Also most closely associated with Brazil, jiu-jitsu is a martial art that originated in Japan and has been gaining popularity worldwide for its effectiveness in self-defense situations. It involves techniques for controlling an opponent through the use of leverage and leverage-based moves, rather than relying purely on size or strength. This makes it an excellent choice for smaller individuals who need to defend themselves against larger attackers. In this article, we will explore some of the best jiu-jitsu moves for self-defense, including their benefits and how to perform them effectively.
The Benefits of Jiu-Jitsu for Self-Defense
There are many reasons why jiu-jitsu is an excellent choice for self-defense. First and foremost, it is a martial art that focuses on practicality and effectiveness, rather than showmanship or aesthetics. This means that the techniques you learn in jiu-jitsu are designed to work in real life self-defense situations, rather than just looking cool or impressive in a demonstration or competition. (Well, for the most part. There are some flying armbars, Imanari rolls, squirrel locks, and other moves that look cool but you won’t want to use them in a real fight!)
Another benefit of jiu-jitsu is that it emphasizes the use of leverage and technique, rather than brute force. This means that a smaller or weaker person can use jiu-jitsu moves to defend themselves against a bigger and stronger attacker. By using proper technique, you can use your opponent’s own momentum and strength against them, rather than trying to overpower them directly.
Finally, jiu-jitsu also teaches you how to defend yourself from various types of attacks, including strikes, grabs, and holds. This means that you will be prepared for a wide range of self-defense situations, rather than just being able to defend yourself against a specific type of attack. This is different than say boxing, where you won’t learn how to defend yourself against kicks, or if the fight ends up on the ground.
The Best Jiu-Jitsu Moves for Self-Defense
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of jiu-jitsu for self-defense, let’s take a look at some of the best jiu-jitsu moves that you can use to defend yourself.
1. The Rear Naked Choke
The rear naked choke is a chokehold that is applied from behind the opponent, with one arm wrapped around their neck and the other arm holding your first arm in place. It is a highly effective move for self-defense because it can be applied quickly and easily, and it can render an opponent unconscious in a matter of seconds. Because this move attacks the carotid arteries, it is a “blood choke” instead of an oxygen choke and can put someone to sleep in seconds.
To perform the rear naked choke, start by getting behind your opponent and wrapping your arm around their neck. Your elbow should be pointing towards the ground and your hand should be cupping the back of their head. Your other arm should then grab your first arm and hold it in place. To finish the choke, squeeze your arms together and pull down on the back of your opponent’s head. This will cut off the blood flow to their brain and cause them to lose consciousness.
Here’s a video showing the rear naked choke in action:
2. The Arm Bar
If you’ve ever tapped out to an arm bar, you know just how brutal these can be! The arm bar is a joint lock that is applied to the elbow joint of the opponent’s arm. It is an extremely effective move for self-defense because it can cause an opponent to tap out (submit) or experience a lot of pain, depending on how the move is applied. Even professional fighters in the UFC have gotten their arms broken during live matches from arm bars.
While there are many variations of arm bars, the most common way to perform the arm bar is to start by getting your opponent in a prone position on the ground (face down). Next, sit on their back and wrap your legs around their waist to control their body. From this position, you can then reach over and grab their arm, pulling it towards you and across your body. Finally, use your hips to lift your opponent’s arm up and away from their body, applying pressure to the elbow joint and forcing them to tap out or experience a lot of pain.
Check out this video to see one of the many variations of arm bars, this one from the Mount position:
3. The Guillotine Choke
The guillotine choke is a submission that is applied from the front of the opponent. It is enormously effective when used properly in BJJ or in a real life self-defense situation. To apply the guillotine choke, you will need to get your opponent in a standing or kneeling position and wrap one arm around their throat, while the other arm pulls the choke tighter around their neck. With one arm, you will grab the back of their head, and with the other arm, you will grab your wrist. You will then squeeze your arms together, cutting off the blood flow to the brain and causing your opponent to pass out.
Here it is live:
4. The Kimura Lock
The kimura is a shoulder lock that involves extreme pressure to both the shoulder joint and the elbow. The kimura lock gets its name from Masahiko Kimura, a judoka who famously used this technique to defeat Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder, Helio Gracie.
To execute the kimura lock, you’ll need to start in a position where you have control over your opponent’s arm, such as the guard or side control. From there, you’ll want to grab the wrist of your opponent’s arm with your opposite hand and place your other hand on their elbow. From this position, you’ll want to rotate your opponent’s arm inward, applying pressure to their elbow and shoulder joint. You can then use your body weight and leverage to increase the pressure and force the submission.
This video shows how to execute the kimura lock:
5. The Mount
Less of a move and more of a technical position, the mount is a dominant position in Jiu-Jitsu that can be used for self defense. The mount involves straddling an assailant’s chest and controlling their arms and head from above. From the mount, you can apply strikes, chokes, and joint locks to subdue the assailant. Your opponent will try to throw you off of them to escape, so keeping your balance is critical to maintaining position.
There are many way to achieve the mount, which ends with you on top of the assailant with both of your legs past their legs. (If your legs have not passed theirs, they will pull their guard on you which is a vastly weaker position for you.) From here, you can use your body weight and leverage to apply pressure and control their movements. You can also strike them at will, and it will be very tough for them to defend themselves. It’s important to maintain a solid base and keep your balance while in the mount to prevent the assailant from escaping or reversing the position.
This video walks through the mount position and covers a lot of tips on how to maintain it:
We’ve walked through 5 of the best Jiu-Jitsu moves for self-defense, although there are many others. Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!