Why Jiu-Jitsu Works, or Why waste your time doing something else?

Jiu-jitsu, Karate, Krav-Maga, Taekwondo…they are all basically the same thing right?  A group of people get together wearing robe-like pajamas and break boards.  Usually someone is a “black belt,” and you refer to them as sensei or master or some other possibly Asian sounding term of respect.

If you’re nodding along you’ve probably found this website prior to embarking upon your jiu-jitsu journey.  Or, if you’re nodding along you may be a jiu-jitsu player who has encountered these assumptions from family and friends.

Well, jiu-jitsu is more than just another martial art, and not all martial arts are the same…or even equal.

Continue reading “Why Jiu-Jitsu Works, or Why waste your time doing something else?”


How to Actually Roll with Bigger People

I don’t like to criticize other people’s articles.  I know its hard to write and it takes courage to publicly say what you think.  But “Which BJJ Techniques Work and Don’t Work w/ a Small Man Against a Big Man” really got me fired up.  The title assumes gender for no real reason, the size difference is never specified, I don’t agree with the suggested techniques, and the grammar is terrible.

Rather than tell you everything wrong with the BJJEE article – I would like to explore what techniques work for smaller jiu jitsu players from an actual small jiu jitsu player’s point of view (I’m 5’2″, 115lbs).

Continue reading “How to Actually Roll with Bigger People”


Why Rolling is Important for Self Defense

In a previous post I discussed the 5 self defense moves I would teach a friend who doesn’t know any jiu jitsu.  Learning techniques is important but I believe rolling can be just as beneficial for learning how to defend oneself.

For example, say Betsy learns a self defense move in a seminar.  She practices it 20 times with an non-resisting partner during the seminar then shows it to a friend when she gets home.  Is Betsy likely going to be able to use that technique in a self defense situation in 6 months?  What about even the next day?  When I’m rolling I usually try to use the move taught in class that day but I’m not usually successful with it right away.

Here are three reasons I think rolling is helpful for self defense.

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The First 5 Self Defense Moves I Would Teach a Friend

I was talking with a couple of friends over dinner and the topic of women’s self defense came up.  My friend (who does not train jiu jitsu) showed the rest of us (who do train jiu jitsu) the self defense move she learned.  She’s a very small woman who is so non-violent that she was reluctant to finish the choke on my husband who outweighs her by 75 pounds and started jiu jitsu when he was 15.

I was a little concerned that the self defense technique was a choke from the back – it just seems like an unlikely situation for her to be in.  If the only self-defense technique she knows is the choke, how will she get into position to finish the choke?  Also, how practical is this move against a larger person?  Sure, if she is able to get and stabilize the position, the choke would be effective.  But with no experience against a resisting opponent this doesn’t seem likely.

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Defending yourself with Sport Jiu-Jitsu

“Horrible” is how Royce Gracie describes modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in his recent interview with Bloody Elbow.  He laments how the art has developed lots of competition oriented rules which have made it less viable for self-defense.

Are things really that bad?  Should everyone who trains BJJ just resign themselves to their competition medals and accept that they can’t defend themselves in a real confrontation?

Continue reading “Defending yourself with Sport Jiu-Jitsu”


The Structure of Self Defense, Part 3 The Guard

Whenever I’m asked by a friend to teach “show” them some jiu-jitsu I inevitably show them the rear naked choke.  Its easy to teach and the results are dramatic as it can put someone to sleep in just a few seconds.  Yet what I want to show them is the guard.  The guard is jiu-jitsu.  It is why jiu-jitsu is special, and it is why jiu-jitsu works so well for self defense.

The reason I don’t show people the guard is really simple: it doesn’t lend itself to a couple minute long demonstration.  Its a somewhat awkward looking position for those who aren’t familiar with jiu-jitsu and most of the things worth knowing take time to learn.  And yet, if you are really interested in defending yourself you need to know this position.

Continue reading “The Structure of Self Defense, Part 3 The Guard”


The Structure of Self-Defense, Part 2 Fighting on the Ground

While Part One of this series dealt with standing ‘zones’ of self-defense, this article will address what happens when you end up on the ground.

Why do fights end up on the ground?

If you are 6’8 and have physique that Homer would have sung praises to you might think to yourself that fighting on the ground is literally and figuratively beneath you.  But being prepared to fight from the ground is a vital skill for the physically imposing as well as those of us with slighter builds for a very simple reason:

Usually fights end up on the ground because someone falls down.

Continue reading “The Structure of Self-Defense, Part 2 Fighting on the Ground”


On Meta-Jiujitsu

BJJ is a martial art designed for self defense, permitting a smaller person to survive a conflict against a larger, untrained opponent.

The ‘untrained’ component of this definition is important, because in BJJ schools only the newest fish is actually untrained.  Everyone else is trained to one degree or another.  A technique that works against an untrained opponent might not work against a trained opponent.

For example, getting a lapel choke or an americana against an opponent who doesn’t know how to escape the mount is relatively easy, while if your opponent knows the upa escape it can be nearly impossible.  This of course is compounded when your opponent knows the upa escape, the elbow escape, the earthquake escape and knows how to use these techniques in series.  So what do you do?  Meta-Jiujitsu! Continue reading “On Meta-Jiujitsu”


What is a blue belt?

This is my belt. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

So, what exactly is a blue belt?  From the frequency that this question is asked (and answered in disparate manners) it is clear that the answer is not simple.  Ultimately the answer depends on why people are doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  If they are doing it to win competitions then a blue belt should probably have some connection to the individual’s capacity to perform on the mat.  If they are doing it for self-defense then it should relate to their ability to successfully use jiu-jitsu to defend themselves in a real confrontation.

These two perspectives can be combined into a composite picture where sparring and self-defense are weighed together, but is this the correct approach? Continue reading “What is a blue belt?”


The Structure of Self Defense, Part 1 Standing Zones

The term ‘martial art’ is broad and nebulous.  It includes everything from meditative arts like Tàijíquán to the highly specialized sport techniques of modern Brazilian Jiujitsu.  Tai Chi and sport BJJ (read: BJJ that is good at winning in a competition settting) are good for their respective purposes, but are not enough for someone whose goal is to become able to defend themselves in a real situation.

While jiujitsu starts on the ground, most of our daily lives are spent standing.  Accordingly, it is likely that any conflict will arise when one or both of the participants are standing.  Thus, part one of this series will deal with standing zones.

In order to apply jiujitsu to self defense, one must understand the concept of ‘zones.’  The concept is more broadly applicable to all of jiujitsu; whether one is inside or outside of a particular zone dictates what sort of options are available.  From a self-defense perspective these zones will serve as guidance for how to protect oneself against dynamic threats.  More than simply telling people what to do from a myriad of different positions, using zone theory will permit individuals to employ techniques that are appropriate for the zone they are in.  If one is able to recognize that they are not in the zone they feel most comfortable, they can take steps to advance or retreat to that zone. Continue reading “The Structure of Self Defense, Part 1 Standing Zones”