The BJJ Divide
If you live in the year 2020, you’ve probably heard of Jiu Jitsu. It is one of the most successful systems of self defense out there that revolutionized our understanding of fighting in the UFC (cagefighting) about 30 years ago. Yet, for a method of combat that wields such a degree of potency, there remain quite contrasting views by those who practice the art as a means of self defense and those who compete actively in tournaments. One side believes that the competitions are not conducive to learning how to defend yourself in the street and the other supports the idea that competing is the best way to test your skills. Like most disagreements, there is something to be taken from both sides.
The main argument from the Self Defense practitioners is that the rules of the sport detract from the original intent of defending oneself which has some validity, no doubt. However, there are some holes in this particular argument.
- The scoring system was actually built on one’s ability to land damaging strikes to your opponent. (Example: 2 points for a takedown, 2 points for a reversal, 4 points for mounting an opponent.) Without covering all the rules it’s easy to see that every point scored puts the scorer in a position to deal more damage to an opponent.
- They believe the time limit in a match takes away from the original concept of survival. This is true but your average street fight lasts seconds, rarely minutes.
- Street fights seldom involve “trained” opponents.
From the sport side the argument is that by staying in the dojo recreating only street scenarios you fail to test your abilities in the way you do in a competition (timing, strategy, physical and mental stamina, will power).
- There are ways to make students aware of punches in training (touching the face while sparring to encourage students to manage distance more effectively and be aware of the potential danger).
- By emphasizing defensive positions (starting your sparring in a defensive position) you can have a high level of intensity while training the self defense aspect.
- Training can be done at many lengths from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, exposing students to short bursts of effort and longer sessions that require more endurance and efficiency.
I believe that both sides are valid and together represent Jiu Jitsu as a whole. The decorated competitor shows us the possibilities when you work hard to be a well conditioned athlete while perfecting your skills. The most lethal fighters have come from sport, there is no doubt that modeling your training after them in some way will improve your ability to handle yourself in a fight. From self defense we learn the roots of Jiu Jitsu and the survival skills it offers especially in regards to the average person who is not physically extraordinary. I believe everyone should expose themselves to at least one tournament if their goal is self defense, it is one of the safest ways to simulate a real fight. I also believe competitors can benefit from the survival aspects that pure self defense has to offer.