Sport Jiu-Jitsu and Self-Defense; Do You Train Both?

3 min read
Learn the differences between sport and self-defense Jiu-Jitsu and what that means for you

Two BJJ Black Belts training in Canada

Sport Jiu-Jitsu and Self-Defense; Do You Train Both?

Learn the differences between sport and self-defense Jiu-Jitsu and what that means for you

Location: Sherwood Park, Alberta

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Photo by: Anett Meszaros

The days of Helio Gracie developing a unique martial art for self-defense are drifting further and further into the past. What was once taught and utilized for pure self-defense situations has branched off and evolved into the global sports phenomenon that we are familiar with.


Grappling rulesets and mindset 

The implementation of different rulesets have somewhat shifted the way we train. Time limits, point systems, and weight classes are some examples of this. While tournaments like ADCC, IBJJF, WNO, and F2W have rulesets that differ, the overall idea remains the same. The ultimate goal is to compete in a controlled environment to see who the best is. While this mindset is not a bad thing, you should be aware of it.

Jiu-Jitsu: self-defense or sports 

So, what does this mean? It means some specific techniques and tactics are effective for life and death self-defense situations while others are more effective in sport-specific situations. We can all agree that losing a self-defense situation can have higher consequences than losing your quarter-finals match. So, by understanding the differences and adapting your training occasionally, you can be prepared for both environments. 

When you are training, ask yourself some questions. 

Am I in a good position? 

Are my head and core safe?

Can I avoid damage from strikes?

Can I sustain this pace?

Am I in a position to disengage?

Jiu-Jitsu scenarios

Scenario 1: It’s the tournament’s final match, which is 5 minutes in length. You’ve won every match by pulling De-la Riva guard, inverting, and taking the back followed by a choke, so this is your game plan. It’s what you’ve trained. You’re confident in it. So that’s what you do. And you win.

Scenario 2: You’re walking to your car late at night after work. The parkade you’re in is dimly lit. While you are unlocking your car, someone grabs you from behind and tries to take your keys. You fall to the ground with them and establish a closed guard followed by a simple hip-bump sweep. You mount them and control the situation until police arrive or disengage altogether to a safer location.

Both situations showcase Jiu-Jitsu. Both have different definitions of winning and losing. The first, you win a medal; the second, you win your safety. The first, you lose the match; the second, you may lose your property or even your life. One environment is controlled while the other is far from it.

Technical response for Jiu-Jitsu

The point here is that you have to separate the two types of Jiu-Jitsu for what their end goal is and be able to adjust your mindset and technical response appropriately. This doesn’t mean you should abandon all fun, fancy effective sport techniques. It just means you should understand self-defense techniques with the ability to utilize them accordingly, so your grappling games it’s just good on the mats.

Final thoughts

Train both self-defense and sport Jiu-Jitsu.

Be aware of what you are doing and what positions you may be in.

This martial art was meant for personal safety… utilize it!

Do your best to prepare yourself for all situations; on the padded mats or on unforgiving cement! Your life may literally depend on it.



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