I think when people discount BJJ as a formidable self defence style, they are speaking from either an;
a) un-educated perspective, i.e. basing their opinion on watching sport BJJ or even MMA, where, the exponent is focussed completely on 1 opponent, fighting with a strict rule set and a referee…….With some slight changes to training focus and style and BJJ practitioner can be made able to, at least be cognisant of dealing with multiple attackers…. again, more on that later
b) a biased perspective, this tends to be the TMA (Traditional Martial Arts) styles, a lot of which are struggling to cope with the emerging interest and success of BJJ. They forget that BJJ is based on TMA styles, just trained in a modern and progressive environment and not tainted by public popularity, which tends to water the styles down to appeal to the masses (not that modifying a style to appeal to a more general demographic is a bad thing).
Take any popular martial art of today, look at it 15-20 years ago, or before there was state or national funding available and I think you will see a different beast.
or c)Ego, my favourite, when you watch a 90 kg rugby player get submitted by a 70kg lady, or a TMA Black Belt submitted by a 15 year old BJJ Green Belt. This reason produces some serious soul searching and from here people either discount the occurrence as some trickery, or start training in earnest.
As a white belt (bearing in mind it took me over 4 years to get my blue…) I had the opportunity to train with a 2nd Dan in a TMA (a style that claimed a strong ground component) and after several hours of beating each other up, he was left a bit bewildered by my success ( I had been doing BJJ for about 12 months at that point).
Several weeks later we had the opportunity to train again, but this time he declined with no explanation. I was disappointed as I always enjoy training with other skilled Martial Artists and this guy had some great throws….. As it eventuated, we had the opportunity to discuss his reluctance over a beer soon after and it turned out that following our initial sparring sessions he had gone back to his Sensei seeking some guidance, he was perplexed that a white belt had been more than competitive with a 2nd Dan… “How can this be so Sensei?”
He was instructed not to train with BJJ practitioners any more, as they play a sport and do not train in lethal techniques, Sensei then further explained that training in a sport makes for a sporting mindset and will detract from the true ability in the TMA that this guy practiced!!! I question how many “lethal techniques” Sensei has ever delivered in his life. I find it annoying when the closed mindedness of coaches/ teachers/ Sensei/Sifu results in their students being disadvantaged.
But then why did the fundamental techniques I had been taught at that point work so well?? after all I probably had an arsenal of 2 or 3 effective takedowns, a working knowledge of the basic positions and a few submissions from each.
Because we trained every day with controlled full resistance, every technique I used worked because I had used it with a training partner who was trying to stop me almost as hard as he could. I had been tapped with these techniques a 100 times and again they worked. They were not taught by a 15 year old Black Belt, that had never been in a confrontation. They were not taught via Kata, or touch sparring or forms, they were drilled on the mat, in a realistic environment with realistic pressure and resistance, resulting in realistic results!
I digress, but this is a topic that we will return to in the future, BJJ is an evolution of TMA and that is evident in so many of the techniques. The techniques have been made subject to a more contemporary setting and in short their effectiveness in a self defence situation will mirror the original intent of the club and coaches.
If you train with a competition orientated club that will base everything on points and educate you on the finer points of “stalling to glory” then don’t be surprised if some of the application lets you down in a real world confrontational situation.
On the other hand, a club that prides itself on practical application, a club that has some sort of proven pedigree will probably deliver a more pragmatic approach to training.
It will always be easier to take “real world” BJJ and apply it competition that to try and take a good competition club and teach them self defence.
As they say a competition Black Belt is 1 punch away from a being a Brown Belt, another from Purple, another from Blue and 1 more from a white belt, unless he trains under structured but real fighting pressures how can he be expected to apply his skills in a foreign environment.
Next pressure points, biting, groin and the eye gouge!