The elusive Self Defence Version of Gracie Jiu Jitsu

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
I was wondering if any Gracie Barra Gracie Jiu Jitsu clubs in your area
teach courses that are only Self Defence Specific

rather than teaching the Self defence aspect of Gracie Jiu Jitsu
as part of the process on the path to eventually grading to black balt in GJJ / BJJ.

It may be me misunderstanding, but at one point i thought there certain members of
the Gracie family were now teaching purely Gracie Jiu Jitsu for self defence and
had broken away from the MMA / Sport jiu Jitsu focus. (i.e. Gracie University,
Rickson Gracie's Self Defence Unit, and other clubs promoting Self Defence versions of BJJ)

I also understand that In history Gracie Jiu Jitsu was primarily developed as a
system of self defence and that only later on did the Gracie family and other notable
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experts develop the style as a competitive sport.

Nonetheless, if anyone knows what the state of play is now with regards to the
self defence side of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, I would be grateful for your advice.

I would be interested in learning what the self defence side of Gracie Jiu Jitsu entailed
and as to whether it was possible to go to a club specifically to learn this side of Gracie Jiu Jitsu,
with rolling / randori but with an empathise on preparing one self (as much as one can)
for a self defence encounter, rather than prepare oneself for a sport competition.

Thanks, appreciate good advice.
 

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,634
Reaction score
1,192
Im not Gracie Barra, but my background is primarily from the Relson Gracie line of Gjj which is SD focused. I wouldnt say its elusive, theres Relson schools all over the US. Rorions line (Rener and Ryron) is also SD focused.

I wouldnt say they shy away from competition and MMA, but theyre not considered top schools if competition BJJ is your focus. Interestingly, Renzo Gracies school in NYC is considered one of the top sport BJJ schools in the world, training guys for BJJ comp and MMA. However, I dont know about the self defense side of things. I cant imagine that Renzo would let his black belts not be prepared for a SD situation.
 
Last edited:

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
6,131
Reaction score
4,872
Location
Lexington, KY
Okay, there's a lot of marketing spin and misinformation out there, so let's see if I can provide some clarity ...

Firstly, BJJ/GJJ was never really primarily a system of self-defense. It was a system for fighting, under various circumstances. The early Gracie family members took part in a variety of formal and informal challenge matches under various rules, both grappling only and grappling + striking. They also took did a lot of flat out fighting (consensual and non-) on the street and beaches of Rio de Janeiro. These fights and competitions shaped the technical growth and evolution of the art. However they also did a fair amount of marketing the art as a self-defense system suitable for women and smaller, non-athletic people. This was intended to appeal to upper class students who could afford to pay more.

By the time BJJ/GJJ had really evolved into its own recognizably distinct art, you could view it as having 3 main components.
  1. Pure grappling for competition.
  2. Vale Tudo (i.e. proto-MMA), for challenge matches against trained fighters.
  3. "Self-defense", i.e. techniques for use against typical attacks from untrained fighters, such as headlocks, standing chokes, grabs, etc. Much of this repertoire really wasn't much different from what you might see in a lot of TMAs.
In more recent years, there has been some divergence in BJJ schools.

A lot of them are primarily focused on tournament BJJ sport competition. In these schools, beginners are thrown immediately into mostly ground grappling, with takedowns and self-defense /fighting aspects not addressed until later (sometimes much later) in their development. Some of this comes from students who are only interested in the sport. Some of it comes from the development of MMA as its own entity - this leads to gyms that have separate BJJ, MMA, and striking classes, with students only crossing over if they feel like it.

Other BJJ schools market themselves as being self-defense oriented. In practice, this means that they make sure white belts get a foundation in the classic Vale Tudo and "self-defense" curriculum before moving on to the more sophisticated movements required for modern grappling competition.

Other schools balance out the curriculum by spending most practice time on competitive grappling, but using the classic self-defense techniques as warm ups.

