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Combat/Self Defense BJJ

Hey everyone. I have trained sport BJJ for the last 2 years until I ruptured my distal biceps tendon during training a few months ago. I haven’t trained since the injury and the time off has allowed me to reflect a little on where I want to go with my training. While I love what I was doing and have competed in 3 tournaments, I have to admit that the reason I got into BJJ was more for its use as a self defence system. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the technique that we have learned wouldn’t be very applicable in a confrontation on the street or in a bar. For example, we have learned very little in the way of how to safely take an opponent down on pavement, or how to control an opponent while standing. Also, I simply cannot accept that working out of a guard position on the street is a good idea when your opponent can reign down blows on you or smash your head into the concrete. I can see the advantage of grappling in a confrontation when you can stay on your feet and quickly extricate yourself when need be but it seems like sport BJJ completely neglects this phase of engagements.

I have no experience with a more combat oriented style of BJJ and I have never heard of an instructor in my area who teaches this type of BJJ anyways. I know that @twojarslave has spoken multiple times about his school that teaches this type of BJJ and his experiences there sound like exactly the type of training I was originally hoping to get when I started BJJ.

I guess my question is what would people recommend for learning a style of grappling that is solely focused on defence/combat and not sport only? Are there any good training video series or seminars people would recommend? Any other styles of grappling other than BJJ that might offer something like this? There is an MMA school close by that offers certification in baton and handcuff training but I don’t know how applicable the majority of that would be. Any advice would be appreciated.

Where are you?

I live in southern Ontario, just outside of Hamilton.

If you’re looking for an emphasis on self-defense, it can be hard because many black belts don’t really know it, let alone can teach it. I don’t know why sport became so popular since most people aren’t going to compete anyway. Let me rephrase that, I know why sport is popular, it’s fun and you can get real world feedback about your progress. What I should have said is why sport is so popular that it doesn’t allow for self-defense. I can see not wanting to do self-defense 100% of the time but to do none, makes no sense.

So good luck if self-defense is what you want. Where I train it’s done every class. You could try googling Gracie University. I know they have locations in Canada.

Train at all of your area schools and find the best fit. Ask the instructors to describe the white belt curriculum to you. Put them on the spot to give some examples of what you can expect to learn. Ask specifically about what sort of stand-up techniques you can expect to learn.

It helps to have a little initiative mixed with dumb luck like I did too.

I don’t train at the same school my instructor does. I train on home mats when we make the time, which is once or twice a week most weeks, with occasional lapses here and there. I’ve been to his school several times and rolled with quite a few people from there, but it’s over an hour away and not realistic for me to attend with any regularity. I have to settle for local training with one of that school’s instructors and whoever else shows up.

My instructor has to drive an hour to train too, which is what started local home mats in the first place. Answering the bat signal when it was put out was what got me many dozens of private lessons and other small group lessons from a senior brown belt. Probably close to a hundred now, maybe more.

It may be that I just seriously lucked out, but I’d like to think at least one of the schools in your area has old-school BJJ covered.

Don’t look for the latest secret sauce. My instructor’s school and the curriculum he teaches is heavy on stand-up grappling, takedowns, judo, grip-management, footwork, and relentless groundwork fundamentals with strikes in mind. That’s the best way I can describe it concisely. Sport BJJ evolves constantly, but the basic formula for the real thing was figured out a while ago.

I hope you can find someone carrying the torch.

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A quick google search for Hamilton turned up Joslin’s. Their guy Jeff won Pan Ams as a purple belt in 2002, has a very legit lineage and fought in the UFC. He’s an early-adopter and I’d be surprised if he’s teaching anything watered-down with too much sport.

I’d check them out.

Ya Joslin’s has been around forever. I remember Jeff Joslin’s dad doing a karate demonstration in my elementary school’s library 30 years ago. I train with a guy who has trained there for a while. I’ll have to ask him about their BJJ program.

Let me guess, Ancaster? Dundas? or maybe over around Stoney Creek?

More to the point, I have had a distal biceps strain, not rupture, and I have had the DAMNDEST time trying to rehab it.

