Why BJJ Is One Of The Best Forms Of Self-Defense

The practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) can be split into two distinct camps: sport and self-defense. It is important to understand the distinction and connectivity between the two. There is a profound history of BJJ and a newer definition of what BJJ has evolved into. BJJ has gained massive popularity over the last two decades and there are good reasons for that. In general, BJJ can certainly enhance self-defense skills that are accessible for a variety of people. The thing with self-defense is that you don’t know you need self-defense until you absolutely need it. In this article, we’ll delve into what BJJ is, the principles of BJJ are and how BJJ is one of the best forms of self-defense out there.

What is BJJ?

BJJ is a grappling-based martial art that is founded upon the skill of controlling an opponent in a way that forces a submission. The word “jiu-jitsu” derives from the Japanese “Ju” meaning “gentle” and “Jutsu” meaning art - essentially translating to “gentle art”. BJJ utilizes leverage, angles, pressure, timing, and knowledge of the human anatomy to achieve a non-violent submission. Many other martial art forms focus on strikes or kicks, while BJJ focuses on grappling holds and techniques along with joint manipulation. The BJJ style resulted from the Japanese Jiu-Jitsu foundation that traveled to South America in the early 1900s. Now, BJJ is considered one of the most popular martial art forms around.

How the Principles of BJJ Prepare You for Self-Defense

The physical and mental benefits of BJJ are significant and well-documented. As a martial art form, it uses a combination of dynamic and explosive movements along with pressure-based pushing, pulling, and holding. To make BJJ even cooler, it can be done by anyone. BJJ was designed and developed so that a smaller person could defend and defeat a larger and stronger opponent, making it one of the most accessible martial arts. Here, we’ll explore some of the principles behind BJJ and how they lend themselves well to self-defense.

Size Doesn’t Matter

BJJ is anyone’s game. You could quite literally be the smallest and weakest person in class but still thrive on the mat. BJJ is specifically designed to give smaller people a chance to defeat larger and stronger opponents by preventing threats and forcing opponents into submission. This principle of BJJ creates awareness, a humble nature, and begins the learning of how to stay calm during tough situations. A learning that is as good for off the mat as on the mat.

Technique Trumps Strength

No matter the size or the strength of your opponent, just remember - technique over everything. It is crucial to grasp technique during training, and this is a key focus of the BJJ practice. Correct technique, especially in split decisions, makes all the difference in competition or in dangerous times. Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”. BJJ is all about learning and perfecting your techniques and understands how and when to apply them successfully.

Build A Solid Grip

BJJ focuses on creating a solid grip. Creating the grip strength to execute proper techniques more effectively creates more control. There are many ways BJJ practitioners build up grip strength and learn how to use it to their advantage - either on the mat or in an unfortunate situation that calls for self-defense. With weak grip strength, it is going to be extremely difficult to get yourself out of a dangerous scenario.

Focus & Mental Toughness

BJJ requires immense amounts of focus. And BJJ training works on developing the mental resilience required to see you through any difficult encounter. This type of focus makes it so you can take in all the important information needed to quickly process what’s around you and execute a way to diffuse the threat. The type of focus that BJJ teaches is how to be calm and how this calm helps us to move better and respond more efficiently. BJJ uses many of the body’s various muscle groups with the mind being one of them. Especially in a scary situation that calls for self-defense, focus and calmness are of utmost importance.


When learning how to properly execute techniques and build a solid BJJ foundation, learning how to anticipate your opponent’s biggest leverage is major. The same is true when using BJJ for a dangerous encounter. Your first priority is to be able to learn their strongest leverage against you, stay focused and calm, and how to use that knowledge to your advantage. Making these assessments calmly is key to being able to get yourself out of a difficult situation.

BJJ Limitations for Self-Defense

We’d like to be totally transparent with you. There has been an ongoing debate within the BJJ community about BJJ’s connection to self-defense. If we retrace the history of BJJ, its original intent was defending against and defeating an opponent in a real fight. There is also a well-known distinction between “sport” and “street” BJJ. It has been noted that it could be an optimistic assumption that knowing BJJ will directly transfer to self-defense if needed. Many schools focus on technique rather than the self-defense side of BJJ, but that is not to say that BJJ is not well-suited as a self-defense martial art.

BJJ Formal Education

For many BJJ schools, the main objective is to teach proper technique, execution, and how to compete, rather than self-defense specifically. BJJ has transformed over the years into a hardcore sport that requires a vast knowledge of techniques and execution. As a martial art form, BJJ has been enriched on a technical level that may not translate well in a real-world scenario of self-defense. It’s important to take BJJ techniques and learn how to apply them to a self-defense scenario.

BJJ = Science and an Art

BJJ can be considered a science and an art form at the same time. There are fundamental principles that BJJ practitioners participate in and that everyone learns. This alone separates those who practice BJJ from a majority of the population. Because BJJ is both a science and art, it is rather complex, and applying such complexity to a street fight or in self-defense is not always ideal. BJJ competition rules do not apply in real-world scenarios; knowing BJJ is not going to stop someone from striking, spitting, biting, etc, which certainly wouldn’t happen on the mat. However, in “self-defense’  BJJ, it’s all about maintaining control and proper distance. You want to keep your opponent far away or so tightly within your control that you have taken away their ability to attack - which are solid strategies for self-defense.


While there may be a debate if BJJ is appropriate for self-defense, there is no doubt that BJJ can strengthen self-defense skills and create higher chances of getting yourself out of a terrible situation.

We Can Teach You How to Master Self-Defense through BJJ

At The Boxing Club, we pride ourselves on bringing the best BJJ classes in San Diego. We have crafted full programming based on power, stamina, flexibility, grappling, and advancing our mental strength. Our classes are designed to give newer belts a place to learn and those who are already invested, a place to keep on the learning. Learn from the best with our award-winning coaches who are intentional with the instruction they bring on and off the mats. Seasoned student or new student eager to learn? Try a class with the best!


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