I've only seen a small percentage of "self-defense" oriented schools which have attempted to keep the self-defense portion of the curriculum evolving and improving in the way the sport competition curriculum has. I've done my own little bit along those lines, but there are other instructors who have done more. Part of the issue is that the majority of what needs to be learned are foundational skills which apply across the art. Self-defense, grappling competition, MMA - these are just different contexts which require those foundational skills to be applied in different ways. If you have a student who hasn't developed the ability to reliably control their own body and an opponent's body at the same time in a friendly grappling match, they aren't going to do any better when dealing with surprise attacks, weapons, multiple attackers, unusual environmental factors, etc.

Currently I split my teaching time about 50/50 between stand up and ground skills and between "street " vs sport application. Other instructors at my school have their own approaches.
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Thanks for the info.

I figure part of my problem is that i live on a small island in the UK. Although there are two really competitive sport Jiu Jitsu clubs. Which i think are very good and have got good results for their students.

Personally, I want to do Gracie Jiu Jitsu for the self defence side, rather than for competition.
I am getting older, have one or two health problems that makes me less able to train to the same level
as full time competition players.

i also have a strong interest in music, so would prefer to spend my time on both music and training,
rather than just training. I understand I'll never be a world champ at jiu jitsu.

That doesn't bother me.
Just being able to stop people beating me up would be enough. :)

Thanks for your info / advice.
 

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
6,131
Reaction score
4,872
Location
Lexington, KY
I am getting older, have one or two health problems that makes me less able to train to the same level
as full time competition players.
The good news is that at the majority of competitive sport oriented clubs, most students are not full time competition players. Just like anywhere else, it's the casual students who pay the bills. There are exceptions - maybe the top 1% of gyms focused on world-class competitors can keep the doors open by catering to those top athletes who will actually move to train at these gyms. Everywhere else, you'll have lots of regular guys who come in 2-3 days a week trying to improve.
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Okay, there's a lot of marketing spin and misinformation out there, so let's see if I can provide some clarity ...

Firstly, BJJ/GJJ was never really primarily a system of self-defense. It was a system for fighting, under various circumstances. The early Gracie family members took part in a variety of formal and informal challenge matches under various rules, both grappling only and grappling + striking. They also took did a lot of flat out fighting (consensual and non-) on the street and beaches of Rio de Janeiro. These fights and competitions shaped the technical growth and evolution of the art. However they also did a fair amount of marketing the art as a self-defense system suitable for women and smaller, non-athletic people. This was intended to appeal to upper class students who could afford to pay more.

By the time BJJ/GJJ had really evolved into its own recognizably distinct art, you could view it as having 3 main components.
  1. Pure grappling for competition.
  2. Vale Tudo (i.e. proto-MMA), for challenge matches against trained fighters.
  3. "Self-defense", i.e. techniques for use against typical attacks from untrained fighters, such as headlocks, standing chokes, grabs, etc. Much of this repertoire really wasn't much different from what you might see in a lot of TMAs.
In more recent years, there has been some divergence in BJJ schools.

A lot of them are primarily focused on tournament BJJ sport competition. In these schools, beginners are thrown immediately into mostly ground grappling, with takedowns and self-defense /fighting aspects not addressed until later (sometimes much later) in their development. Some of this comes from students who are only interested in the sport. Some of it comes from the development of MMA as its own entity - this leads to gyms that have separate BJJ, MMA, and striking classes, with students only crossing over if they feel like it.

Other BJJ schools market themselves as being self-defense oriented. In practice, this means that they make sure white belts get a foundation in the classic Vale Tudo and "self-defense" curriculum before moving on to the more sophisticated movements required for modern grappling competition.

Other schools balance out the curriculum by spending most practice time on competitive grappling, but using the classic self-defense techniques as warm ups.

I've only seen a small percentage of "self-defense" oriented schools which have attempted to keep the self-defense portion of the curriculum evolving and improving in the way the sport competition curriculum has. I've done my own little bit along those lines, but there are other instructors who have done more. Part of the issue is that the majority of what needs to be learned are foundational skills which apply across the art. Self-defense, grappling competition, MMA - these are just different contexts which require those foundational skills to be applied in different ways. If you have a student who hasn't developed the ability to reliably control their own body and an opponent's body at the same time in a friendly grappling match, they aren't going to do any better when dealing with surprise attacks, weapons, multiple attackers, unusual environmental factors, etc.

