Some Go The Hard Way: De-Mystifying the Most Practical Martial Arts for the Bar, the Club and the Street

by Harmony's Riddle

There was a discussion recently regarding effective martial arts for self-defense in the context of bars, nightclubs, and the street. This entry primarily compares judo and Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) in terms of their practical use in such scenarios. This is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of all possible martial arts, instead favoring the ones that are most popular and therefore likely to have decent teachers at schools near you.

(Note that if you’re a woman reading this entry, sensible shoes that enable you to run and Brazilian Jujitsu for last-ditch rape defense — and/or an actual rape defense tactics class — are probably your best choices. Pepper spray or some other non-lethal deterrent may also be useful to keep with you at all times.)

Simple Definitions

Striking: Punching, kicking, knees or elbows.
Grappling: Anything that does not qualify as striking.

Standup: fighting styles practiced mainly while standing up.
Groundfighting: fighting styles practiced mainly while wrestling on the ground.

You can grapple while standing (as in Judo), or strike while groundfighting (as you sometimes see in BJJ), etc.

Definitely judo is more amenable to fighting in bars than jujtisu (meaning BJJ, however you choose to spell it). A stand-up style is better for dealing with multiple attackers and places where “rolling around with guys” is not a viable or desirable option (at least in martial-arts fantasyland, since no style is “effective” at dealing with more than one person at a time). Unless you’re in the ring or on the beach, expect that the ground is a hazard, that your opponent isn’t alone and that he is carrying at least one weapon (and that he has a friend or two who are probably closer by than you think, and are similarly armed).

Plus, if you find a good judo dojo, you’ll learn enough groundfighting skills to be able to at least get back to your feet and keep fighting, or if you’re smart, run.

Another option is to cross-train if you want to do both. They’re both rough sports, though, so be sure to take it easy, especially at the beginning. As another Redditor said, they can be great for the “sport” aspect of your fitness regimen as long as you take your time to get acclimated.

In any case, social skills are more important than fighting skills unless you want to end up dead, in the hospital or in jail. Being a tough guy in modern society really isn’t a smart idea (nor was it ever, really). As always, living among other humans is a game best played as “survival of the smoothest” rather than trying to be the more intimidating ape. There’s always a bigger guy out there than you, and the smaller guys often rove in packs, carry sharp objects and other weapons along with their bad attitudes. Situational awareness and knowing how to talk your way out of a tight spot will serve you far better than bruising (or more likely, breaking) your knuckles on other people’s skulls.

Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (practiced as Judo) was introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil around 1914 by Esai Maeda, who was also known as Conde Koma. Maeda was a champion of Jiu-Jitsu and a direct student of Kano, at the Kodokan in Japan. He was born in 1878, and became a student of Judo (Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu) in 1897.

In 1914, Maeda was given the opportunity to travel to Brazil as part of a large Japanese immigration colony. In Brazil, in the northern state of Para, he befriended Gastão Gracie, an influential businessman, who helped Maeda get established. To show his gratitude, Maeda offered to teach traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to Gastão’s oldest son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos learned for a few years and eventually passed his knowledge to his brothers.

Emphasizing the use of leverage and timing over strength and speed, Helio (brother of Carlos) modified virtually all of the techniques and, through trial and error, created Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Read the history of Brazilian Jujitsu for yourself, directly from the Gracie Academy (click here).

There is a lot of BJJ propaganda to sift through (for example, “It wasn’t until the sport art of Judo and the combat art of Jiu-Jitsu were introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil that the real art of Jiu-Jitsu would be brought to life again”), but the paragraphs quoted above are enough to give you the relevant facts.

Regardless, I don’t really care about debating which style is “better”. This is the more important point from my previous reply:

In any case, social skills are more important than fighting skills unless you want to end up dead, in the hospital or in jail. Being a tough guy in modern society really isn’t a smart idea (nor was it ever, really).

Cross-training in any standup style (meaning, “style practiced mainly while standing up” — not exactly rocket science to get the idea) and a groundfighting style (meaning “style practiced mainly while wrestling or fighting on the ground”) is fine. Judo is practiced mainly while standing up, where as BJJ (as a subset and refinement of Judo groundfighting techniques) is practiced mainly on the ground (i.e. “rolling around with guys”, as another Redditor mentioned earlier). In reality, Judo is a blend of both standup and groundfighting, but most Judo schools focus on a specific type of competition — which is mainly based on throwing, tripping and slamming the opponent, and therefore practiced while standing. BJJ competition focuses on the ground-based wrestling aspect almost exclusively. This (combined with BJJ propaganda) is why so many people get confused and believe that BJJ is somehow a completely different art from Judo, when in fact it’s a small part (groundfighting) of the Judo arsenal that was refined by Helio Gracie when Judo migrated to Brazil with Mitsuyo (called “Esai” in the Gracie Academy article) Maeda.

Pick two styles and go from there. Boxing+Judo, Muay Thai+Judo, Judo+BJJ, Kali/Silat+Judo, Western kickboxing+Judo, are all viable choices. Or you can substitute BJJ for Judo if you want. The reality is that none of those styles (except Kali/Silat+Judo/Jujitsu combined) prepare you adequately for multiple attackers or those with weapons, which is the most likely scenario in the bar or on the street — and of them all, rolling around on the ground while tied up with one opponent is probably the worst idea for obvious reasons. But if that’s what you want to do, go for it. I certainly won’t try to stop you, and in the meantime, anything is better than sitting on the couch.

P.S. One of the most intelligent phrases that I’ve heard from knifefighting styles (like Kali or Silat) is this: “in a knife duel between two skilled fighters, one man goes to the hospital, and the other man goes to the morgue”. If you don’t have a weapon of your own (or you are fighting more than one man by yourself), you can guess which outcome to expect. This is common sense. Fighting in the street is not a smart idea, regardless of how “skilled” or “tough” you think you are. Beyond that, the debate is meaningless. Train for sport and for fitness, not the illusion of invincibility.