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Jiu-Jitsu student makes two major mistakes in street fight

No one is punch proof, so your training should include extensive practice against real resistance with strikes.

This story is part of a far larger effort to understand what works in martial arts not by looking to the arena, but rather by studying what happens outside the arena - on the streets and night clubsbeaches and alleyways. If you enjoyed it, check out more articles on:
Martial Arts on The Street
Dojo Storms
Jiu-Jitsu


No one is punch proof. If you haven't trained extensively against real resistance with strikes, you are not be prepared to defend yourself in a street altercation.

This fight happens at the bus stop right before school starts. It's clear one of the fighters has a little BJJ training, as he tries to use it during the fight. The BJJ student starts off by closing the distance, and successfully executing a nice takedown. Then he does a decent job of maintaining top position against a larger, stronger, struggling opponent.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out well for him in the end, as you can see in the video below.

Q. What Went Wrong?

A. Two things.

After holding top position for a time, the BJJ student then violated the cardinal rule of jiu-jitsu - Position BEFORE Submission. When the belligerent turns belly down, rather than sink both hooks in first, he goes right for the choke, with only one hook in. 

He eventually loses position and ends up in Bottom Closed Guard. It was then he made the second critical error - failure to understand Distance Management. 

Some parts of martial arts and combat sports can readily be recognized - you don't need to know how to box to recognize a punch to face that drops someone. The most important aspect of self-defense that is not readily apparent is Distance Management.

If you are close to an attacker, there is insufficient leverage for him to hit with maximal power. Likewise, if you are out of range, your opponent cannot land at all. This is true from standing, and it is also true on the Ground.

In Closed Guard, the head and arms must be controlled in order to prevent punches. If that control is not possible, then you have to transition to some form of Open Guard, and create greater distance, and thus safety.

Simply staying in Closed Guard without controlling the opponent's head and arms is a recipe for disaster, as you can see clearly.

The good news here is that the attacker stopped when he saw the BJJ player was utterly helpless. Tragically, that is not always the case. This could have been a lot worse

One of the primary developers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie, famously said “There is no such thing as losing in Jiu-Jitsu, you either win or you learn.” That's factually incorrect of course - losing in competition happens, a lot, and it's awful. Losing on the street is an order of magnitude worse. However, it is absolutely true that there are massive lessons in losing.

This is so true that the great Jack Dempsey told a biographer, "Tell them everything I know, I learned from the losses." Watching tapes of sports fights, especially potential opponents, is an integral part of fight camp. It can be equally useful to study tape of martial arts being applied on the street - then you get the lesson without the loss, and that's a win.

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