There are two commonly asked questions regarding Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. One of them is whether or not Jiu-Jitsu is any good when it’s compared to other martial arts and the other is whether or not Jiu-Jitu is any good when it comes time to get dirty in a street fight.
Let’s talk about the first question and let’s view it the way it’s most commonly asked.
Which is better – Jiu-Jitsu or Karate? Kung Fu? Taekwondo?
Let’s see – Is Jiu-Jitsu the same, or very similar, to these martial arts? Is it comparable? I would say no.
What do Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts have in common? They all necessitate the use of the human body and they all make use of an opponent.
What else necessitates the use of the human body? Walking, singing, hopscotch and digging ditches. What else makes use of an opponent? WWF wrestling, Sumo wrestling, football and tennis.
You get the idea. I’m being a wise guy.
Many people would argue that since Jiu-Jitsu is in the “martial art” category, the question is fair game. I would argue that it’s a pretty damn big category. Also, Jiu-Jitsu makes use of many other fighting styles, such as Judo and Greco-Roman wrestling and it’s more similar to those two than it is anything else. And Greco-Roman wrestling isn’t even a martial art. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Here’s the thing – It’s fun to watch those videos entitled, “Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt vs. WWF King” and stuff like that. I know, it’s just fun. But when really trying to figure out which is better of anything, you need to understand what your goals are. If you’re goal is to run a marathon, then Jiu-Jitsu isn’t for you. If your goal is to get in shape, stay flexible and to learn how to ground fight, then Jiu-Jitsu is for you. If your goal is to learn how to kick properly, then Jiu-Jitsu isn’t for you. It’s pretty obvious – understand your goal and then figure out which activity is going to get you closest to that goal. After that, you’ll find the answer.
But that’s not even the point of this post. The point is just as the title suggests.
Can you use Jiu-Jitsu in a street fight?
After going back and forth through the years and reading through a countless number of conversations on websites, I think I’ve come to a conclusion which I’ll spell out for you in story format.
Back when I was in 7th grade, I used to walk to school. I would exit the front door of my house, make a right onto the street and go all the way to the end. I would head down the hill and knock on my friend Brian’s door. He would come out and we’d cut through a few people’s yards until we made it to the main road. Then, we would walk down to the deli to grab something to eat. The school was right across the street from the deli, so we would usually hang out for a while until the last second, when we would run across the main road into the school.
That’s what we did and we did it for years.
Well, one day, as we were walking out of the deli, this kid in my grade, named Ray, walked straight towards me from the far corner of the parking lot. As he was walking, I looked around, as if there was someone standing next to me. His eyes were trained and, trust me, he didn’t look happy. I glanced around a few more times before realizing that this, perhaps crazy, kid was approaching me and was looking for a fight.
As he took his final steps towards me and after he finally stopped, he said, “I know you’ve been talking about me. You got something to say? Say it to my face.” Now, just to clue you in – when someone says this type of thing to you in a parking lot before school, you aren’t going to get away from him unless you run like hell or get in a scuffle. Ray had fire in his eyes and this thing needed to be dealt with. If I tried to talk my way out of it, I would just spend days worrying about when Ray’s next approach would be.
Ray pushed me. I stood there. Ray got me in some sort of a guillotine headlock. I again stood there, rigidly bent over, hoping that the embarrassment would be over soon. Ray squeezed, and as he did, I looked up at Brian and said, “Hey man, can I get some help over here?” Brian looked at me, continued to stand there, and at that point, I realized I was alone. I had to deal with the situation.
But I didn’t.
I just continued to stand there as Ray squeezed on my neck. I was completely frozen.
Which is strange, because for as long as could remember, I was able to beat up anyone, including most of my friends, some who were quite a bit larger than I was. All my life, I would wrestle and fight in my front yard. All my life, my friends and I would have boxing matches – matches to the end. Last man standing. And I was always that man.
So what was going on the morning Ray got me in a headlock and squeezed me until he got bored, pushed me away and left? What happened to me? Why didn’t I fight back? I know I could have taken him.
I’ll tell you what happened. I was paralyzed with fear. I had no experience with a real fight and I didn’t know what to do. When I used to wrestle with my friends, there was no pressure. I knew their capabilities. I knew who they were. When I was standing there with Ray, I had no idea where I was.
So what made Ray better than me? Well, for one thing, Ray fought a bunch of people. He even fought my friend Pete (Pete won). Ray had experience fighting people and was in his comfort zone when he decided it was my turn.
What makes Jiu-Jitsu useful in a street fight is that Jiu-Jitsu strips you of the fear you would normally experience when it comes time to take care of business. The paralysis is gone. I found a nice summation here:
“Grappling, in general, is good because it gives you a feel of combat. When a real life situation comes up, the fight will be like second nature to you and your nerves wont kill your energy. I definately recommend training BJJ.”
It’s true. I remember back when I first started training in BJJ. There was a bit of hesitancy when it came time to spar with new partners. We would visit various schools and vice-versa. There were new faces all over the place. Back then, when rolling with a new partner, I had very little confidence. I would slap hands and say something like, “Just remember, I’m pretty new at this.” I would remind my opponent of how much tougher they were than I was and I would thank them after they beat me up. Funny stuff. I still see that kind of thing out there today.
Now, I have much more confidence. I don’t back away from rolling partners anymore and I certainly don’t tell them they are tougher than I am. Years of training in BJJ has changed my outlook on people and competition in general. I’ve gotten fairly good at what I do and I eagerly look forward to training with fresh faces at every turn.
One of the more odd by-products of training in BJJ is that my perspective has changed. Now, when I walk around and view people, I wonder if they’ve had any training. I don’t necessarily want to view people like this, I just do. I suppose it’s from training with so many regular looking guys and gals. People you would see in the supermarket and at the mall. I train with moms and dads, computer repair technicians and artists. I don’t train with body builders and track stars. As I said above, Jiu-Jitsu has given me a new perspective.
So to answer the question, I would offer a definite “yes” to whether or not Jiu-Jitsu would help out in a street fight. Just not only in many of the ways you would think.