Posted By: Rob-Kassy
Posted On: 27 Jul, 2022

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training: Self Defense vs Sport

When training in martial arts, there is the age-old question concerning the difference of the “sport” and the “real world” applications of the art, and the viability of the techniques in a self-defense situation. Many arts that have been developed over centuries can become modified for sport applications, and despite being valid competitive arts, may not provide solutions for “street” encounters. 

Competition-based arts are often codified with the intent of making it safer for participants. Certain techniques such as eye-gouging and headbutts may be effective in a self-defense situation, but would be dangerous in a controlled sport environment.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was first developed as a defensive art, and despite the evolution of many of the aspects of BJJ into a sport art, BJJ remains a viable self defense option. Breakaway Jiu Jitsu provides self defense training in Newport News.

Differences between Sport and Self Defensive BJJ

Time Limit

In a sporting bout, there are timed rounds. A competitor who is tired may stall or lock up an opponent in an attempt to run out the clock. A competitor who may be ahead in points may wrap up an opponent to prevent them from scoring. In a self defense situation, there is no time clock. In fact, the longer a physical altercation continues, there is a higher likelihood of additional injury to the combatants.

Multiple Opponents

In competition, it is one competitor against another. Tournament rules prevent additional persons jumping into a match. In a real-world situation, those rules do not apply. It is possible to suddenly be faced with multiple opponents.

Unknown Opponents/No Rules

Sport BJJ, as most combat sports, will pit one opponent of roughly equal skill levels against another with a system of rules dictating what is allowed. In a “street” confrontation, it is often impossible to determine someone’s abilities, intentions, or mindset. There are no prohibited techniques, and it is also difficult to determine if an opponent is going to use weapons.

Some “Pros” about Sport Training in BJJ

Physical conditioning

Training in any combative sport helps develop strength, flexibility, cardiovascular conditioning, hand-eye coordination, and reflexes. One can also become acclimated to rough physical contact, and develop a resistance to injury. BJJ training develops physical attributes applicable to any sport.


Combative sports training in arts such as BJJ helps develop a conditioned and controlled aggressive mindset. Competitors learn to read an opponent’s intentions, and have developed the ability to make split-second decisions and develop a systematic plan of action and execution. Combative sport practitioners also understand the potentially serious nature of any physical confrontation, and develop the discipline to not engage in a physical conflict unless absolutely necessary. Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu develops confidence, and is ideal for women and children.


BJJ practitioners are exposed to and learn to incorporate a wide array of techniques including takedowns, locks, chokes, throws, and joint manipulations, as well as defensive tactics to escape and avoid injury. Training effective takedowns, and to take the top or back position puts one in an advantageous space for control and application of chokes and locks. The muscle memory of applying these techniques quickly and effectively would be an important asset in a real-world confrontation.

“On The Ground”

According to statistics from law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, a large percentage of physical altercations end “on the ground”. BJJ is a grappling art that would give a trained BJJ practicioner a distinct advantage over a wide range of untrained opponents.

Pressure Tested

Every martial art has its proponents that hail it as the perfect solution to any “street” situation. Very few of these make the cut when the unexpected happens. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been proven as an effective combative and defensive martial art. The evolution of Mixed Martial Arts into a system of striking and grappling techniques is proof that it is effective in the toughest sports arenas. BJJ has also been incorporated into the hand-to-hand combat curricula of armed forces around the world. 
Begin your journey in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Breakaway Jiu Jitsu in Newport News. Call (757) 223-0373