As a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school owner I get asked all kinds of questions about self defense and the “real life” applications of what I teach. There is a common conception that being about to fight or defend oneself implies getting bigger, stronger, and meaner. The most dangerous people are those that look most dangerous, or so many people think – and some new students believe that they’d never be able to really save themselves with martial skills without “bulking up” and learning to use knives and weapons.
As a 133-pound martial artist with years of competition experience I can tell you that when it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, mindset and technique are the biggest factors in victory over an opponent or an aggressor.
Here I’ll go over the top two misconceptions people have when it comes to self-defense, and explain the truth about the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Strength and Size Determine the Winner
This couldn’t be farther from the truth – but this is ESPECIALLY not the truth with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. BJJ is the only martial art that holds “open weight” competitions. You don’t see this in boxing or karate because the smaller individual would most likely be hurt – and would almost certainly loose.
However, in BJJ “open weight” competitions some of the top 140-something competitors often win over top 200-something pound competitors. Why? Because of the technical and strategic elements of BJJ, it is often skill that makes all the difference, more than strength. This is one of the biggest reasons why women and children often enjoy Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – because it allows them to subdue a larger, stronger opponent.
At 133 pounds I have submitted and defeated advanced-level competitors well above 200 pounds myself – when I was clearly outmatched in strength.
You Have to be an Athlete to Effectively Use Fighting Skills
Another misconception. Though athleticism doesn’t hurt your chances of applying martial arts skills – it is certainly not necessary to be super flexible and coordinated with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some of my best students have been people with no martial arts or sports backgrounds at all. Unlike some other sports, many top level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters were not particularly good at other sports (even big names in the BJJ world like Mike Fowler and Caio Terra).
BJJ evolves along with its practitioner. Flexible people can develop strategies and techniques to take advantage of these assets, but inflexible people can often develop a technique to achieve the same goal without being flexible – and the same can be said of speed and strength.
All in all, if you’re looking for a martial art that doesn’t require bulking up to be effective, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu might be your best bet. Whether the application is expert-level competition, MMA, or street self-defense, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a game of technique and of mindset (believe me I’ve experienced it myself).