Is BJJ a Safe Martial Art to Learn?


Over the years, Brazilian jiu-jitsu(BJJ) has emerged as one of the most popular fighting styles in the world. The reason for this is very simple. BJJ is very useful for self-defense and it is the most important style in modern MMA. In fact, many young people became familiar with BJJ through the popular UFC or Bellator events. 

The thing is, MMA is the fastest rising sport in the world and as close you can get to legal street fighting. And since BJJ is one of the most effective styles you can use inside the cage, it quickly became very popular among people who want to learn self-defense. 

But, there are many people who would like to learn BJJ but they think it is too dangerous for them. However, BJJ as a sport on its own is the safest martial art one can learn because there’s no striking in BJJ. It doesn’t even matter if you are young, old, male or female, BJJ is safe for everyone. 

If you doubt still, let me explain further to you below why BJJ is the safest martial art to learn. I will bring you many reasons why you and even your kids should join the classes.

Is BJJ More Dangerous than Striking Arts?

In BJJ, you must rely on your movement and strategy to win instead of using sheer strength and power. And on top of that, BJJ training doesn’t include any type of striking which is one of the main reasons why it is so safe

Unlike most other fighting styles, BJJ allows you to defeat your rivals without even hurting them. This is because the main goal is to take the opponent down and finish them with the submission. And submissions are a far safer method to neutralize the opponent than strikes. 

For instance, once on the ground, BJJ fighters will secure a dominant position (back mount e.g.) and sink in the submission around the opponent’s neck (rear-naked choke). 

The guy in blue gi applying the rear naked choke

This kind of choke stops the blood flow to the brain and your rival could be out in a couple of seconds. Even though this may sound dangerous, this is much safer than hitting a person with punches or kicks. BJJ chokes and BJJ joint locks simply do not cause physical injuries like punches or kicks when properly applied. 

Is BJJ Hard on Your Body?

BJJ is also known as a “gentle art” that has a much lower injury rate compared with the other arts like Muay Thai.

For instance, absorbing hard punches and kicks on a daily basis in boxing or kickboxing will take a toll on your body. But, BJJ is much easier on your body since learning BJJ doesn’t involve striking techniques.  In training, your body won’t have to absorb any type of impact as it has to in other striking arts. Thus, you can spend more time learning BJJ without getting hurt

The research performed by the SAGE journals showed us that BJJ is the safest fighting style compared to the other combat arts such as taekwondo or wrestling.  

Don’t get us wrong, there’s always a chance you can injure yourself in BJJ training too if you are not careful. But the actual risk of receiving injuries is very low and the bad things usually happen by accident. 

For instance, if a partner catches you in a choke, you can avoid pain or injuries by just tapping out. No matter what the situation is, you can always tap out and the partner would let go of the submission.

In boxing or Muay Thai, you can’t tap out when the partner breaks your nose with the punch or dislocates the knee with the kick. It’s already too late to say sorry and this is just one of the reasons why BJJ is much safer. 

How Does BJJ Benefit Your Body?

BJJ is actually a full-body workout. Rolling on the mats will force you to move every part of your body and activate all the muscles. This makes BJJ one of the rare workouts that improve your strength in both upper and lower body segments. 

BJJ training falls into the group of aerobic activities. Training hard will increase your heart rate which improves your cardio and endurance levels. And it also reduces your blood pressure and makes your heart stronger. 

BJJ also helps you lose weight as rolling on the mats with the training partner burns your fat. You would be surprised how much weight you can lose in BJJ, almost the same as you can lose by running or swimming. Like swimming, BJJ is a total body workout that moves all muscle groups in your body to work together.

Your flexibility will naturally increase when you learn BJJ. This is because learning BJJ techniques will maneuver your body into various positions.

BJJ is One of the Most Effective Martial Arts

BJJ is one of the most effective fighting styles and it will prepare you for any type of scenario in which you have to defend yourself. It is the only effective fighting style that allows a smaller person to defeat a bigger opponent. You will learn how to use body movements, leverage, and submission techniques you can apply on a much bigger person instead of relying on size and strength. 

The best instance is the BJJ legend Royce Gracie and what he was able to achieve in the early days of UFC.

Royce Gracie in the early days of the UFC

Back in the day, UFC events were as close as it gets to the legal street fighting venues, without rules or weight classes. Despite being a smaller fighter in almost every UFC fight he participated in, Royce only used BJJ techniques to defeat his opponents with various fighting styles who were almost twice as big.

As a result, BJJ is a battle-tested martial art and the effectiveness of BJJ is well documented if you need further information to convince yourself. Just watch old UFC fights where Royce Gracie fought in to see how effective BJJ is.

