What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? A self defence system, a sport, a bit of both? Are they very different things anyway?
So the argument you hear from a lot of people is that jiu-jitsu is "just a sport" and is no good for self defence because you don't learn to fight on a hard floor, or against multiple attackers or weapons, you don't worry about biting or "you'd get destroyed if you pulled guard" or whatever else they feel like bringing up. The most amusing thing about these arguments is that the person saying them usually trains in an art which doesn't even involve full contact sparring, just pointless compliant partner choreographed rubbish. The fact is, training jiu-jitsu gives you real skills which work in real fights. Every class you are (or should be!) sparring 100% against people of all sizes and skill levels who use different tactics and techniques. You are not learning choreographed counters to set attacks, you are learning to react to anything which happens and improvise as necessary. These skills will work no matter what scenario real fight you end up in. They are no guarantee you will be successful or come out of a fight unharmed, but that is true of every time you roll in a class so it's not something jiu-jitsu players are unaccustomed to.
But anyway, is there a difference between "sport" and "self defence" jiu-jitsu? As is so often the answers to questions like that... yes and no. As I've already said, "sport" jiu-jitsu (what I consider normal jiu-jitsu) teaches you usable skills which can be applied in any sort of fight, it doesn't matter whether it's a competition on soft mats or against four guys on a cement pavement. One of those situations is obviously much more dangerous and much more likely to result in defeat, or at least injury, but the same skills can be applied in both. The big difference between those two situations is that you can regularly train the first but not the second. Anyone who says they train against multiple attackers on cement is lying (unless they're telling you it from a hospital bed), it can't be done. Same goes for training biting... how often do you want to get bitten in training?? The sparring in jiu-jitsu is a format which you can do with 100% resistance on a regular basis without having to worry about incurring massive injuries every session.
There are other skills that jiu-jitsu teaches you which will help in a real fight to; you learn to be able to mentally deal with being in bad (inescapable) positions, to stay calm and composed under pressure, to deal with discomfort and minor injury during sparring. I have taken accidental shots to the groin, eye gouges, knees/elbows to the head plenty of times and kept going. I have even been badly gouged, accidentally, during a competition fight and still won by submission. Jiu-jitsu is a fight, you are learning to fight. It might not cover all aspects in depth but people should not forget that, bottom line, it is teaching you fighting skills.
So when people say they train self-defence jiu-jitsu, what is the difference? I really think it just comes down to drilling a few techniques which sport oriented clubs probably wouldn't bother with too much and doing some sparring against an opponent throwing strikes. First off the techniques I'd consider must-haves for any self-defence training...
- escape from a headlock (both orientations)
- escape from a bearhug (both orientations)
- standing up in base
- countering haymaker punches with clinch and takedown
- blocking strikes in guard
...and that's about it (although I might have forgotten something?). The top two should be easy for anyone with a blue belt or above to deal with even if they've never specifically trained it (remember I said jiu-jitsu sparring teaches you to improvise and in a real fight you are likely fighting someone with no grappling experience). Standing up in base is something which should be covered at some point in sports orientated schools as you use it from various guard positions and sweeps. The striking parts are the ones most likely to be totally missed out, but as I said in part 1... if you really want to have skills to defend yourself you should train somewhat like an MMA fighter, so do a striking art. You could also use open mat sessions to get a mate to put gloves on and come at you swinging. I even know that some academies do those drills during normal lessons. For a great take on this, see John Will's video here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WC8Lh8k-Ic
And that about covers it. I don't think there is any major difference between the two brands/types of jiu-jitsu. As long as you train and do plenty of 100% sparring you will be able to fight in grappling range very well (obviously it takes time to get good) and if you really want to be able to defend yourself well do a striking art alongside jiu-jitsu.
But the most important thing to remember when considering sport vs. self-defence is that some people don't care about training for self-defence (me included), they just enjoy training jiu-jitsu. Now even considering that, who would your money be on to defend themselves best in a real situation; a "sport" jiu-jitsu blue belt or a guy who trains choreographed multiple attacker situations with no sparring? Blue belt every time.
Next will be my last post on this subject and I'll cover off my one and only experience of a real fight during my adult life.