As Brazilian jiu-jitsu continues to evolve, there has been a constant discussion about street versus sport techniques within the BJJ community.
As far as a single training paradigm, I believe Chris Haueter said it best by stating, “Think street, train sport, practice art.” In some of the more traditional affiliations, you will not even be awarded your blue belt unless you can perform some of the more basic self-defense techniques whereas others will promote largely on your accomplishments in the sport realm.
I am the head coach at a small gym in Elko, Nevada, and as such I don’t want my students to be put in a situation wherein they must utilize their training and get injured as a result of a lack of real world concepts and how to apply them in a functional manner. When I am not teaching, I am at work in a juvenile correctional setting that houses juveniles from age 9 to age 21 due to Nevada Law.
With Chris Haueter’s words in mind, I have given my students three criteria that a position must meet in order for a technique to be deemed applicable in a altercation, which I have also applied to my approach in a correctional setting. These are not criteria about how to get into a dominant position, but more so getting to a point wherein one can catch a moment to decide where they can direct the outcome of the incident most effectively. In order to get to said position one must use whatever means necessary to get out of a bad position as fast as possible.
As Complete Control as Possible
In many ways this is common sense. However, I once heard a story of a bar fight that happened in a rural town where one man had another guy in mount and was proceeding to beat him senseless. The problem was he didn’t have control, or at least full awareness, of the guy’s hands on bottom. The bottom guy proceeded to pull a knife from his boot and open up the liver of the guy in mount. The guy on top eventually succumbed to his injuries and died. The case was ruled self-defense.
To have complete control is to have at least an awareness of the other limbs insomuch that if there is a weapon introduced to the fight, it can be dealt with or evaded as quickly as possible and have minimal effect to the outcome of the altercation.
High Level of Situation Awareness and Visibility
Control is essential, but being able to watch and be aware of your surroundings is equally important.
One of the more common points against ground fighting in a street situation is the fear of being soccer kicked to the head or stomped while dealing with someone, which poses a legitimate threat.
Simply stated, do not pull guard in an actual fight. If you cannot see around you the odds of being ambushed skyrocket. Just as you can’t effectively manage distance between two points, you absolutely cannot manage said distance between people who you are unaware are even variables to a fight.
Situational awareness is paramount to surviving an altercation. Should an inmate decide to cause an incident, at no point can I disregard the possibility of having his/her wing mate jumping in on the altercation. One must be aware of the possibility of someone else jumping in at any given moment and be as ready as possible to react to said variable. This awareness needs to be a conscious aspect of training in order to mitigate the mental tunnel effect that will likely take place when put under immense psychological stress and the adrenaline dump inherent in such situations.
Rapid and Easy Escape from a Position
This third and final criteria cuts out more positions than the two previous ones, and it is crucial to always have a way to escape.
Various positions offer visibility and control. For example: mounted triangle. The mounted triangle meets the first two criteria in regards to control and visibility; however, it takes the average human approximately .25 seconds to react to a stimulus. With that in mind, once you see that new variable introduced, you have little time to react before it’s too late. Law Enforcement Officers typically abide by the 21-foot rule in regards to the amount of time necessary for them to effectively respond and deal with a sudden threat. The mounted triangle, when sunk in deep, may take you a few moments to dismount and be able to run from a situation. As a result, it does not meet the standard to be categorized as a street effective technique, as it may leave you vulnerable to a second attacker.
In a popular video where a fight broke out on a basketball court that ended in a heel hook position, if the attackers’ friends would have gotten involved in a more aggressive manner, the video could have ended with the BJJ guy sustaining severe injuries, as he would have been stuck on the ground. Though a powerful attack, the heel hook leaves the individual way too vulnerable for it to be classified as an effective street technique.
When a position meets these criteria, one should be able to have the options of neutralizing a threat on their own, waiting for help to arrive, or being able to quickly dismount and take off running to evade the threat. The option people choose will be based on their own abilities and what sort of variables evolve as the altercation continues to develop.
I try to explain to my students that are more self-defense oriented that when met with no other option than to engage, they must either work to escape the incident or do whatever it takes to acquire a position that meets these criteria so that they don’t gain a “dominant” position that will ultimately leave them vulnerable. Fancy guards have no place in a street altercation. Certain attacks may be best dealt with by utilizing simple and effective guard attacks – a basic triangle or cross-collar for instance – but that does not mean nothing else bad can happen, and one needs to be aware of the other variables as they necessarily advance their position.
Ultimately, the goal is make it safely home by whatever means necessary and recognize that you need to be ready for virtually anything to occur in a situation with virtually innumerable variables.