What rehabilitation therapies have you used?

Hey. I’m in Grimsby actually. Anyways, my biceps tendon rupture was pretty sudden…I was shooting in for a double leg on a guy and he moved left when I went right, my arm got trapped and hyperextended and from the sound I thought I had ripped the sleeve off of my rash guard. I quickly realized I had actually ripped the tendon off the bone. Anyways, I went and saw an orthopaedic surgeon who said they could reattach it but that there was a chance (10%) that a nerve could be damaged during the surgery which would result in my hand being permanently numb. I need my hands for my profession (dentist) and I just couldn’t take the risk that I’d lose my career so I decided to forego the surgery.

I’ve since been concentrating on strengthening my brachialis and brachioradialis muscles and I would say that my flexion strength is the same now as it was when I had a functioning biceps on that side. However, my strength in supination and pronation in that arm is significantly less than the other side. I’ve been taking a good quality collagen powder supplement regularly. The main thing I would say is that I’m just much more aware now of warning signs in that joint than I used to be. I used to push through aches and pains and keep training (weights) not wanting to take it easy until things went back to normal.

Now I don’t think anything of taking a week or 4 off of training if that elbow is strained. I remember reading in one of my texts from university that 90% of all joint injuries will heal with rest within a month. If you just let it, the body is usually more than capable of healing itself if you just get out of its way. That would be my only advice. Wish I could be more help.

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Collagen powder? I have had a chiropractor try to pitch her fish oil product, I just thought it outside her bailiwick so I didn’t buy.

Do you know TJ Barlow? Subbana in his clinic put on a crown on an incisor, and some of how she practised had me annoyed. She was using the drill, and said, “Am I causing suffering”, with a chuckle.

Ya I know Barlow. Or at least did a while ago. I’ve been practicing a while now and the main thing I’ve learned is that dentists are f**ked up losers (myself excluded, lol).

I wonder if you are giving me tea leaves somehow. I have a new dentist somewhere else, he replaced a filling on an upper molar and built it up what seemed like past flush and his assistant told me I would get used to it.

Now I get occasional left mandibular joint pain. I am tempted to cancel teeth and just buy astronaut food.

Once a tooth is worked on regardless of whether it was a filling , crown, bridge etc. the bite on it should always feel normal within a day or two. If it hasn’t settled in by then, it definitely needs adjustment by the dentist. This adjustment usually only takes 30 seconds to a minute but you will immediately notice a big improvement. If you don’t get it adjusted, you will be at a big risk of developing TMJ problems or cracking that tooth. I would definitely get it looked at.

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That’s a good idea. Part of the minefield you have to navigate with BJJ and self-defense is that virtually everyone says they teach self-defense. And they all do, to varying degrees. Banging around in pajamas will definitely prepare you better than playing Tekken, but not as well as focusing on preparing to defend yourself under qualified instruction.

The other part of the minefield is reviews from people who don’t really understand what they’re being taught or not being taught. BJJ gets a little cultish, and people WANT to believe in what they’re investing their time, money and effort into. People WANT to believe that the skillset they are building will translate to violence. It’s what put BJJ on the map, after all.

It wasn’t until after I had been exposed to another school and started to absorb the qualitative differences that I realized… One of these things is not like the other.

You know what you’re not looking for, so a little legwork should get you to a place that’s a better fit. There’s gotta be something in your area, as big as it is. If you land at a school that does MMA you might get some new customers, too.

