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The Top 3 BJJ Techniques for Self Defense (or How to Stay Out of Trouble)

If you’ve spent enough time looking through the martial arts interwebs, you’ve inevitably come across articles purporting to give the “best” or the “top 3” techniques for self-defense.

These articles are almost always heavily leaned towards one style or another and often too simplistic to be taken seriously. In reality, the variables of self-defense situations are so numerous that narrowing them all down to the “three best techniques” would likely lack nuance and worse — potentially mislead someone. 

You may be wondering why I set out to write just such a blog post.

Rather than come up with a list of effective techniques, it seems more useful to spend some time on general concepts that will hopefully keep us safe out in the real world.

Many a martial artist has probably quietly fantasized about landing the perfect [INSERT TECHNIQUE] if an assailant were to threaten his/her safety. However, these scenarios rarely unfold the way we would hope.

What if the bad guy has a friend? What would you do if you were grappling and a knife gets pulled, or even a gun? Maybe the attacker isn’t armed, but his or her friend is.

Go to Youtube and find a video of two guys fighting about something. The fight goes to the ground, and you can immediately tell one of them has BJJ experience. He’s about to subdue the other person when a girlfriend emerges from the onlookers and stomps the BJJ guy in the back of the head, leaving him unconscious and utterly at the mercy of anyone else who wants to take a shot. We could go on and on.

So what can we do in the face of all of this?

The simple answer is to avoid, avoid, avoid. Find any way you can to avoid the fight. We used to refer to this as the “Nike Defense.” In other words, if you have to, and if it is safe to do so, just run. Avoiding a fight when possible means no hospital bills, no accidental deaths, no legal fees, and no jail time. 

Stand up

Let’s say, however, that you cannot completely avoid a confrontation. There is one thing that you will learn in almost any martial art, and it’s disappointingly not fancy: learn how to stand up. Standing up is a basic human skill, so learning how to do it effectively is important.

If you are unlucky enough to get into a fight, there is a good chance you may end up on the ground. The technical stand up that we all learned in our first month of BJJ may just be a life saver, especially if the attacker(s) are still on their feet.

Find a moment to stand up safely, and you may be able to fight back. Or, you may be able to refer back to the aforementioned “Nike Defense” and get out of there. 

Side Clinch

Another technique that deserves attention, also taught exhaustively at beginning levels, is the side clinch. You could also start with the regular clinch (as seen in Muay Thai), pummeling, and then securing your side clinch.

If the distance collapses, and you cannot safely avoid a standing grappling situation, the side clinch could be your life saver. It’s safe, not intricately technical, and can be executed in a messy situation without needing years of training. You might then be able to take your attacker to the ground in a semi-safe manner or even just get behind him/her, shove them away, and run. (Don’t forget – getting out of there is still your best option, even after an initial entanglement.)

Get in control

Finally, as a bonus, we can add in the ability to control someone — something we can do from the top of them (top-of-mount), from the side, or with a knee on their belly. It takes a lot of experience to keep a skilled BJJ practitioner pinned for an extended period.

However, there may be a time where subduing and controlling the attacker might be the safest option. In other words, if you run, the person may continue to be a threat to others.

Many of us have seen the video of Ryan Hall being confronted by a drunk person while having dinner with some friends. After several minutes, Hall took the guy to the ground and safely held him there until the police arrived. It bears mentioning that most of us aren’t Ryan Hall, so you have to decide if your skills will allow you to do this.

It’s also important to make sure that someone won’t be sneaking up from behind and stomping you in the back of the head while you are engaged in securing the mount.

In conclusion, when talking about the “best” techniques for self-defense, it’s very difficult to distill an entire martial art down to a handful of moves. And, while they might seem a little boring, we should never forget the importance of the fundamentals.

Of course there are more techniques you could add to these, but the most important points to take away are: simple is usually better, especially when the adrenaline is flowing, and even better — avoid the fight to begin with, if you can.

Interested in learning more? Book a free Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Kickboxing class online at one of our seven locations!

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