Currently I split my teaching time about 50/50 between stand up and ground skills and between "street " vs sport application. Other instructors at my school have their own approaches.
Thanks for your advice. Interesting to read. And again.

The reason why I have not encountered a club that has a strong Self defence focus, is the clubs in my area (or on the island that i live on) are really keen and geared up towards competing.

It just may be their personal preference not to bother too much with the SD side.
As I guess the more time out spent teaching the SD side, that x amount of time comes out of their
training time for their competition program/s.

also, in the island that i live, there are other schools teaching other arts which likely cover a lot of similar techniques. Such as Krav Maga and Kenpo. Although not the same, perhaps those who practice BJJ
simply leave the students looking for just SD to join one of the other clubs, so they don't have to bother teaching them.

I don't know. I can't speak for these other guys, and perhaps i have misunderstood.
I personally would prefer to train at a club that is SD only focused

thanks for your advice
 

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,634
Reaction score
1,192
also, in the island that i live, there are other schools teaching other arts which likely cover a lot of similar techniques. Such as Krav Maga and Kenpo. Although not the same, perhaps those who practice BJJ
simply leave the students looking for just SD to join one of the other clubs, so they don't have to bother teaching them.

I don't know. I can't speak for these other guys, and perhaps i have misunderstood.
I personally would prefer to train at a club that is SD only focused

thanks for your advice

Can you post the schools youre looking at?
 

Buka

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
11,741
Reaction score
8,368
Location
Maui
Thanks for your advice. Interesting to read. And again.

The reason why I have not encountered a club that has a strong Self defence focus, is the clubs in my area (or on the island that i live on) are really keen and geared up towards competing.

It just may be their personal preference not to bother too much with the SD side.
As I guess the more time out spent teaching the SD side, that x amount of time comes out of their
training time for their competition program/s.

also, in the island that i live, there are other schools teaching other arts which likely cover a lot of similar techniques. Such as Krav Maga and Kenpo. Although not the same, perhaps those who practice BJJ
simply leave the students looking for just SD to join one of the other clubs, so they don't have to bother teaching them.

I don't know. I can't speak for these other guys, and perhaps i have misunderstood.
I personally would prefer to train at a club that is SD only focused

thanks for your advice
The best thing for you to do is visit all of those schools, spend several different nights watching, and ask yourself which one you think you would enjoy more. OR.....join one for six months, switch to a different one etc.

Good luck and go getum, bro.
 

Tony Dismukes

MT Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 11, 2005
Messages
6,131
Reaction score
4,872
Location
Lexington, KY
I personally would prefer to train at a club that is SD only focused
The other good news is that if you have prior martial arts background and end up at a sport-only BJJ school, it's not that hard to take the fundamental ground skills you learn for sport BJJ and then learn how to modify them for self-defense scenarios. The main thing you need is some training partners who are willing to go down that rabbit hole with you. There are good online resources and plenty of exercises and experiments you can work on. (I've posted here in the past regarding some of the experiments and training exercises I've worked on in that regard.)
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Hello again
Thanks for the advice and sure, i know it wouldn't be too hard to adapt the syllabus to make it SD applicable.
Although, ideally, just want to find some people who already do the SD applied version.

Don't want to be a coach.
Don't want to start a club.
Don't want to organise a club.
Don't want to make money.
Don't want to win medals.
Don't want to get involved in politics.
Not even bothered about getting belts.

Just want to pay money (mat fees)
train and then go home
ideally without hurting anyone
or getting hurt by anyone
and not get involved in petty conflict
be happy

:cool:

*sorry for rant. I spent a few years not so long ago, doing everything for a local Judo club.
doing everything for free, and getting people sponsorship to get their coaching qualifications,
etc. all to build the club. then, once i had started to build the club up (after an agreement had been made
by the people involved), someone, who no longer had coaching quals turned up with a bag of money,
gave it to the semi retired back seat coach, who took the money, gave him the club that i had
spent a few years helping to build up and which i had develop plans and an agreement with
senior members of the national association that we belonged to, to help us develop it.
Only to be sold out without a word.

Illegal in employment law, normally, but not in the odd little island that i live on. At least for now.
So... start a club. No thanks. Hence the above mini rant. Sorry...
 