When it comes to fighting, I believe that people are either natural strikers or natural grapplers. By this, I mean that they either reflexively grab onto and wrestle with an opponent or they reflexively start hitting them. I definitely fall into the grappler category.
However, I strongly believe that one should avoid going to the ground at all costs in a street fight as mobility and distance control in my mind is paramount. Locking up with someone seems so full of risk to me (ie. getting stabbed, getting swarmed by multiple attackers) that I can’t get fully behind it. However, the risks involved in hitting your opponent are also present, specifically the legal risks of accidentally killing them or causing significant injury. In Canada, our justice system is definitely tilted in favor of the criminal. Right now in Alberta, a farmer is on trial because he fired a warning shot from his rifle to scare off thieves that were jacking his vehicle from his driveway and the round ricocheted and hit a thief in his arm. The thief is now seeking damages. Like yourself, I am on the bigger and stronger side and I can easily see a jury siding with a smaller attacker if I cause brain damage by hitting him even if it is self defense.
For this reason, being able to control an opponent through grappling while staying on your feet and able to easily release and run if need be seems like the absolute best option to me. As a bouncer, I’m sure that these techniques are your bread and butter and I know that you’ve spoken before about how you employ such skills in your security job. Did you acquire this skill set through your BJJ training, or did you learn them on the job? I know that LEO and security people take job specific courses on this and I’m wondering if it may simply be better to attend such a course as this is where my grappling interest really lies. I do love the sport of BJJ as something fun to do but that’s not why I originally got into it.

Yes, absolutely. Especially if you don’t know how many people are in play. I only committed to the ground once on the job. It is also why knee-on-belly is generally the first pin we look for. It is by far the most mobile ground pin. Just stand back up if you need to, and you can also posture up and survey your surroundings, turn in different directions and have a discussion with the person on the bottom at the same time.

The specific techniques I’ve actually used on the job I mostly learned from my instructor and his instructor. Some of this was also taught at the sport school, but not to the same level of meaningful detail and context. In no particular order, prayer stance, arm-drag, street choke, dive and clinch, side and rear clinch, knee bump takedown, knee-on-belly, wall pins, back control on your feet, sasae tsurikomi ashi (simple trip/takedown), Americana, technical stand-up, grip management, Russian Tie, and probably a couple others I can’t recall.

Not that big of a list, really, but that’s what I needed when my number got called. Before training BJJ I had success with shoves, bear hugs and just grabbing people and dragging them where I wanted them to go. Lots of stuff can work. Circumstances vary.

My time spent at the sport school wasn’t throw-away in a bouncing context. I didn’t become weaker or worse in a fight by training there, I just banged with whoever was in the room working on the stuff we learned there, which was all gi-based ground technique. Not many people were game to start from the feet.

Experience is baked into the same cake too. Job and mat. You just get better the more you do it, which is why I find it obvious that training on your feet will make you better on your feet. Having good balance and footwork is critical to controlling an encounter, especially if you’re trying to put someone else on the ground while keeping your own footing.

I do too, but even from a sport perspective I like what I’m being taught now better. The fighting fundamentals carry over to a roll just fine. I’m not pulling off any fancy youtube submissions, but I’m so much better at climbing the ladder, holding position and making safe. I’m all-around much better at playing the game than I was before. I think that happens no matter where you train at, but I think it helps to believe in what you’re being taught and be honest about why you’re bothering to learn it.


@CMdad this dentist I have been going to has his automated system email to remind me that it has been 6 months since I last had a cleaning.

I asked him last time I was there if he could fix some front lower incisor chipping. He said that because my bite has adapted to it, he would have to build up all the teeth along the way so that I would bite correctly. Is this horseshit?

Hey sorry for the late response to your question @DeadKong. It is hard to say for sure if it applies in your case but, it is quite likely that what your dentist said is the truth. If the back teeth have also significantly worn down and chipped as well as the front ones, then if you only build the front ones up, it will end up jacking open the back teeth so that they won’t come into full contact anymore when you bite. Besides causing TMJ problems this would also result in the newly placed front fillings receiving excessive force and they would simply end up breaking off again. Like I said, it’s hard to say without examining your teeth but this is a very common situation, especially in people who grind their teeth. The teeth have evolved so that they are mutually protective ie. the back ones protect the front ones and vice versa. Both sets have to be in balance or they won’t last. It may be best to tastefully grind and smooth the chipped areas to recontour the teeth into a more esthetic appearance if the chips aren’t that big and prevent further damage by wearing a night guard. I hope this helps.

thanks for responding, I realize you didn’t cyber bill. One of the front is a corner chipped off and I hate the look of it.


It just occurred to me to take this picture.