Edited: 9/15/13 4:21 AM
Member Since: 1/1/01
Member Since: 1/1/01
I believe ALL parts of BJJ can evolve: sport, vale tudo/MMA and, yes, self-defense. But it's really that last one which seems most in danger of becoming something of an antiquated museum piece.
As some here know, the last 25 years has seen a revolution in self-defense training. Things like: incorporating techniques based off our flinch response, employing adrenal stress based scenario training, understanding what makes certain techniques more likely to fail under stress, recognizing the limits of fine and complex motor skills under stress, etc., These insights have had a huge impact on certain segments of the self-defense world... but you wouldn't know it from watching a typical BJJ teacher teach "self-defense". The way in which BJJ –like most martial arts- approaches "self-defense" is still in the dark ages, in some ways. Not that BJJ Self-Defense can't work --of course it can-- but like any survival skill, it should have a mechanism to evolve and improve. Unfortunately, in the case of so many once vital martial arts that have turned into pseudo-LARPing, the "thing" usually stopping the evolution and continued development of an art is usually an over veneration of tradition.
From a modern self-defense standpoint, there are some recognizable "errors" in the BJJ self-defense curriculum, such as:
-Lack of commonality of technique (i.e. each different attack teaches a different response).
-Techniques not reinforced by day to day training. (Example: teaching to do a Kotegaeshi style wrist lock when someone grabs your lapel on the street, instead of a response to a lapel grab that is used and reinforced in BJJ rolling)
-SOME techniques not gross motor and require complex motor skills. (i.e. moves which are ill-suited to a high-levels of adrenal stress).
Then there are the other vital self-defense topics which almost no martial art (including BJJ) teach: awareness skills, the role of intuition, verbal de-escalation skills, physical evasion tactics, the effects of adrenalization, applied criminal psychology, emergency first-aid, legal aspects of self-defense.
One type of approach --that is usually followed in TMAs— would be to keep all BJJ self-defense in a hermetically sealed jar where it can't be touched or altered in any way. The idea being that the “founders” were all knowing, god-like individuals and to change anything they came up with would be sacrilege. If you have a background in TMAs, you probably know ALL about this one --because it's the norm! Lol. I think this approach is just fine for Iaido or some other “less practical” martial art, but for self-defense, it’s simply not a good idea.
Personally, I believe the self-defense aspect of BJJ would benefit greatly from evolving to include some of the discoveries about adrenaline and what happens, physiologically and psychologically, when we are acutely stressed. It would benefit from more experimentation, somewhat in the same manner in which sport & MMA oriented BJJ techniques have evolved to fit their arenas.
I believe this is important because if you are teaching "self-defense", you have a moral obligation to your students. When you say to a student, "OK if someone tries to murder you with a knife, THIS is how you handle it”, that is a huge responsibility you need to take VERY seriously. You need to think about what you are telling people; Is it valid? Does it work? Are there better ways to handle it? Etc. Just like you experiment with and get different points of input on your Open Guard, so too should you research and experiment with the self-defense techniques. Someone passing your student's guard is one thing, them getting shot or stabbed because they tried to do the fancy standing joint lock you taught them, is another thing entirely.
--Don't get me wrong, I have devoted much of my life (since 9 years old) to studying precisely these kinds of techniques in JJJ, Hapkido, Aikido, BJJ, etc. and many of the BJJ self-defense technique are very fine martial arts techniques. But, as applied self-defense you are possibly going to gamble your life on, some of them –especially the weapon techniques-- need to be examined more closely.
As teachers and students, we need to understand the very real ramifications of someone attempting to apply, say, a wristlock in a true life or death situation such as when someone puts a gun in their face. There are valid reasons why certain approaches are perhaps less likely to work than some other approaches out there. Those approaches which are deemed to be more effective should be incorporated INTO BJJ Self Defense, while less effective ones should be let go and NOT held onto out of a misguided sense of posterity. I recall 30 or so years ago, one of my JJJ professors telling me, "You know what Jiu Jitsu is...? It's finding a tool you like, scratching off the owner's name off and putting it in your own toolbox." I think that's not a bad mindset.
In order to remain a vital art and not just a "museum piece" --like much of Japanese JJ-- we need to keep BJJ Self-Defense evolving.