When BJJ fails

The somewhat clickbait-ish title aside, there is a debate in the world of martial arts that is roughly as old as the sport of mixed martial arts: which is best, striking or grappling?

This is, in fact, a trick question.

There is no such thing as "best" in the world of truly effective combat arts. What matters is simply what works for a given situation.

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea and we end up getting into one of those stupid "my-art-is-better-than-your-art" clownfights, let me be perfectly clear about what I think of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

I respect it, and its practitioners, immensely. I have great admiration for skilled grapplers; I have trained with and sparred against a few of them, and I have universally found them to be tough, resilient, and honourable warriors.

I consider BJJ to be a truly effective combat art- and there are not too many martial arts out there today to which I would apply such a label.

However, like all combat arts, BJJ has its limitations.

Like all grappling arts, BJJ works- extremely well- in a mano y mano situation. However, the moment that you put a grappler in a many-to-one situation, he immediately runs into serious problems, as demonstrated here:

Once again, with martial arts, there is no "best" style. A true martial artist does not grow more prideful and arrogant with every belt, but instead becomes more humble and circumspect- because every belt earned in a martial art is one more big step up that immense mountainside.

At each stop along the way a true martial artist always looks back at where he has been with gratitude and humility, and looks forward to how much farther there is to go knowing that what he has learned along the way is merely part of his efforts to find ultimate truth.

Any pure striker who disdains grappling is not a true martial artist. Similarly, any grappler who thinks that the ground is all there is to fighting is not a complete fighter. Each has merely glimpsed a part of a more profound reality that embraces true fighting spirit and skill.


  1. One reason I was never going to rely on jujitsu is my only fighting style was exactly that. It's great to be able to take one guy down to the ground. Now what about his three buddies?

    1. Indeed. There are few environments less well-suited to BJJ than, say, a bar fight- where you're potentially up against multiple attackers, armed with various weapons.

      The other area where I think BJJ needs a lot of work is in the area of weapons defences. I've seen and heard of BJJ practitioners arguing that one can roll with a guy with a knife, on the ground, in close proximity. That strikes me as sheer madness and shows a lack of understanding of the concept of a knife defence- which is clearly a defence against a short, sharp object, and therefore such an object needs to be kept as far away as possible.


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