Self Defense and Jiu Jitsu


What About Self-Defense?


So you have an awesome berimbolo and your deep half-guard is sick. You even pulled off a couple of tricky moves to win in the finals of a competition or two. Cool! And your 50-50 guard is getting pretty good as well? Nice! Congrats on developing those hard earned skills.

self defense

Now lets get real for a moment. How would you do in a self-defense situation? Like a guy challenges you because you do Brazilian jiu-jitsu and he does shit-ren-ryu or whatever and wants to prove his art against yours because he hasn’t seen the “Gracies in Action” videos?


Or what if guy starts a fight with you in a bar because you’re with your hot girlfriend and he’s drunk, horny and alone. Being the calm, cool, confident jiujitsu guy you are, you try to talk him out of fighting which makes him want to stomp your face in even more. Talking comes to an end and he rushes you with bad intentions. How would you do?


Or even worse, what about a situation where you feel like your life might be in danger? How good would your skills and ability to apply them be in those circumstances?


In those scenarios above, pulling guard or working some fancy techniques may not work as they do in class. You might get punched in the face, kneed, kicked, or kicked by his friends. Or you could be bitten, have your balls grabbed, your eyes gouged or any number of “dirty” fighting techniques.


Your Friends Aren’t The Enemy


If you’re like most grapplers, you don’t train for situations like those mentioned above. What you mostly learn is how to beat another skilled grappler like yourself. Frankly, we start learning moves to try to kick our friend’s asses in our grappling class. And there’s nothing wrong with that!


However, most of us initially show up to Brazilian jiu-jitsu because they want to be able to defend themselves. So don’t forget why you started and the true essence of martial arts: Self-defense!


Here’s a list of a few self-defense classes that I’ve been into lately and recommend that you check out as well:


1. Unarmed self-defense


If your grappling instructor offers self-defense classes, I suggest you take them. If not, find a qualified instructor and a take a class. Make sure you take a class at least every couple of months and practice your self-defense skills to keep them sharp.

self defense

Self-defense classes should cover things like escaping common holds (i.e. full nelson, bear hugs, headlocks, etc), dealing with multiple opponents, knife disarming, gun disarming, “dirty” fighting techniques as well as developing a proper mindset for a life or death situation.


Knives are one of the most common weapons in the street and can be just as deadly as a gun. And it doesn’t take a super skilled person to be effective with them.


Guns disarming techniques are also great. Although the best defense for a gun is to hand over your wallet, knowing how to take a gun away from someone who is intent on using it on you may just save your life.


My first jiu-jitsu instructor, Rickson Gracie blackbelt and vale tudo champion Jorge Pereira, made sure we learned some basic defenses against knives and guns. He grew up on the streets in Brazil and had several situations where he used these skills to protect his life.


Even if you’d rather give a bad guy your wallet, I still recommend knowing how to deal with these circumstances in case they want more than just your money.


2. Knife Fighting

self defense

Not only is it good to know how to defend against a knife, it is also good to know how to use one offensively. I’ve taken some classes from a couple of individuals who do private security work abroad. Both of them said that the first thing they do when they get to the country where they’re working is go to the hardware store to buy a knife; especially in places that have strict gun laws.


Knowing how to grip a knife properly as well as how and where to strike with it is a good skill to learn. Knives are portable, concealable and deadly.


3. Firearms Training

self defense

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time training with firearms lately. As one of my firearm instructors put it: “Firearm skills is just another martial art.”


Having skill with firearms is a lot more than going to the shooting range and firing at paper targets. Although this is a good place to start, you want to move on to tactical skills as you become more comfortable with basic gun skills like how to grip, aim and fire.


A good basic tactical class will teach you how to fire on the move, how to fire behind cover, and you do all this while they put stress on you to simulate a more real situation. At the more advanced level, you learn how to “clear” rooms and other advanced. Make sure you learn from a reputable instructor with military or law enforcement background. There are some sketchy people who teach classes like this (at least where I live in Miami – the sunny land full of shady people lol) and you want to learn from someone good.


Wrapping It Up


I know this article might seem a little off-topic, or even a little crazy, but I really think this is important stuff. Many of us got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu to learn how to defend ourselves. Then we forget and go full competition training mode with crazy guards, sweeps and submissions. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

BUT I’m suggesting that you explore the self-defense side of our art as well as branching out into different weapons. Not only will this make you more of a badass action hero type of dude, it might actually help save your life or the lives of those you love one day. You never know!


Words by: Ted Ryce

Training Recovery




Ted Ryce is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu brown belt under Daniel Valverde at MMA Masters in Miami, FL where he also teaches. He is a multiple medalist in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Submission Grappling events, an in-demand personal trainer in the Miami area and a lifelong martial artist.



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