Rener Gracie is one of the most famous faces of modern Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Along with his brother Ryron, he not only runs Gracie University, but a hosts a famous Youtube series called Gracie Breakdown.
Like many in the jiu-jitsu community, though, Rener worries that modern jiu-jitsu — particularly with its emphasis on training people for competitions — may not be adequately preparing its practitioners for a self-defense, which is what most people practice martial arts for.
“People learning sport are being confused into thinking that they’re getting ready for a fight, but they’re not,” warns Rener. “It’s possible today in the sport, in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world, that you get a purple belt or more, and go out in a fight and get beat up.”
In particular, Rener warns about the lack of punch defenses:
What is changing is, now that sports jiu-jitsu has become such an emphasis for a lot of people, you have two guys who have no consideration for a street fight, no consideration for punch protection who are grappling each other. And when there’s no punching, there’s millions of things that can happen based on gis, and lapels, and grabs, and twists, and crazy different guards that are not street applicable; they’re very sport.
Speaking as someone who trained under an instructor who recognized the importance of self-defense-based BJJ, I can testify to the truth of Rener’s words. It is amazing how easily all of your A-game can get completely shut down by the addition of punches and kicks. Some day, when you’re at the gym, tell your partner to put on some MMA gloves or boxing gloves and punch you as you try to sweep her from half guard. I guarantee you that, unless your half guard sweeps are as good as those of a high-ranking black belt, you’re going to have one hell of a hard time.
Watch the full video below to hear everything Rener Gracie has to say about sport and self-defense based Brazilian jiu-jitsu.