Non-Violent Self-Defence — BJJ, Quiet Confidence And Winning Without Fighting

One of the seldom discussed benefits of training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that it helps you remain calm in otherwise terrifying situations. When you regularly have people 20–50 lbs heavier than you who are trained to control and injure people try to impose themselves on you, your stress threshold increases. By compare, facing someone untrained can sometimes feel like fighting a baby. Imagine a chess master, used to seeing, thinking and acting 5–10 moves ahead of skilled opponents facing someone who can at best see their next move*.

*This is not meant to instil false confidence in BJJ as a magic pill, merely to underscore the impact training can have when facing an untrained person. One should always be wary and respect the strength, ferocity and tenacity of an untrained person and if we can, avoid being in self-defence situations altogether.

If you’ve ever been in a tense, potentially violent situation, you have probably felt a spike in your heartbeat, restricted breathing and many other signs of anxiety. My experience as well as that of my students, friends, and countless BJJ practitioners all over the world include a surprising calm in such situations which not only enable us to far more effectively handle situations — it often enables us to prevent potential situations from escalating into violence in the first place.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes

“100 victories in 100 battles is not the pinnacle of generalship. Winning without fighting is the supreme efficacy.”

Even when you win a fight, you can lose. We have all heard horror stories of someone getting into an ego-driven bar fight where one person knocks the other out causing them to hit their head on concrete and die. Two lives ruined for nothing.

Some of my proudest “success stories” of students using what they have learned in real situations are from students who got into aggressive/potentially violent interactions and calmly diffused them without anyone getting hurt.

The Peaceable Person’s Martial Art: Non-Violent Self-Defence

Again, many (most?) of us don’t want to hurt anyone.

Imagine you are at a barbecue with friends and family. Suddenly, someone you care about starts having a mental health episode, causing them to get violent.

If your only tools are punching and kicking, how are you going to protect yourself, them and others without hurting them?

One of the most unique, empowering and important aspects of BJJ is that it can be non-violent. If violence is fire, Jiu-Jitsu is water. It empower us to smother violence. To douse it rather than stoke it.

Some of us have no issue with the idea of hitting or hurting someone, especially if they are threatening violence towards us or someone we care about — or anyone, for that matter. But for those of us who don’t want to hit anyone, Jiu-Jitsu gives us a way to protect ourselves and those we care about.

Submissions — A Way To End Things

Punching and kicking arts aim to end fights with a knockout. Jiu-Jitsu uses submission. Submissions include joint-locks and chokes, techniques which enable us to completely subdue an opponent if necessary — either by putting them to sleep or dislocating, breaking or tearing a limb. While this may sound violent — and it can be — it also gives us the ability to merely immobilize someone and attempt to get them to calm down.

Putting someone to sleep causes no real harm and allows us to walk away. And joint locks, thought they can be devastating can be used as a negotiation tool. Putting the person in position where they feel the pain of a potential injury enables us to implore them to calm down, while leaving us a real option for disabling them if ultimately necessary.

The Real Power of Jiu-Jitsu

Like other arts, Jiu-Jitsu provides violent options. Unlike other arts, it provides the ability to control others without having to hurt them. Many shy away from martial arts because they don’t see themselves as aggressive or violent. Jiu-Jitsu provides a way to learn to be mighty without having to be harmful. It’s a powerful tool for preventing violence.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store