BJJ is the Perfect Martial Art for Children

Physically BJJ teaches kids how to defend themselves without hurting their opponents during the training. The lack of striking clearly makes BJJ the safest art and you can rest assured your children will not come home with a broken nose. 

Photo Credit: U.S. Airforce

Yet, there are many parents who don’t have the slightest idea of what BJJ is and how safe it is for their kid. These people usually associate BJJ with MMA fighting where striking is involved and matches are often brutal. But you must know that BJJ is a separate sport that is just a part of MMA fighting. So we must separate BJJ from MMA when we are speaking about how safe is BJJ for your child. 

Mentally, your child will learn how to control the emotions and calm the mind to relax the body. The reason why your children will learn to be calm is that BJJ techniques do not work when a child is stiff or overaggressive.

BJJ is all about the fluidity of the body movement and you have to be relaxed to perform techniques the right way. With this in mind, children will be conditioned to be calm during the BJJ training session which is very beneficial in shaping children to control their emotions.

On top of that, BJJ training is playful and your kid will have a ton of fun rolling around the mat while learning new techniques. And it is also great for children because it teaches them all about respect and helps them develop a strong work ethic from an early age. 

Anyone can learn BJJ

Regardless of age, gender, or fitness levels, anyone can attend BJJ classes. The best thing about BJJ is it gives every person a chance to succeed. You can climb through the belt ranking system even if you are in your 70s. All you need is a strong will and motivation to start with the classes. 

Photo Credit: Mark Bonica via Flickr

Further, BJJ classes and instructors are very accommodating and this is one of the main reasons why anyone can learn BJJ. If you are struggling in training, don’t panic and be nervous.  All you have to do is talk to your BJJ instructor to personalize your learning process according to your fitness level, age, or comfort level.

You don’t have to focus on learning fast and trying to keep up with the other students who are more athletic and much younger than you are. There’s no need to rush things in BJJ or be too competitive in training.

BJJ allows you to take your time and learn at your pace, no matter how slow it is. If it takes you longer to learn certain moves, it’s perfectly acceptable. Every BJJ student can practice a certain move as much as they want until they get it right. 

If you have a hard time rolling with the more skilled partner, don’t get nervous. Consult with your BJJ instructor, and they will help you by matching you with someone who will respect your pace and go easy with you.

If you’re a woman currently thinking about starting BJJ, I strongly encourage you to read an article entitled, “10 Most Compelling Reasons Why Women Should Learn BJJ.”

BJJ Can Cause Injuries If not Cautious

Even though BJJ is a very safe fighting style to learn, one needs to realize that BJJ techniques may cause injuries if techniques aren’t applied correctly. The safety of BJJ is truly a matter of how you apply the techniques and how aware are you of the dangers of these moves during training.

Let’s take the popular rear-naked choke technique as an example. If you decide to don’t let go of the choke, a person can go unconscious in a couple of seconds because the choke is stopping blood flow to the brain. 

So, the first thing every beginner learns in BJJ classes is to let go of the choke the moment it’s locked in. Every BJJ student knows this and the injuries due to prolonged submission hold happen very rare as a result.

And, every BJJ coach will teach you how important it is to tap out whenever you end up in a submission. Tapping out is there to stop prolonged submission holds or any type of injury. 

Learning BJJ is very safe, but, doing the techniques the wrong way is the main cause of injuries. Thus, it is very important for you to first focus on finding a good BJJ school that includes highly skilled BJJ instructors. These instructors will teach you the proper technique and the safety of their students is always their number one priority.  

How to Find a Reputable BJJ School that Focuses on Safety?

BJJ is the safest martial art to learn. Yet, there are some bad BJJ instructors that do not emphasize the safety of their students. Ultimately, choosing a reputable BJJ instructor with verifiable BJJ black lineage will promote a safe environment for students to progress from their white to black belts. In order to avoid bad BJJ instructors, you can read more about how to spot a bad martial art school here.

Here are some of our tips on how you can find the right BJJ school:

• When you arrive at the school for the first time, don’t take anything for granted. Make sure to always take a free trial class to gather as much information as you can.
• Talk with the main instructor and see if they can verify their credentials. Learning from an unskilled BJJ instructor is a very dangerous thing. They will teach you an improper technique which can result in you injuring other people.
• BJJ schools that care about safety always keep a high level of hygiene in the gym. Training on dirty mats can lead to many serious infectious diseases. 
• Look if there’s any type of bad behavior or bullying and how the instructor reacts to it. If they don’t react at all, there’s a lack of leadership and authority in the gym, and this often ends in students hurting each other in training.

Clay E

Clay E is a MMA/Muay Thai practitioner who was a collegiate wrestler at James Madison University.

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