In our grappling community, there is an issue that just seemingly won’t die: Sport Jiu-Jitsu vs Street jiu-Jitsu. There are many high level instructors and practitioners on both sides of the argument, and they have seemingly drawn their lines in the sand. But honestly, why is this even an argument at all? Let’s break it down and see who is “right”.
Street BJJ guys usually love to point to the 50/50 guard. Or the guard-pulling. Or the butt-scooting. They usually seem to enjoy doing this while making sure everyone around them knows that they don’t practice “BJJ”; instead they practice “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu”. Do they have some valid claims? Hell yeah, they do. Is butt-scooting something to do in an actual fight? Well, as this MMA fighter learned, it is not.
Sport guys love to point out that most “street” guys don’t know what a real fight even feels like without competing. Or that they don’t know any “real” standup. Or that few of them seem to ever test themselves in MMA. Do they have some valid claims? Hell yeah, they do. Someone can’t claim “street ready” without also preparing for the nerves aspect (whether that be from competition, MMA, or full-on sparring).
So who wins? Well, nobody. Because we’re just bickering among ourselves.
Something that I believe ought to happen, is that instructors ought to teach both by clarifying what a technique can be applied to (street, sport, or both) while demonstrating it. Should you tell a white belt to go for 50/50 in a “street” scenario? Obviously, no. I’d be very surprised if I ever saw an instructor advocating such a thing. Should an instructor talk about groin strikes to a class getting ready to compete? Again, obviously, no; and I would be surprised to see it happen.
So why do we keep fighting about it? Jiu-Jitsu is Jiu-Jitsu, regardless of your goals or emphasis. There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning it for self-defense. That said, there is also nothing wrong with learning it for a sport. Do both. Have fun. Hell, we need both.
Why make claims that one way is superior to the other? It’s still the same thing, just a different emphasis. If we ever want Jiu-Jitsu to be taken seriously, we need to stop all of the in-fighting. Let’s focus on advancing the art as a whole instead of tearing sections of it down. It really boils down to being respectful to one another, and realizing that we all train for various reasons.
I will conclude this article with words from Tim Sylvester, an instructor at Gracie Philadelphia: