Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) an art of Self-Defense?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a fully comprehensive self-defense system. However, Gracie Jiu Jitsu has different elements. This is because the goals that people pursue with training can be different. There are different ways to train and with them different focuses. Otherwise, there is only one form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – only the goals that BJJ students and masters pursue can be different. Some want to participate in competitions, while others want to use BJJ for self-defense purposes.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu begins where the other martial arts end

There are BJJ teachers who hold the view: Gracie Jiu Jitsu begins where other martial arts end. What do today’s BJJ teachers mean by this statement? A prime example of this is that in most martial arts ground fighting is broken off or not even considered. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, however, it is often with the clinch that things really get started. This is not to say that standing fights should not be taken seriously. As before, fights start almost exclusively in the standing position. To neglect the standing fight would be fatal, especially with regard to defense against multiple attackers or in unsuitable surroundings.

In terms of self-defense, BJJ follows an important strategy: it is not possible to defend yourself effectively if you do not know how to avoid a fight. The goal that BJJ teaches is to avoid a fight; when it comes to the self-defense aspect. However, this does not apply when an attacker physically attacks a person. In this case, self-defense comes into play.

Furthermore, in BJJ, an important question is: How does the fight turn out in terms of self-defense? A person who has never been exposed to self-defense is less likely to fight back than a person who regularly practices BJJ. Moreover, the latter will most likely perform better.

What is self-defense?

Self-defense is an inner attitude. It refers not only to techniques that students of BJJ learn in training to defend themselves in the event of an attack. Ultimately, it means that BJJ students always train the punching, leverage and throwing techniques with the ulterior motive that their attacker might hurt them.

What about the question: Was Gracie Jiu Jitsu originally developed for people who had no experience with self-defense? Its goal was not only to teach its students techniques of self-defense against all kinds of attacks, but to increase their self-confidence. Accordingly, they should be able to defend themselves against all possible attacks. However, over time, this program evolved into robot-like movements.

Therefore, a further development took place. It was not only a further development, but an important change of perspective. What exactly does the change of perspective mean? Self-defense in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is designed to defend against situations – rather than against people. Moreover, the goal is to train people to adapt their emotions to the situation at hand. It’s not just about defending yourself against an attack, but reacting correctly emotionally and self-defensively in the situation at hand. Anger should in no case be a companion of the techniques. Because this is followed by rash movements. These in turn result in consequences that can have negative consequences, especially for the person defending himself.

Has BJJ evolved?

Yes, in terms of perspective, the BJJ has always evolved. This includes the aspect of risks. They are just as much a part of it. In sports, there are rules that protect you. In a street fight, there are no rules and you can die. Hรฉlio Gracie said, I fight not to lose. He was against the classic points system as it is in competitions. Moreover, he coined the saying: I try not to win, but not to lose.

Why shouldn’t people train for fun? Because dangerous consequences result from it. Instead, it is better to learn to defend oneself. Because self-defense is about an attitude.

Is BJJ self-defense training better than BJJ competition training?

No, they just have different goals. If you want to win, you go the sporting route. Both have their merits. Because BJJ training, which focuses on competition, develops the sport. Competitions thus have an important advantage in terms of the evolution of BJJ. Because in a competition, students do not fight just to win. Finally, they cope with much more during the competition. They deal with the pressure to perform, numerous spectators are present and also evaluate the fight. This is an enormous development of the personality. However, the competition version of the training does not serve to develop the skills of self-defense.

What is the most important BJJ technique?

The most important technique in BJJ is the one that a student needs when another person attacks him. Because the right attitude helps to act correctly in any situation. The most important technique is to adapt. Protecting one’s honor is also an important self-defense technique. This includes, for example, not reacting to insults and knowing when it is worth ignoring this situation. This is also a successful technique of self-defense to toxic reactions. It also acts as a reliance on oneself. Therefore, there is much more behind a successful way of defending oneself than just knowing about self-defense techniques. The goal is to transfer what is taught in training to all life situations.


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a complete self-defense system that consists of the following five elements:

  • Stand up self-defense against surprise attacks
  • Striking tecniques
  • Grapling techniques
  • Throwing
  • Philosophy

Defense against surprise attacks consists, on the one hand, of the techniques that students use to defend themselves against the particular attack. On the other hand, they have taken away another lesson in the training: They defend themselves against this unwanted situation – not so much against the attacker as a person. They learn not only techniques on the ground, but just as much techniques that take place in the stand.

Punching techniques and throws are also part of this program, because in case of an attack it is less possible to defend the attacker only with blocks. Throws and punching techniques are part of a successful self-defense.

Since an attack is by no means merely standing, although it usually begins in a standing position, it can continue on the ground. For this reason, Gracie Jiu Jitsu also includes techniques of self-defense on the ground. Ring and leverage techniques play an important role. With the help of the leverage techniques, the attacker can be calmed down or incapacitated. Because, whoever “pulls through” a lever, breaks or sprains the respective joint of his attacker.

Last but not least, the philosophy also focuses on programming the students’ attitude towards self-defense. Because self-defense in BJJ is a matter of attitude, which goes far beyond the technical skills.