Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Good for Self Defense and Street Fights?

Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Good for Self Defense and Street Fights?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has risen to be one of the most popular martial arts in the world. It has become one of the fastest growing martial arts out there. Ever since Royce Gracie and the earlier days of the UFC, Jiu Jitsu has exponentially grown in popularity. After winning multiple UFC championships against his much larger opponents, Royce Gracie has proven to the world just how effective BJJ is! That was decades ago. Fast forward to today, BJJ has grown immensely and continues to be one of the most popular martial arts to date. But even with that, many still question its effectiveness in real live scenario. Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu good for self defense and street fights?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Roots and Origins

To properly answer the question, let’s first take a look at how BJJ started and how it was popularized in the first place. As you may know, BJJ started originally from Judo.

Mitsuyo Maeda, one of Judo's finest pupils, was tasked to spread the knowledge of Judo all over the world. And in his travels, Maeda landed in Brazil where he met the Gracie Family. It was here that Maeda spread his teachings, focusing on the “newaza” ground aspect of Judo. The Gracies would then later popularize and spread his teachings to their students all over Brazil. 

During the early days of the BJJ, people didn’t take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu very seriously. In fact, many even challenged the Gracie family trying to best them with their own style of martial arts. However, the Gracies proved time and again the effectiveness of BJJ, choking out their opponents with ease!

BJJ has grown rapidly in popularity through these fights. Helio Gracie, who is considered by many as the father of BJJ, really popularized it throughout Brazil as he challenged many rival martial arts in street fights. So, to put it simply, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was born through street fights! Street fighting is in BJJ’s DNA!

Three Reasons Why BJJ is Super Effective for Self Defense and Street Fights

There are a ton of benefits that come with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One of the most popular benefit as with many other martial arts out there is that it’s great for self defense.

It’s easily one of the best self defense martial arts to date. But just because it works very well in a street altercation, that doesn’t mean that you should be looking for fights!

At all costs, try to avoid street fights – run away if you can. The goal of any martial art should be to learn the art so that you wouldn’t have to use it. However, it’s totally understandable that sometimes it can’t be avoided. Here are a three reasons why BJJ is super effective for self defense and street fights.

Majority of Fights End up on the Ground

First and foremost, most fights end up on the ground. Though you may start standing and striking each other, the fight will eventually end up on the ground. And when you are on the ground, you are golden!

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is great for ground fighting. Even the most experience boxer or striker will be helpless against an experienced grappler as soon as the fight hits the ground!

BJJ Street Fight and Self Defense

Plus, if you are a striker, you risk injuring yourself as well during a strike. In a fist fight, your hands aren’t usually protected with wraps or gloves like you normally do at the gym.

Have you ever tried punching someone in the forehead? It hurts – your hand! If you land your strike at a weird angle, you can easily break your hand even if you have some experience striking.

BJJ Heavily Emphasizes on Live Sparring

Another distinct difference that BJJ has over other martial arts is that it heavily emphasizes on live sparring. This reason alone makes it one of the most effective self defense martial arts out there!

For traditional martial arts like Taekwondo or Karate, for example, the majority of the week will be geared towards improving your form through repetition and drills.

Sparring is usually only emphasized once a week. Even for heavy impact striking sports like Boxing or Muay Thai, sparring is often done only a few times a week as well. And during the sparring sessions, practitioners aren’t typically going 100% because it does risk injuring your training partner.

Jiu Jitsu on the other hand does heavily rely on live sparring. A typical BJJ class encompasses some basic drills, technique, and live sparring. They don't do it sometimes - they do it every time! Students are required to a live roll after every class.

BJJ Fight

The great thing about BJJ is that because there isn’t heavy impacts involved, you can go 70 – 100% full strength in you rolls.

With that said, an experience BJJ player is very accustomed with aggressive rolls. And this directly translates into the streets! A BJJ grappler can hold their own against an aggressor since they are simply accustomed to it on the mats. For an experience BJJ player, its just another day at the office!

Jiu Jitsu is Great for Defense and Protecting Yourself

Another key reason why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu works well in a self defense setting is that it particularly focuses in the defense aspect. BJJ can be considered as the true self defense martial arts because it particularly focuses on defending yourself against an attacker.

Jiu Jitsu at its core focuses entirely on bringing your opponent to the ground to either hold them down or submit them.

This works great because you can not only protect yourself from any unwanted strikes, you can subdue your opponent without hurting your opponent.

Grappling Street Fight

Striking arts focus their defense by physically striking their opponent to stop their attack. With Jiu Jitsu, you can simply pin your opponent down until they’ve calmed down or until the proper authority arrives. And if they simply won't calm down? Put them to sleep! That'll calm them right down!

Drawbacks of Jiu Jitsu in a Street Fight

Though Jiu Jitsu is an excellent tool in a street fight and probably one of the most effective self defense martial arts, it does have its drawbacks.

BJJ is not great for multiple attackers

Probably one of the more obvious reasons why BJJ is not going to be the most effective tool in a street fight is that it doesn’t work well against multiple attackers.

It’s true that you can take down an assailant and hold them down pretty easily – especially if they don’t have any grappling experience. However, as soon as you hold them down, what if one of his buddies decide to step in? You are going to be in a world of trouble there! He can stomp on you or soccer kick you on the head!

Against multiple attackers, you might be better of with a striking sport to keep opponents at bay. Alternatively you can also use judo for self defense. At least with that you can quickly throw your assailant down and move on to the next attacker. But realistically, that’s easier said than done. Unless you got some mad Jackie Chan skills, against multiple attackers, just run.

Sports Jiu Jitsu vs Self Defense Jiu Jitsu

Throughout the years, Jiu Jitsu has certainly grown and evolved – and it continues to evolve to this day! Tons of moves are created just about everyday as more creative practitioners start adding to their game.

Moves like berimbolos, leg attacks, flying armlocks, and many others have developed into the sport. Keep in mind that not all moves are created equal when it comes to a real live altercation – some are more effective than others.

A lot of Jiu Jitsu moves are catered more towards Sports Jiu Jitsu. In using Jiu Jitsu as a self defense tool, its important to be able to distinguish between Sports Jiu Jitsu vs Self Defense Jiu Jitsu.

In a real life street fight, you wouldn’t want to pull guard or try out a flying armbar – that can go wrong on so many levels! With that said, make sure to alter your game and focus on moves that can work against an assailant.


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has certainly grown immensely throughout the years and has become one of the most sought out sports out there. And for good reason! As the Gracies have shown in the early stages of the Mixed Martial Arts, BJJ is simply one of the most effective self defense martial arts out there.

Jiu Jitsu was created with street fights in mind – its embedded in its origins. It works real well for self defense for various reasons. However, it is important to keep in mind that it does have its drawbacks as a self defense art. Keep this in mind if you do get into a physical altercation. But if you possibly can, avoid the fight at all costs! Stay safe out there!