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MMA Grappling vs. BJJ Differences in Self-Defense

MMA Grappling vs. BJJ: Differences in Self-Defense

Learning and practicing martial arts isn’t only great for your physical health and overall wellbeing. They are also incredibly useful for protection and self-defense.

Today, mixed martial arts (MMA) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) are two very popular martial arts disciplines with hundreds of thousands of practitioners worldwide. The two are often compared or mistaken for the other due to their similarities in fighting styles and use of grappling techniques.

One aspect that MMA and BJJ have in common is how effective they are for self-defense. In particular, grappling techniques are heavily used in both disciplines for taking down opponents.

What Is Grappling?

Grappling is one of the core styles of fighting used in many martial arts used for self-defense and taking down opponents. The goal in grappling is to gain a physical advantage over the other person, often by improving your position, escaping, or forcing submission.

With grappling, you use your hands to hold, seize, or secure your opponent using a strong grip. The techniques do not involve weapons or striking motions.

Striking techniques are quicker, use hitting or punching motions of the hands and feet, and mainly focus on staying at a distance from your opponent. In comparison, grappling techniques are done in close contact and focus on subduing your opponent, giving you time to escape.

Different Types of Grappling Techniques

There are different types of grappling styles and techniques for different forms of martial arts. Aside from BJJ and MMA, judo, and wrestling also have their own grappling moves.

Here are eight different types of grappling maneuvers:

  • Takedowns: moves used to get the opponent off-balance and force them onto the ground
  • Submission holds: techniques that put the opponent in a suffocating or strangling hold to force them to submit
  • Securing techniques: moves that pin or restrain the opponent and are sometimes a precursor for a stronger submission hold
  • Clinches: grappling techniques that mainly use the upper body to gain a better hold or position and to defend against a throw or takedown
  • Throws: as the name suggests, these maneuvers throw the opponent either off balance or into the air, then pins them down afterward
  • Escapes: moves that concentrate on allowing you to escape a disadvantageous position, such as securing or submission holds and clinches
  • Sprawls: defensive and counteracting moves against takedowns
  • Reversals: moves that focus on reversing positions with your opponent, where you maneuver yourself from underneath them to a higher position

Mixed Martial Arts vs. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

MMA or mixed martial arts is exactly as its name describes. It combines different styles, techniques, and teachings from different martial arts disciplines. MMA variations often include martial arts forms from Judo, classic boxing, muay Thai, wrestling, Krav Maga, and BJJ or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Rather than focusing solely on offensive or defensive movements, MMA combines both. MMA fighting is also often done inside caged stages, incorporating jumps, backflips, and more.

MMA techniques are generally more violent as athletic sport matches are fought to secure a knockout. MMA often requires greater focus, and training results in more weight loss. Mixed martial arts’ versatility also makes it great for real-life self-defense.

Meanwhile, BJJ is a modern martial arts discipline developed from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo techniques. As a highly inclusive martial art, it is suitable for people of all ages and sizes. One of the biggest draws of BJJ is to defend yourself from bigger opponents.

BJJ does not use kicking or punching moves. Instead, its techniques revolve around overpowering your opponent using compression locks, submission holds, and floor-grappling maneuvers. The end goal in a BJJ match is to simply get your opponent to submit using a grappling technique, such as a chokehold, armbar, or any securing move. 

You don’t need to knock your opponent out like in an MMA fight. You need to learn how to use your body optimally and your opponent’s physique against them. BJJ is a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn unarmed self-defense in a one-on-one combat setting.

Differences in MMA and BJJ Grappling Styles

MMA and BJJ grappling techniques are executed differently and require different skill sets, although they may look similar to the untrained eye. 

Although MMA incorporates BJJ grappling styles in its teachings, it has a more fight or combat-based approach. BJJ adheres to a more defense-oriented style. Thanks to this, it has developed more intricate grappling techniques through the years.

MMA grappling requires more speed and explosiveness when executing techniques. Rather than reacting to your opponent’s moves, you take initiative and strike first and remain in a standing position more often than not. That is another identifying characteristic of MMA grappling — it requires students and practitioners to also learn striking moves.

In contrast, advanced BJJ grappling techniques usually require time to set up and execute. Much of BJJ grappling requires floorwork. This means you incapacitate and subdue your opponent while on the ground rather than standing up.

Most importantly, sport BJJ does not include any striking techniques. This falls in line with the goal of subduing or forcing your opponent to tap out and admit defeat rather than hitting hard enough to knock them out.

However, there is a caveat. There is a form of BJJ grappling that permits striking, weapons, and banned or unsportsmanlike strategies.

Pure sport BJJ focuses solely on using clean grappling techniques to get the opponent to submit. Self-defense BJJ, on the other hand, teaches striking and some underhanded grappling techniques.

Self-defense BJJ grappling is taught with real-world attacks and scenarios in mind. It may also incorporate weapons-related techniques, in addition to situational awareness. As such, self-defense BJJ grappling techniques are more suitable for real-life fighting.

Benefits of Grappling

Whether you choose to learn MMA or BJJ grappling for self-defense, the benefits you reap are universal. Here are four health and fitness benefits of grappling:

1. Develop and improve confidence

Learning grappling techniques is a great way to become more confident, especially when faced with difficult situations. It’s hard to escape a submission hold or mount position, so learning how to get free helps build confidence in yourself and your body coordination. It also helps mental toughness and quick thinking. 

2. Build strength, cardio endurance, and problem-solving skills

Grappling and scrambling for purchase against your opponent helps build strength, endurance, and physical resistance. It also helps you learn how to better maneuver your body. Additionally, getting out of firm holds or finding ways to take down your opponent stimulates your mind and improves your problem-solving skills.

3. Provide a complete workout

Both MMA and BJJ are highly physical sports. Practicing different moves and applying them in sparring sessions provides you with a complete workout. In each class or training session, you utilize all your muscles and limbs to wrestle your opponent to the ground.

4. Form close relationships and camaraderie

Grappling can be described as “close combat cuddling.” As it requires near-constant close contact, you will naturally become comfortable, form closer relationships, and develop better camaraderie with your fellow BJJ or MMA practitioners. This is especially true if you constantly work with the same training partners. 

Finding the Grappling Style for You

There are a lot of arguments for both sides on which is better. However, you can use both MMA and BJJ grappling techniques for self-defense. It all depends on your reason for learning, body type, and personal preference.

If you are looking for versatility, offensive fighting, and techniques applicable for actual combat, then MMA grappling may suit your needs best. MMA is also ideal if you want to learn multiple styles of combat and defense.

However, if your focus is on defending against people of all sizes and you prefer a gentler sport, then Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is perfect for you. BJJ is also ideal for those who want to learn how to problem-solve, think faster, and more strategically while cornered.

Learn more about BJJ grappling techniques with the highly experienced teachers at Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu. Call us today to get a free week-long trial period to learn the basics of BJJ, grappling, and self-defense.

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