fargo self defense classesThe topic of training for Self Defense has come up around the Academy a lot recently so I figured I would write a quick post giving an overview about what it means to me, how I define it and feel it should be trained and prepared for.


“(Noun) The defense of one’s person or interests, especially through the use of physical force”

The term Self defense can mean many things, I break it into 4 categories:

Awareness/Avoidence – Knowing your surroundings & Smart decision making.
Deescalation – Strategies to calm a situation and prevent it from kicking off into a physical confrontation.
Unarmed – Dealing with physical confrontation without weapons.
Armed – Dealing with physical confrontation with weapons

In my experience, I believe having functional ability in the realm of unarmed physical confrontation is the core to being successful in the other area’s. With the exception of firearms, all weapons require some level of ‘hand to hand’ ability, and if you want to be able to maintain control of that gun when someone grabs you you better have some. Also, the confidence to stay cool and clear headed while trying to deescalate a potential situation under stress rarely exists in someone who doesn’t have physical ability to back it up. I place the ability to handle unarmed physical confrontation very high on the list of abilities to hone. I’m not going to lie, I think the ability to ‘fight well’ has so many benefits that cross over into all other areas of life it should be required in school!
But I’ll save that for another article…

When looking at the Unarmed category, I like to break it down further into 2 goal oriented methodologies: Mutual Combat & Self Defense. It’s important to understand the difference between the two, and to understand what they’re used for and how they’re trained to determine what your focus should be during a training session… and yes, you certainly can focus on both if you decide.

Mutual Combat
Mutual Combat covers all the aspects in training for a situation in which you are actively trying to engage an adversary. This includes any type of situation in which ‘staying in the fight’ and ‘defeating your opponent’ is specifically the goal. This can be a competitive environment such as an MMA fight, a boxing match or grappling tournament. It can also be a “street fight” where two adversaries take off their shirts and ‘square up’… Each voluntarily engaged.
These situations and others like them all follow what I consider the ‘Sport Fighting’ training methodology. The key component to this definition is that both fighters are actively staying in the fight, no one is trying to flee the scene or run away from the encounter. Training for Mutual Combat, or Sport Fighting, can be a very lengthy and involved endeavor. It requires a substantial commitment to training as the options and strategies are many and vary widely.

Self Defense
Self Defense is the opposite. With Self Defense the strategy changes. Now the goal becomes not to win the encounter, but simply to get away, preferably unharmed or sustaining as little injury as possible. With this strategic goal shift, the training can be much simpler and take much less time to be effective.

The deciding factor that creates a self defense situation as compared to others is the fact that you can not get away. You are being physically restrained from leaving the scene. This leads to the revelation that almost all ‘Self defense’ scenarios begin in ‘a clinch’ or some type of grab or restraint. Our primary focus of Self Defense is to train to break out of the clinch, various grabs and holds in order to create separation and get away from the attacker.
Now, there are situations where you can be prevented from leaving the scene without being physically restrained. An example could be you are in a room and an aggressor is standing between you and the only door. He may not be actively engaging you yet, but if you want to get out you’ll have to get by him at some point. In this case you may have to voluntarily engage your attacker temporarily, but with the goal always being to separate and flee the scene as soon as possible. In Self-Defense scenarios we also assume that there is a serious risk of injury or death, so the strategy has to be simple, quick and effective as any mistake or prolonging of the event increases the chance of serious harm or death.

Why Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
In my life I’ve had the opportunity to train in many styles of martial arts across the U.S. and Europe. All had aspects I appreciated at the time, and even still do to some degree today. But it was my introduction to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu that brought it all together. BJJ was everything I thought a martial art should be intellectually and should be able to do physically. It uses a strategy and logic based approach, with functional techniques whose worth is measured in real world results.  Something almost no other martial arts style can say even today. After my very first experience with it I knew it was what was missing in my martial arts life!
At this point in history, I don’t have to explain why BJJ is the most in demand Self Defense martial art Art globally or debate the results with non believers… It works! A simple YouTube search will clear that up.

What BJJ brings to the table that other martial arts don’t:

  1. Jiu-jitsu allows you to dictate where the confrontation happens. A BJJ practitioner can CHOOSE to take a fight to the ground, keep it standing or get back to a standing position from the ground with relative ease.
  2. Jiu-jitsu allows you to control the level of violence in the fight. THIS IS HUGE! I’m going to say it again… “Jiu-jitsu allows you to control the level of violence in the fight.” A BJJ practitioner can decide if the fight needs to go to ’10’ or to keep it around 1 or 2… and can immediately switch to any level in between at will.

The ability to dictate where the fight takes place and the ability to control the level of violence across the full spectrum gives the student an incredible advantage in a confrontation that no other style of martial art has. This is unique to Jiu-jitsu, and is one of it’s most powerful weapons!

In truth, I feel that spending time learning all realms of self protection is the ultimate goal, there are definite advantages that many other styles bring to the self defense table. But none are as realistically functional, and manageable by such a broad cross section of people, as Jiu-jitsu… It is the ultimate foundation art that others can be built upon later if interest or need arises.

How we teach at Fargo BJJ Academy

Since we know the ‘Physical act’ of Self defense begins in the clinch, grab or hold… this is where we focus the most. Escaping and preventing a broad spectrum of the most common grabs, holds and pins is the primary focus of our 1st and 2nd stripe curriculum’s. We also cover defending basic striking, simple take-downs and how to get someone off of you and back to you feet… all with the primary goal of escaping the scene.
For those interested, we have weekly Self Defense specific classes to focus more time on these strategies and techniques, If you have never visited our Academy, fill out the box below to register and try it out.

I hope this gives you better insight on my ideas about this subject. I’d love to see everyone put at least some time into practicing with a Self Defense related mindset, even if fitness or sport is your primary goal. It’s the only way to be a true martial artist!

Now go train Self Defense!

If you would like more information about how Fargo BJJ Academy can help you achieve your goals, Please submit your info below:

For information on Authorized use of force laws for Self Defense see our article: What you can and can’t do in Self Defense – Use of Force Laws in ND and MN