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.