The argument has been made that unless Aliens with a lot more arms and legs, than humans have, come down from the sky, we are limited to how many ways we can fight hand-to-hand combat. We can only fight with our two arms and two legs and so can the person we are fighting. In broad terms, the same punch the second grader defending his girlfriend’s honor on the playground uses, is the same as the Karate master or MMA champion. It’s all a matter of perspective and detail in the technique that makes it different. Samurai developed Jiu-Jitsu to deal with the times they lost their weapon on the battlefield. The Gracie family modified some of those techniques to adjust to their needs in Vale Tudo (Portuguese for anything goes) or grappling contests. But today’s Jiu-Jitsu has morphed into a true hybrid of styles with its current iteration being wrestling and leg lock focused. The newest evolution arising out of this is competition efficiency and the desire for more fast- paced matches for consumer viewing appeal. Sure there are more people doing Jiu-Jitsu than ever. But a majority of “nowadays” BJJ schools are mostly focused on competitive application and rules. Overall has Jiu-Jitsu for unarmed self-defense evolved as well as the sport form? I’m gonna say “No.”
When I refer to Jiu-Jitsu advancing in the realm of self-defense, I am not referring to adding a bunch of tools to the toolbox. This is having more efficient multi-tools, therefore simplifying options. These are techniques that can work more often in a broader spectrum of situations. The gold standard reference for Jiu-Jitsu self-defense is often seen as the book, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu by Grandmaster Helio Gracie. This book is used as the guidebook for a lot of BJJ black belt tests to this day. Few of the techniques in the book have evolved much over time to become more efficient. I’m gonna discuss an example of technique evolution that illustrates the points I’m trying to make.
The Standing Rear Choke Defense, for example, is a cornerstone taught at many levels of training. In the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu book, it actually shows three different techniques to deal with the standing rear choke. The first is the most popular, it involves throwing the assailant over your shoulder after being grabbed. A bit tougher than it looks in the movies. The person being grabbed has to be able to lean forward after being grabbed around the neck to pull it off. If you have trained it, you know it can be tough. The throw has to happen almost immediately after the initial grab, before the bad guy has a chance to pull you backward. Working best if someone jumps on your back, before they wrap their legs. The second deals with what to do if you miss the first technique and are pulled or drug backward. This one is probably a bit more high percentage. After the victim is yanked back, they turn and step behind the assailant’s leg on the choke arm side, tripping the attacker backward. Technique number three is usually only seen in demonstrations. The stars have to essentially line up perfectly for this one to work. It’s what happens when the progression of the first two fail. After the victim tries number two the bad guy tries to regain their balance and moves to the other side to finish the choke. The attacker hopefully still off-balance is then thrown sideways over the victim’s back. Beautiful move, just tough to pull off in real-time. You would think there is an easier solution, Right?
The one multi-tool technique we train regularly to deal with the standing rear choke provides a broader answer to the problem. Our perspective on this attack is one of you being too late and the attacker has already gotten behind and ready to strangle you. Your awareness is majorly compromised to be that deep in the attack. First, getting the chin down and trying to pull down on the choking arm. Secondly, aggressively bring your arm between you and the assailant, turning to T-position, even though you will probably be in a headlock position. This unwinds the choke and is a superior defensive posture that allows for better management of the attacker. I will discuss management of the T-Position in a later article.
At the end of the day a person’s training should prepare them for their particular goals. Survival and not being injured are always my goals. Chris Hauter, one of the first Americans to be promoted to black belt in BJJ has a great Philosophy. He says, “Think street, train sport, practice art.” With only so much time to work on what needs to be done and live your life, it’s necessary to be efficient in what and how we train. I’m not expecting you to dedicate your life to studying what works best when it comes to protecting yourself. That’s our job. Just have an open mind and always work smarter, not harder. Excelsior!
Is there a topic you want us to address and go over? Let us know!