Last edited:
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
The other good news is that if you have prior martial arts background and end up at a sport-only BJJ school, it's not that hard to take the fundamental ground skills you learn for sport BJJ and then learn how to modify them for self-defense scenarios. The main thing you need is some training partners who are willing to go down that rabbit hole with you. There are good online resources and plenty of exercises and experiments you can work on. (I've posted here in the past regarding some of the experiments and training exercises I've worked on in that regard.)

Sure. good idea.
Although I think the few people who I know who want to train. I have over time, referred to the two clubs.
I have one or two buddies from old school kenpo that may be into some Gracie Jiu Jitsu / Judo
if SD orientated. :)
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
The best thing for you to do is visit all of those schools, spend several different nights watching, and ask yourself which one you think you would enjoy more. OR.....join one for six months, switch to a different one etc.

Good luck and go getum, bro.
Thanks
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Im not Gracie Barra, but my background is primarily from the Relson Gracie line of Gjj which is SD focused. I wouldnt say its elusive, theres Relson schools all over the US. Rorions line (Rener and Ryron) is also SD focused.

I wouldnt say they shy away from competition and MMA, but theyre not considered top schools if competition BJJ is your focus. Interestingly, Renzo Gracies school in NYC is considered one of the top sport BJJ schools in the world, training guys for BJJ comp and MMA. However, I dont know about the self defense side of things. I cant imagine that Renzo would let his black belts not be prepared for a SD situation.
Sure, thanks for the info. All interesting.

I remember watching some of the vintage Rorion vs karate experts fighting
have to admit, what the Gracies did, did make me laugh a lot.

Coming from a karate background growing up, and being a bit of a risk taker myself,
as well as someone who likes to experiment.

Yere. I liked what the Gracie's did. Felt a bit sorry for the Karate guys.
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Can you post the schools youre looking at?
Prefer not to post actual clubs, in-case someone gets the wrong end of the stick and starts stirring up trouble.
Things like that happen when living on a small island I am afraid. Always someone who wants to throw dirt.

Just trying my best to stay out of conflict between anyone. As I have no quarrel with any one of these clubs.
People do what they do. I just try and find what's best for me.

Sorry if that isn't that helpful (doesn't help you help me).
I did train at one of the clubs around 99 - 2000, before going to uni.
But that was before the club was affiliated to the Gracie Barra.
Stop training because i had to go to uni, and during this period of time,
there wasn't many Gracie or BJJ clubs in the UK.

So ended up doing Muay Thai for a bit, then Judo.
Things we sacrifice for college... but nevermind.
 

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,634
Reaction score
1,192
Prefer not to post actual clubs, in-case someone gets the wrong end of the stick and starts stirring up trouble.
Things like that happen when living on a small island I am afraid. Always someone who wants to throw dirt.

Just trying my best to stay out of conflict between anyone. As I have no quarrel with any one of these clubs.
People do what they do. I just try and find what's best for me.

Sorry if that isn't that helpful (doesn't help you help me).
I did train at one of the clubs around 99 - 2000, before going to uni.
But that was before the club was affiliated to the Gracie Barra.
Stop training because i had to go to uni, and during this period of time,
there wasn't many Gracie or BJJ clubs in the UK.

So ended up doing Muay Thai for a bit, then Judo.
Things we sacrifice for college... but nevermind.

Nah, I was just curious at what schools you were looking at. If they're part of a larger branch of schools, I could inform you of what to expect. However, if you're not comfortable doing that for whatever reason, that's fine.

Even if you don't end up in a GJJ school, a legit BJJ school of any stripe will make you a more competent martial artist. I trained very briefly with 10th planet JJ which is a very sport oriented system and was quite different than my GJJ training. However, there were some aspects of 10 planet that I actually preferred (no gi, rubber guard, heavier emphasis on leg locks, etc.) over GJJ. In short, approach it with an open mind. You may want a more SD focused school, but the people at the competitive school might be a lot more welcoming and still give you the tools to defend yourself in a pinch. In the end, if you're not enjoying yourself, regardless of what the focus of the school is, you won't stay long.
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Nah, I was just curious at what schools you were looking at. If they're part of a larger branch of schools, I could inform you of what to expect. However, if you're not comfortable doing that for whatever reason, that's fine.

