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The Limitations of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for Street Self Defense: What You Need to Know

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most popular martial arts today. Everywhere you go, you see jiu jitsu schools. In the sixties, it was karate. In the seventies, it was kung fu. In the eighties, it was ninjas. In the nineties, it was kickboxing. Now it's jiu jitsu. There are many wonderful benefits to jiu jitsu, such as physical conditioning, confidence boosting, core strength, and ground fighting. I've studied jiu jitsu since the nineties, as well as taught it for many years at my academy. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for jiu jitsu. I understand its value in the arena of combat sports.

However, if your main goal is realistic self-defense, then jiu jitsu should only be a minor part of your training. It should not be the foundation of your self-defense prep. In the real world where there are no rules when it comes to violence, jiu jitsu has too many limitations to make it practical. In this blog, I'm going to articulate these limitations, so you can see jiu jitsu in the context of a real fight, and make a more educated decision about learning it.

Limitation 1: Jiu Jitsu Can Only Deal with One Attacker at a Time

The number one weakness of Jiu Jitsu for self-defense is that it is limited to fighting only one attacker at a time. If there is more than one attacker involved, then Jiu Jitsu becomes totally useless. Even if you're an experienced Jiu Jitsu black belt, you won't be able to apply a submission technique effectively, while avoiding getting beaten up or stabbed to death by his friends at the same time. While you're busy getting to into a mount, his friends are hitting the back of your head with a baseball bat.

It's not physically possible to fight more than one person at a time - if you go to the ground and use grappling techniques.

Why? Grappling is much slower than striking, it exposes your back to a rear attack, and it lacks the mobility needed to get away from a second or third attacker. In a street fight, always expect more than one attacker, even if you don't see them. Remember: there is no such thing as a one-on-one fight in the streets.

Limitation 2: Jiu Jitsu Does Not Allow, Use, or Defend Strikes

The number two weakness of Jiu Jitsu for self-defense is that it does not use punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and other striking techniques in the way it fights. It only allows for submissions such as chokes, armlocks, and leg locks. But what exactly does this mean?

  • If you don't include striking as a regular part of your fighting style, you're not going to be able to defend against them because you're not regularly training yourself to expect them.

  • If you don't roll or spar using striking, you can't defend against them in a street fight very well because you don't have a system set up to deal with striking attacks and counter-attacks.

  • Striking is infinitely much faster and more efficient than grappling at ending a fight in seconds. Imagine a powerful right straight punch to the groin that drops a man to the ground in one second. It's rare to see a Jiu Jitsu match end in one second. Choking, arm breaks, and joint breaks can take valuable time to pull off.

Limitation 3: Jiu Jitsu Does Not Train for Weapons

The number three weakness of Jiu Jitsu for self-defense is that it does not involve weapons as part of their standard training program. Sure, you'll see tons of videos online of Jiu Jitsu experts show you how to defend against weapons using Jiu Jitsu, but we all know that this is not what they're really good at. Jiu Jitsu is good at ground fighting and grappling. But when have you ever seen a Jiu Jitsu competition involve knives, batons, or guns? The biggest problem with this when it comes to street fights is that Jiu Jitsu techniques do not take into account weapons being involved as a regular part of their system. Otherwise, why would they have invented the Guard? Spreading your legs when knives and guns are involved is suicide. If you think about it, almost every Jiu Jitsu position on the ground becomes a bad idea when weapons are involved because too many vital targets get exposed.


Competitions are about dominating/submitting your opponent and proving who's the better athlete in your gender class and weight class.

Street fights are about survival and doing whatever it takes to get what you want, including cheating, law-breaking, and taking an unfair advantage over your target, no matter their gender, age, or size. This includes weapons.

For example, in Jiu Jitsu, there is a popular ground position called the Closed Guard, where you open your legs and wrap your thighs around your opponent's body. Now imagine this: your opponent attempts to place you inside his Guard. When he opens his legs to place you inside his Guard, what's the first target you see?

  1. His legs

  2. His face

  3. His groin

  4. Nothing yet

A violent criminal will see the groin first and attack it. If someone is stupid enough to spread their legs in a fight, that groin will get destroyed, no questions asked. Why? Because street fighters are used to going for the gold - there are no rules, baby. And if this was a multiple attacker scenario, and my life was on the line, I'm pulling out my knife and ending the fight. My guess is that a Jiu Jitsu player would look for a submission first and not even see the groin as a viable target. Why? Because they're trained to fight with rules, which is a severe handicap in a street fight.

Limitation 4: Jiu Jitsu Trains on Mats, Not on Street Environments

The number four weakness of Jiu Jitsu for self-defense is that they train on mats. Almost every Jiu Jitsu school trains on soft, comfortable mats. You can pull off so many things on a mat that you can't pull off in the street environment. You can easily spend a whole day rolling around with someone on a mat. Now try doing that in a city parking lot, where cars are coming in and out. Try doing that inside a bar, where broken glass, alcohol, and drunken bar patrons are walking around you. Try grappling in a dirty alley near the garbage bins, rats, rotting food, and filth. The pavement hurts when you throw someone into it. All the fancy Judo throws and takedowns you can do so well in a dojo will be difficult to do in the real world without hurting yourself. Imagine getting broken elbows, broken knees, and broken backs when you hit the sidewalk or street. Try practicing your Jiu Jitsu outside in the parking lot in street clothes and see how that feels. It sucks.

Limitation 5: Jiu Jitsu Chooses to Go to the Ground

The final weakness of Jiu Jitsu for self-defense is its premise for their approach to fighting, which is, All fights end up on the ground. So we might as well start by fighting on the ground.

If your goal is to play Jiu Jitsu for a competition, then believe whatever you want to believe.

But if your goal is realistic self-defense, then this belief is false and very lethal.

Why? Because you can fight like hell to stay on your feet and avoid going to the ground by emphasizing footwork, mobility, evasiveness, agility, balance, and takedown defense in your training, instead of willingly going to the ground. And if you were to end up getting taken to the ground, your number one goal would be to get back on your feet immediately by whatever means necessary and stay mobile.

FACT: In a street fight, the worst place to go is the ground.

Avoid going to the ground in a real fight, or you will get hurt or killed.

Your best bet would be to stay on your feet and keep moving and moving and moving.

Mobility and distance is your best friend in a fight.

Going to the ground removes mobility and distance - avoid it.

FACT: A Jiu Jitsu player is taught to immediately take their opponent down to the ground and find a submission. This is a BAD IDEA in a street fight. Do not do this.

SiFu Tandez's Famous Quote:

You know all the stuff you're not allowed to do in any sport or tournament? You know, foul tactics? That's what you do in a street fight!

Become Proficient in Grappling and Ground Fighting

Even though you do not want to end up on the ground, you still need to train regularly for ground fighting and grappling. If you don't know what to do when you're lying on your back, you can't defend yourself and get to a standing position. You still need to learn how to ground fight. The difference in the grappling systems I teach at the academy is that they involve a no-rules, anything goes approach to ground fighting. I teach grappling arts such as Combat Submission Wrestling, Shooto, Filipino Kali's Dumog, Small-Circle Jujitsu, and Maphilindo Silat. All of these arts involve a blending of striking, grappling, weapons, and practical self-defense. They do not teach rules - they teach survival. Come check us out.

As Bruce Lee once said, The goal is to become comfortable in all ranges, and adaptable. You must learn grappling, so you can become proficient in every range.

If you're interested in training with us, please contact me at email: or call me at 408 373 0204. Thank you!

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