One of the biggest reasons people start martial arts is for self-defense.
It’s how most, if not all martial arts are marketed to the masses.
Two of the most popular martial arts for self-defense nowadays, are BJJ and MMA.
Which one of these arts is the best to learn?
It really depends on the context of the self-defense situation.
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Is the fight against single or multiple attackers? Do they have a weapon?
Tom DeBlass, a famous BJJ coach, says to avoid this situation whenever possible but if need be, to use full force.
Another self-defense principle that is taught is, either be all the way in or all the way out. In other words either fight or run, as if your life depends on it.
The worst response you could have is to freeze up.
This would make you the most vulnerable to getting hurt.
In this article, I will be comparing the difference between BJJ and MMA in terms of self-defense situations.
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Self-Defense Aspects Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ is a ground-based grappling martial art that focuses on chokes and joints.
It depends on what sort of BJJ school you go to because some schools focus very much on the self-defense aspect and other schools focus on BJJ as a sport.
A self-defense school will likely do situational drills like being in a headlock or someone pinning your wrists.
Typically things you would expect in a self-defense situation.
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Many self-defense schools will incorporate someone striking you, either with gloves on or with open-hand strikes.
Just to teach you the difference strikes make in a grappling situation.
Whereas, if BJJ is taught as a sport, you will be taught whatever is effective in a competition.
However, many techniques are still effective in a self-defense situation.
You will also learn things like a deep half guard and some different open guards which are terrible when strikes are involved.
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Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Good For Self-Defense?
BJJ allows you to incapacitate an aggressor without major injury or concussion.
If you choose to, you can still use strikes and joint locks like a kimura or an armbar.
But they aren’t your go-to techniques.
If you are an extremely effective BJJ artist, you’re likely to be able to choke and make an untrained person unconscious without harming them too much.
If the fight happens on concrete, the worst that will happen to them is a few cuts and grazes.
BJJ teaches positional control very well and gives someone the ability to control someone’s movements and restrain them.
If they are flailing around under your side control they will tire very quickly, and won’t be a threat to anyone.
Furthermore, the way BJJ scores its hierarchy of pins which are Mount, Back Mount, Knee On Belly, Side Control & North-South is how effective that position is at dealing striking damage.
Even though there isn’t any striking in BJJ, much thought has been given to the possibility of strikes.
If necessary, you could use some strikes to either end a fight or get someone to open up their neck.
Similar to how ground and pound is used in MMA.
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Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Bad For Self-Defense?
One big issue with using BJJ as a self-defense method, is you’re extremely vulnerable to a second attacker jumping in and kicking you in the head.
No martial arts is completely effective against multiple attackers, but a striking art will be more effective, and it will be easier to run away if the situation requires it.
You’re not going to be able to take off running when you’re on someone’s back.
BJJ doesn’t have much emphasis on takedowns in comparison to wrestling or judo.
This could lead you to struggling to take your attacker down to implement your BJJ.
Furthermore, you don’t want to be on the bottom in a self-defense situation, you always want to be in a more dominant top position.
Pulling guard is not an option in BJJ.
So practice your takedowns and try them in sparring.
Takedowns are very important for self-defense, a strong enough takedown might wind the attacker and incapacitate them.
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Self-Defense Aspects Of MMA
MMA is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a mixing of the martial arts.
Aspects from wrestling, judo, sambo, boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and others are used to create a complete fighting style that is strong at all ranges.
Whether that’s striking, clinch or groundwork.
MMA is very similar to a street fight but without groin strikes, biting, and eye-poking.
Why MMA Is Good For Self-Defense
Every MMA fight starts standing. If you’ve done plenty of full, or almost full contact sparring, you will be confident at the striking range.
Then, use your wrestling to take the person down, and sink in a submission to end the fight.
Furthermore, MMA grappling will be more applicable to a self-defense situation.
This is because in BJJ there is typically a gentleman’s agreement that one will play top and the other will play the bottom position.
95% of the time, BJJ competitors never return to their feet and start fighting for takedowns again.
In MMA almost nobody voluntarily pulls guard.
It does happen with perhaps 1% of fighters. The ones that do, are extremely effective with submissions.
Moreover, in MMA the person on the bottom is always trying to get back to their feet or sweep into the top position.
The former is definitely going to be the case in a self-defense situation.
This is why you have a lot more takedowns in MMA in comparison to BJJ.
Doing MMA, you definitely develop excellent takedown skills.
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Is MMA Bad For Self-Defense?
It would depend on how you feel about giving your opponent a concussion in a self-defense situation.
If you’re a striking dominant MMA fighter, your best way of ending the fight will be by knocking the person out, which could lead to serious brain injury.
It’s certainly not bad to know a decent bit of striking, but you can cause a lot more serious injuries and harm using striking to defend yourself, instead of grappling.
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Both BJJ and MMA are sufficient martial arts for protecting yourself in self-defense situations.
Of course, MMA will be better for self-defense.
Simply because you’re training at all ranges of fighting, and BJJ is all groundwork and submissions.
There’s always a small chance you won’t be able to get the fight to the floor.
Or there might be multiple attackers, then your BJJ is no use at all.
So if you truly want to be able to protect yourself in most situations, definitely choose MMA as it’s the closest thing to a street fight.
If the idea of striking puts you off Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, then a little bit of wrestling will do the job and save you in most self-defense situations.
Most martial arts with live sparring will be useful in a self-defense situation. It will help you understand what combat is like.
So get out there and do some sparring, it will give you a good idea of how it feels when you are being attacked.
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I’m a Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I write about the latest in all things martial arts.