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Jiu-jitsu on the street: First, do no harm

Multiple stories of jiu-jitsu used on the street, not to maim or even strike, but to hold unharmed until police arrive.

This article is one small piece of an ongoing effort by The MMA UnderGround to understand what really works. The focus is not on what happens in the arena, but rather what happens on the street. If you enjoyed it, check out more stories on:
1. Martial Arts on The Street
2. Jiu-Jitsu
3. Style vs. Style

For a generation in North America, Africa, South and Central America, and much of Europe, the most popular martial arts were taekwondo, karate, and kung fu, each of which centered on striking in various ways. Their use in self-defense is perhaps best summed up with a video.

The legend, for what it is worth which is nothing, is that this form was taught by Senzo "Tiger" Tanaka to John Keehan/Count Dante, who in turn taught it to Radford William Davis/Ha Ha Lung/Ashida Kim. Radford demonstrates it here. Be forewarned, this is not for the squeamish, or faint of heart.


If this impressed you, you probably avoid carbonated water because it’s full of carbs. The video is included to illustrate a point. If your self-defense training is all punches, eye pokes, and restomping the groin, you are limited, even crippled, and probably ridiculous. Because, many circumstances demand things get physical, but without anyone getting injured.

Unlike the martial arts that were taught for a generation or more, Jiu-jitsu and MMA provide a range of options, from breaking bones, to choking into unconsciousness, to simply holding. Several examples from the wild are provided .

Jiu-Jitsu on The Street

Here, Bosnia-born, Chicago-raised jiu-jitsu black belt Idriz Redzovic was forced to intervene at a 7-11.

“Once I saw him hit the employee in his head, I jumped in, grabbed him like I do in training," said the instructor. "[I] put him down, flattened him like a pancake, and then I tied him up like a pretzel in a position called ‘Gift Wrap.’".

Redzovic then took out his cellphone and began livestreaming, for 18 minutes until police arrived.


Here, jiu-jitsu black belt and UFC fighter Ryan Hall responds to a man who threatened to, "bite your f***ing nose off," and appeared to be about to do just that.


Here is jiu-jitsu black belt and former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra. On the eve of his UFC Hall of Fame induction, Serra was attacked by a drunk.


These are not anomalies. This is a thing now.

Here a purple belt named Drew narrates what happened in a conversation with Rener Gracie, son of UFC co-founder Rorion.

"Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, we don't have to hurt anybody," says Drew on camera, mid-struggle. "Hold him down 'til the cops come."


Here a black belt in jiu-jitsu under the great Baret Yoshida holds a man until the police arrive. He's an MMA fighter, and could have done whatever he wanted, but said, "Didn’t want to break his arm because it would of been really gross.”


Here a Jiu-Jitsu black belt subdues a man on drugs, who had exposed himself to the instructor's teenage daughter, and attempted to assault his 72-year-old neighbor.

"I told you I didn't want to hurt you," explains the black belt pointedly. "I could hurt you now. I could kill you. Do you understand?"

Then they wait, safely, for the police to arrive.


And below, the officer who arrives is himself Jiu-Jitsu trained, and subdues a man destroying a store, with no injury to either.


And here a jiu-jitsu student assists an officer with an arrest.


This is just a small, small sample of very many real cases where Jiu-Jitsu was used to subdue a dangerous individual, with no injury to either party.

Martial arts instructors too often spout piously about peace and harmony, but if your martial art does not train you to subdue someone without injury, then what you are learning is not peaceful or harmonious. And if you have no verifiable real-world examples of what you are learning actually working, that is likely because it doesn't. Then, truly, you're the worst of all worlds - you can't deal with an attack peacefully, and you can't deal with an attack violently, either.

If you want to be a better, more peaceful, more harmonious person, you should learn to really fight. And then, if need be, use only as much as you have to, ideally causing no harm. That is true martial arts.