In a previous post I talked about my take on why I feel BJJ is one one the best martial arts for a strong foundation for a self defense skill set.
For me, the primary driver is the stress inoculation, pressure, and immersion in an environment where no one is allowing you to do your thing and you must fight it out with a skilled resisting opponent trying to enforce their will on you. This is key. But in this post I’d like to discuss more directly about the techniques and what skills should be focused on for an effective game that translates well to a world of weapons, hard surfaces, and the presence of multiple opponents.
If dear reader, now is the time you expect me to list off some tired stale collection of basic sweeps and passes that are “street effective” than alas, you have come to the wrong place.
I will say in my classes at Stout Training Pittsburgh / Team Renzo Gracie when we focus on the ground work I put a heavy emphasis on escaping from bottom and getting to the feet. We look at robust, simple techniques and escapes and how to modify the traditional “technical get up” for a real world environment. The ability to choose to return to the feet is huge in our context. It may not be the choice we want to make based on circumstances, but if we need to get up and get away with urgency those skills must be sharp.
Beyond that the “sport vs street”argument so often parroted about is utter nonsense. I believe in a well rounded game that encourages creativity under pressure. If your school doesn’t teach spider guard because “streetz” I would suggest they don’t know as much about that environment as they claim to, and that perhaps a grappling session with a guy with a SIM gun or a NOK Knife will through experience show how the ability to control distance and limbs as you fight over a weapon can be a useful technique to have.
Worm guard might have been the joke of the day for the street combatives crowd for a hot minute, but when someone with a good grasp of the lapel game uses a seat belt to control your thigh in a fight in a car and I think your tune might change. Its not the specific position, its the ability to use your environment, to develop a sense of balance, to exploit leverage, and to understand pressure while someone bigger, stronger, and younger than you is coming for your throat.
Primarily I prefer my “A game” to be one of top pressure and passing with a heavy focus on side control and knee on belly. Top positions that allow me to transition easily and get off someone safely. I’m always looking for places where I can control both of my opponents hands and leave one of mine free. This translates directly, and it makes for good fundamental jiu jitsu.
On bottom I like play an open guard that uses the feet to control range and keeps hands tied up. Spider guard works well here, and being long in the limbs plays this into a game that builds on my strengths. The ability to then transition through other guards as the range changes like using De La Riva or butterfly makes for an effective delivery system that keeps me adaptive and agile whether the fight is for submission, over a weapon, or trying to escape.
My friend, mentor, and coach Cecil Burch has done and excellent job articulating the definition of specific BJJ positions and how to modify them for our purposes. It is often the small tweaks and adjustments that make all the difference. I highly suggest studying his material for anyone truly interested in the subject.
I’m of the opinion that rolling with strikes and rolling trying to keep someone from accessing/using a weapon reveal the modifications in an experiential manner, and I’ve seen the experienced practitioners adapt rapidly once the paradigm is revealed.
This isn’t new stuff. When I first started down this path I read a great guard tutorial by Paul Sharp on the subject that blew me away that he wrote in 2006. Years before I even knew what BJJ was, back when I carried a 1911 and did Taekwondo these dudes where already years into this stuff!
So if its been around awhile, its not top secret stuff, and its robust and works in real setting under real pressure then why is this such a niche blog in a niche topic even inside the generally small self defense market? Because its hard. It takes work, and time. You can’t get it in a weekend. It’s not an easy path. You can’t just buy it. You’re going to get smashed, punched in the face, your going to experience failures and pain over and over. As much as I wish it was for everyone, not everyone can take that path. It might just be you and me dear reader. Lucky for us that’s enough to train.