A lot of things that you hear about Brazilian jiu jitsu are flat out wrong. In this post I debunk some of the most common myths you’ll hear about BJJ.
1. You have to be flexible to do BJJ
You don’t have to be flexible to do BJJ. All you need is the ability to move your body around in ways that will help you get to the positions you need to get to.
The reason why so many people think they need to be flexible to do BJJ is because they see high-level BJJ players doing a lot of fancy-looking stuff on the mat, and they assume that in order to do that you need to be very flexible.
But there’s a big difference between “being flexible” and “being able to move your body in a way that helps you get into a good position”.
If you can move your body into a good position, you can use your strength and your opponent’s strength against him. You don’t have to be flexible to do that.
2. BJJ doesn’t work on the streets
BJJ works awesome on the streets. But not all of it.
You can’t play deep half guard in a street fight.
You can’t even mount someone in a fight with multiple opponents.
But if you’re smart you also wouldn’t do that. You would pick the right BJJ street fight strategies for the situation.
If you fight 1 unarmed guy, you take him down and hold him in mount, like you’re Royce Gracie.
If you’re in a chaotic situation, you pick up someone’s leg and kick his other leg to make him fall while you stay standing.
If someone grabs your jacket and he has 3 friends with him, you do a grip break and run away.
BJJ works great, you just need to know how to use BJJ for self defense.
3. Gi and no gi are completely separate sports
BJJ people always want to debate which one is better: gi or no gi BJJ.
The truth is that there’s 90% overlap between them.
Of course, you have lapel chokes in one and heel hooks in the other, and the grips are a bit different.
But both have mount, guard and side control.
Both have triangles, armbars and toe holds.
Other sports don’t have that. You can’t mount someone in football, or play closed guard on someone in tennis.
It’s all about perspective, and my point is that you have to zoom in really closely before you start seeing differences between gi and no gi BJJ.
4. ‘If you did that on me, I would just bite you.’
This is another one that comes from untrained people.
Untrained people love the idea of biting you to get out of any position.
Of course it doesn’t work that way.
If biting was legal, BJJ would be even more overpowered than it is now.
You tell me that you’re going to defend my rear naked choke by biting my arm? I’ll be biting your ear off at the same time.
BJJ leads to dominant positions – those are great for striking, grappling, and yes… also for biting.
5. ‘Oh Brazilian jiu jitsu – is that like Capoeira?’
I’ve heard this so many times from people that don’t do any martial arts themselves.
I think that 10 years from now BJJ will be popular enough that we don’t have to explain what it is anymore.
Until then, just stick with the appropriate answer: ‘It’s like Judo, but we focus more on the groundwork than on throws.’
6. Strength doesn’t matter in BJJ
This is a big one. There are a lot of people out there who believe that strength is irrelevant in BJJ. They will point to the fact that there are many high level black belts who are not very strong, and that there are many smaller, weaker people who are very good at BJJ.
While it’s true that you don’t need to be exceptionally strong to be good at BJJ, strength is still a very important factor.
In order to be good at BJJ, you need to be able to apply a technique to your opponent. If you’re not strong enough to do that, then you’re not going to be able to do it.
I think it’s very valuable that the BJJ philosophy emphasizes leverage over strength, but we shouldn’t ignore strength altogether.
7. You have to train in a gi to get better at no gi
This is one of the most common myths, and it’s one that I hear a lot. The idea is that you can’t get good at no gi without training in a gi, and that training in a gi will somehow make you better at no gi.
I think this one is a bit condescending and comes from old school gi people that still think that all no gi people are just meatheads and spazzes. They tell them to train in the gi because it will slow them down and make them more technical.
The truth is that you don’t need to train in the gi to get better at no gi at all. You need to practice the way you fight. If you train in the gi, you’ll get better at the gi game, and if you want to get better at no gi, you should train no gi.
8. Closed guard is similar to the missionary position.
I mean, it’s kinda true. But only if you don’t know what to do from closed guard (or missionary…).
If you’re on bottom in closed guard, you want to get your hips out to the side, ideally climbing all the way to your opponent’s back. I don;t know why you would do that from missionary.
If you’re on top in closed guard, you want to disconnect your hips from those of your opponents. Again, not a great tactic in missionary.
So yeah, they’re not so similar after all.