How does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fair against multiple attackers?

A question on Quora made me think critically about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and how it may fair in a fight against multiple attackers.

I think one of the common misconceptions of BJJ is that it is seen as a sport or grappling-only art in recent years. While that is true in many cases, BJJ is often still taught with an emphasis on controlling and subduing your opponent, not just in sport, but also in self-defense. In many instances, we are trained to defend punches and kicks while simultaneously working a takedown or throw.

In a private lesson with Victor Huber a decade ago, he told me the story of a guy who challenged him in a fight. The guy said, “Oh, you have a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, but if we fought, I would punch, kick, and bite you.” Victor’s reply was, “In a real fight, I would punch, kick, and bite you too. And I have a Jiu-Jitsu black belt.”

In the case of multiple attackers, why is it assumed that a BJJ practitioner is limited only to his grappling skills? Can he not also run away, punch, bite, kick, or use an improvised weapon?

We train for scenarios against multiple attackers in my gym, both against a wall and on the floor. Do the techniques we use in these scenarios look like your average gi tournament? Heavens no. But they rely on leverage and positional awareness, just like almost all BJJ techniques.

Miyamoto Musashi wrote that the “true Way of the Martial Arts is to train so that these skills are useful at any time, and to teach these skills so that they will be useful in all things.” In the case of BJJ, leverage and positional awareness are key elements of the art. If you train them efficiently and effectively, they will permeate your expression of the art.

Musashi also said, “When your life is on the line, you want all your weapons to be of use.” In the case of multiple attackers, I don’t believe for one second that a BJJ practitioner would only be concerned with using his guard or a lapel choke. This is a severely misguided perception of human potential and limiting of the art.

Photo taken by Reed Coulter at Redemption Martial Arts Academy.

9 thoughts on “How does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fair against multiple attackers?

    • Eww. That’s a good one. If someone were to use pepper spray on me, I would probably try to stay calm and use my ears as much as possible. Depending on the type of spray and whether the other person used it correctly would bear heavily on my ability to continue fighting. I carry OC spray everyday and have been through one training course with it. I’ve seen the high level of variations it can have in a fight. Just my two cents.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting work! You are a proactive leader warrior worthy of degree. Seeing that your two cents worth was given in the spirit of humility and respect, allow me to share a scenario with you: You attend a large concert as head of security when an outrageous fan enters the stage with pepper spray warning the audience to evacuate the building. As the alpha male you calmly approach him while wearing your rosy colored swimming goggles and ever so slightly twist the same finger he’s using to hold the trigger.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Check out lichess.org! There’s lots of free resources for strengthening your chess without having to register. The puzzles are great if you only have a minute to spare. There’s also a Play With The Computer option; I am presently playing at level 6. We can have a game online sometime if you’re up for the challenge.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. BJJ fares horribly against multiple opponents… just like any other martial art. Yes, while arts like Boxing can provide better defense against 2 or 3 guys, it’s still a battle where the odds are seriously stacked against you. It’s a legitimate anti-BJJ arguement, but it’s one that can be equally applied to a vast majority of the remaining martial arts. Either way, great post! Definitely gave me a nice read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The sad reality is that even with extent training and preparation, there will always be scenarios for which we are not prepared. I find that any system is better than a collection of individual techniques. I encourage people to train in something, anything that gives them a method, regardless of the singular techniques involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I could not agree more. A real self-defense scenario is a chaotic, unpredictable mess. Training in martial arts won’t guarantee you to win always, but it will significantly increase your chances which is hopefully good enough.

        Liked by 1 person

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