Even if you don't end up in a GJJ school, a legit BJJ school of any stripe will make you a more competent martial artist. I trained very briefly with 10th planet JJ which is a very sport oriented system and was quite different than my GJJ training. However, there were some aspects of 10 planet that I actually preferred (no gi, rubber guard, heavier emphasis on leg locks, etc.) over GJJ. In short, approach it with an open mind. You may want a more SD focused school, but the people at the competitive school might be a lot more welcoming and still give you the tools to defend yourself in a pinch. In the end, if you're not enjoying yourself, regardless of what the focus of the school is, you won't stay long.
Thanks for the advice. I read and watched some really interesting instruction with Eddie Bravo.
I found the rubber guard really interesting, and a great ploy. I believe this got banned from some competitions.
I found Eddie Bravo's personality really interesting.

Funny guy. and from what i read, a strong advocate of the use of cannabis and training, which surprised me.
Especially compared with the Gracie families known reputation for being T-total.

Just out of interest. I believe the schools from the area I live are mainly affiliated to Gracie Barra and Brazilian Power Team. Although i think both these clubs are run out of the love for GJJ / MMA etc.
and both, are run by people who are bright, and also organised.

From what I know about them, they do organise seminars periodically.
I believe Gracie Barra Europe is headed by Braulio Estima. Which in itself is excellent.

I don't doubt the skills of the people who run both these clubs.

I just am more geared up for the hobbyist slow lane now, rather than the 6 or 7 day a week schedule,
that i trained years ago for a short period (due to health, and time).

Thanks again.
 

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,634
Reaction score
1,192
Thanks for the advice. I read and watched some really interesting instruction with Eddie Bravo.
I found the rubber guard really interesting, and a great ploy. I believe this got banned from some competitions.
I found Eddie Bravo's personality really interesting.

Funny guy. and from what i read, a strong advocate of the use of cannabis and training, which surprised me.
Especially compared with the Gracie families known reputation for being T-total.

Yeah, and just to show you how a Guard developed for sport can be useful for self defense;

https://www.reddit.com/r/StreetMartialArts/comments/pdd3y1

Just out of interest. I believe the schools from the area I live are mainly affiliated to Gracie Barra and Brazilian Power Team. Although i think both these clubs are run out of the love for GJJ / MMA etc.
and both, are run by people who are bright, and also organised.

From what I know about them, they do organise seminars periodically.
I believe Gracie Barra Europe is headed by Braulio Estima. Which in itself is excellent.

I don't doubt the skills of the people who run both these clubs.

I just am more geared up for the hobbyist slow lane now, rather than the 6 or 7 day a week schedule,
that i trained years ago for a short period (due to health, and time).

Thanks again.

Yeah, both GB and BPT are legit and will teach you some good Jiujitsu. You'll be fine in either camp, because they're not going to force you to compete if you don't want to. The vast majority of BJJ practitioners are hobbyists, people looking to get in shape, or people who work dangerous jobs and just want a few extra tools to defend themselves. If you want to dabble in competition, that's open to you as well.
 

drop bear

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
20,972
Reaction score
5,837
With bjj you basically develop your own game. And the difference between street and sport is pretty much prioritising top control and standing up. Verses submissions from the bottom.
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
Yeah, and just to show you how a Guard developed for sport can be useful for self defense;

https://www.reddit.com/r/StreetMartialArts/comments/pdd3y1



Yeah, both GB and BPT are legit and will teach you some good Jiujitsu. You'll be fine in either camp, because they're not going to force you to compete if you don't want to. The vast majority of BJJ practitioners are hobbyists, people looking to get in shape, or people who work dangerous jobs and just want a few extra tools to defend themselves. If you want to dabble in competition, that's open to you as well.
Thanks for your advice
much appreciated
 
OP
J

Jusroc

Orange Belt
Joined
Sep 23, 2021
Messages
85
Reaction score
40
With bjj you basically develop your own game. And the difference between street and sport is pretty much prioritising top control and standing up. Verses submissions from the bottom.
sure, thanks for the info.
 

Latest Discussions

Top