Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Self Defense vs Sport: Why Did You Start?

With the emerging popularity of combat sports like the UFC, more and more people are seeking out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Gracie Jiu Jitsu) to learn it’s highly effective techniques. Other popular non-striking combat sports such as the famous ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, IBJJF’s Mundial and Pan Ams have organized and promoted the sport aspect of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Just like so many other current BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) practitioners I began my journey in the art after watching Royce Gracie dismantle much larger opponents in the “no-rules” contests in the mid 90′s. Coming from training for many years prior in the arts of Tae Kwon Do, Shotokan Karate, and Kung Fu I immediately saw the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and a world I had never known (the ground). Being of smaller stature compared to most other men I loved the idea of closing the distance, surviving the initial “storm” of a larger opponent, and then “taking out” (submitting) my foe. The use of distance management, technique, leverage, and submissions is an art in and of itself.

Self Defense: For myself training in martial arts has always been to serve as a basis for self defense. Every style is different and teaches to address various self defense scenarios in their own way. One thing that always frustrated me with some arts was a lack of “what if’s”. Many striking arts I’ve taken have the one punch kill mentality. I would always ask what if they do this or that and I would always get “if you do the technique perfectly or fast enough they can’t or won’t counter”. Basically, take your opponent out as fast as you can. Jiu Jitsu is a marathon not a sprint. Because of this and the fact that anything can happen in a altercation, bjj always strives to have answers for any situation, no matter how your opponent behaves and reacts.

Sport: The sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a beautiful art.  It is a display of technique, skill, and warrior spirit.  The sport aspect demonstrates the endless possibilities of new technique and creativity in the art.  For many the sport is a way to set goals and test oneself.  Sport competition allows a student to push themselves mentally and physically.  What you learn from competition can be invaluable in your growth and progress in the art of BJJ in a controlled and safe environement. For others it’s belonging to a larger community of like minded practitioners and representing your school and team on a grand scale.
No matter why you train or what method you prefer (sport vs self defense), don’t forget why you started. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a 40 year old banker looking for a great workout and self defense, a 25 year old aspiring to fight in the UFC one day, a 19 year old searching for Gold in the Pan Americans, or a 8 year old needing confidence and anti-bullying techniques Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has something to offer. It is my opinion you should train both, but that is a topic for another day.
Why did you start training? What keeps you wanting to learn more?  Let us know.

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Leave A Reply (5 comments so far)


  1. Guy
    11 months ago

    Let us know why you started.


  2. Russ Lightfoot
    11 months ago

    Self-defense, health, and mental discipline are the main reasons I like training in martial arts.


  3. Joshua Allen
    11 months ago

    I did martial arts for a long time when I was a kid. After high school, I fell into some dark times and ended up not doing much of anything with myself until college when I started to hit the gym for the first time. That was life-changing and my interest in the martial arts gradually reemerged. I chose Bjj because I saw a video of Joyce Gracie taking on a big Sumo wrestler and beating him. The rest is history of course ;)


  4. Rick
    11 months ago

    My son has always been interested in martial arts and BJJ seemed like a great discipline. My son really loves attending classes, learning new moves, and getting a chance to ‘roll’.