When I wade through the world of martial arts/self-defence, I feel for someone dragging themselves from the dark hoping to find some light — it’s a big complex world filled with saints, misogynists and illusionists. Let me first say that there is a martial art for every purpose; fun, creative, traditional, esoteric. It would be wrong to criticize an art because it isn’t “realistic” or “street focused” because that’s implying that martial arts are only good for fighting. As a coach and a practitioner, I’ve enjoyed the health benefits of Capoeira, Wushu and Tai Chi. As an artist I’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning the Berimbolo and Sode Tsumi Komi Goshi. I’ve played James Bond as a Krav Maga instructor, stripping guns from a “terrorists” hand and maintained a child-like grin the whole time. I’ve been exploring this world since I was a kid, and it’s a lot of fun, but when it comes to self-defence for a loved one, the topic gets serious (and ironically, people can’t tell if I’m joking). To the point of the article; everyone needs to learn the basics of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Everybody. Now, I will explain before I come across as a moustached Gracie-loyalist. There is a lot of BS being fed to people, especially females, by well-meaning self-defence instructors that are just passing down what they have been taught. Most martial arts prepare people for a lethal situation, utilising deadly strikes, gouges and weapons to dispose of their assailant so people are also shocked to hear that these are often rendered useless by one horrifying fact — more often than not, the victim is familiar with the perpetrator. Do they deserve the use of lethal force? Some might argue that they do, but the problem comes back to the bottom line, the victim often doesn’t want to escalate the situation. Even more horrifying to hear is that sometimes the victim doesn’t have the confidence to even say “no” out of fear of what comes next.
Sometimes you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing ~ Rickson Gracie
So where does Gracie Jiu Jitsu (GJJ) come into this? It’s very simple, the philosophy is that not winning, is not the same thing as losing. That may take a few times to understand the point of it. Simply put — lay the foundation of defence so that first and foremost the person knows with confidence that they can survive. THEN focus on offense. Whilst the old adage the best defence is a good offense might hold value, the bottom line is that a lot of people, deep down, don’t believe that they can put away a heavier, angry assailant, so they don’t even begin to fight back.
It doesn’t take a lot of strength to execute Gracie Jiu Jitsu techniques. So why can I so recommend Gracie Jiu Jitsu over anything else as a starting place for self-defence? The answer is three-fold:
- The Guard – Teaching someone to be comfortable off of their back might not be there first thing that comes to mind in a self-defence situation, but for a sexual assault situation it provides the core foundation that allows a lighter, weaker person to believe that they can survive any escalation their perpetrator brings. Even after the first lesson I’ve seen the light bulb look as a much smaller female can control her male counterpart. Please notice that I am not guaranteeing they will defeat their attacker, but simply that the guard will give them the confidence they can survive. Everybody deserves that. From this place, offense can be built along with skills of awareness, anti-takedowns, striking, etc.
- The contact – Victims of both physical and sexual assault report that they froze during the situation and couldn’t respond. Many people in western society have little if any experience with non-intimate physical contact so this comes as no surprise. On the first day of GJJ you will have safe, progressive contact with lots of different people and after a few lessons it becomes second nature.
- The emphasis on leverage and control: The escapes and counters in GJJ are all focused on maximizing leverage. This is not unique to the Gracie style or even Jiu Jitsu, it’s just that the structure, movement, control and misdirection are the fundamental foundations of GJJ. The escapes focus on surviving first, and secondly finding a structural based escape rather than relying on the assailant’s reaction to pain or maiming.
These basic principles allow someone, after just a few lessons, to walk around with the confidence that at the very least they can survive aggression, say no and believe a little bit in their ability to defend themselves. The sad thing being that this is often enough to avoid being selected as a potential victim in the first place. This doesn’t just apply to females, but also kids (and adults) that are victims of bullies. If you haven’t gathered that I’m passionate about this topic by now, let me reinforce that I believe that every female (and male) should be given the gift of the basics of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Everybody should have the confidence to say “no”. See you on the mats!