gi, no-gi submission grapplers have gravitated towards heel hooks and colorful spats, and MMA schools have their own practical approach to BJJ for fighting and the traditional self-defense oriented schools.
If you are looking for a school that keeps close to the real fighting roots of jiu-jitsu, you may have to look for a specific flavor of jiu-jitsu and skip a sport focused BJJ school. At the same time, many people who enjoy getting on the mat and sweating a kimono to learn some new skills and stay fit a few times a week might not enjoy the smashmouth jiu-jitsu of Ralph Gracie’s 1995 crew of killers.
A final note: One jiu-jitsu black belt said, “I live in a city where the chance of being in a street fight is very low. I enjoy training jiu-jitsu with my friends and doing positions like inverting and lapel guard. Is there anything wrong with that?”
No problem at all. Just as long as it is in alignment with your goals and you can differentiate what is suitable for real fighting and what is only for sport jiu-jitsu.
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