Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu For Self-Defense

Or “In-Situ Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”

Or “In Which A Purple Belt Chooses To Not Injure Someone Who Really Had It Coming.”1

Or “The U Street BJJ Clinic.”

Or ” DC Nights On U Street: Geek Makes Goon Tap Out…..TWICE!!!”

I was in the middle of a deep bout of procrastination yesterday, perusing Facebook, and came upon a bit of a gem. Allow me to share it with you, my audience.

The story is predominantly centered around two characters, Geek and Goon.2 Before the taping had started, as revealed in a post-fight interview, Goon was roughing up a woman in some capacity. The woman was asking to be left alone. Geek, presumably, had been just walking by and asked Goon to leave the woman alone. It was about this point that Goon must have decided, “You know what? I’m bigger than this guy. And he looks pretty wimpy. I’m just going to sucker punch him a few times and he’ll stop.”

Lights. Camera. Action.

Geek has Goon full-mounted. He’s talking to the crowd that inevitably gathers around when two people begin fighting. The thronging masses. He’s trying to sort out the situation.

0:49. Goon, obviously not recognizing the near-immediate danger he is in, has decided to AGAIN sucker punch the person who has him in full mount. There are several glaring problems with this tactic. One, you can’t throw powerful punches worth a damn from the flat of your back. Sure, you can ball your fingers up into a fist, and fling and direct said fist in the direction of someone’s chin – let’s call that the technical definition of a punch – but they aren’t really going to do any appreciable damage. The second problem with beginning to throw punches in a wrestling match while you’re full-mounted is that the person on top of you can throw punches much harder than you can, because the bio-mechanical skill sets used by skilled punchers (skills like snapping a punch, kinetic linking, throwing from different angles, to name a few) are, by and large, still available to the person on the top.3 The third problem, as our Goon is about to discover, is that because both (a) your arms are essentially two stick-like things attached to your body and (b) the mounted person can not control the striking distance, it is impossible to perfectly cover your face from every punch being thrown from mount.

0:54. Even after a “Relax” from Geek, the Goon still tries to throw punches…utterly oblivious to how close he is to the brink.

Guy On The Bottom:  “The guy on top of me has foolishly moved to full mount.  I guess it’s about that time I knock him the f’out.”  <– Famous Last Words

0:58. After four seconds of throw punches, the Goon is just covering his face. Like I said, trading shots while being mounted is a recipe conducive for a visit to a plastic surgeon for the person on the bottom. Goon gets punched for another 12 seconds or so. The punches aren’t bombs by any means. But they’re enough, especially since it is difficult to effectively defend against them.

1:10. Back to a bjj match.

1:17-1:30. The sucker punch from the Goon has left the Geek with a presumed bloody, leaking nose. As someone with a large nose, I have a…large…amount of empathy. Our hero has lost his cool some, and is yelling at the mounted.

1:34-2:08. Cool regained. “Can someone take him please?” “I’ll, I’ll let him up if someone takes him.” Goon is still trying to wrestle a little; but without a mount-escape, it’s really not going anywhere. He has tried (a) pushing on Geek’s chest, (b) pushing on Geek’s hips, (c) trying to sit up, and (d) bucking, but not as much as the rest.

“I’m prepared to let you go, if you re-fucking-lax.” – Geek. His voice breaks, sounds frayed, like when teenagers yell at the top of their lungs.

2:10. The Goon continues to deny roughing up the woman earlier. By this time he must have realized “I can’t really escape from this position. If I’m going to get out of here (and take revenge?), I need to play along with what this kid wants. Okay, I’ll stop struggling and start using my best ‘No sir, I am innocent’ voice.”

2:55. As a friendly reminder, Geek gives him heavy-handed, but not damaging, slap. The crowd reacts. Goon begins to give his back. Drowned out in the “Ohhh!” is Our Hero saying “I can punch him whenever I want.” Yes, yes you can, purple belt.

3:05. The Geek locks in a rear-naked choke but does not yet begin to apply it, as the Goon does not lose consciousness in the time normally allotted.

3:26. The Goon taps, and The Geek stands up. This was his first major lapse in judgment. If I was watching, I would have immediately reminded him that he was not in a jiu-jitsu competition. The Goon should have been strangled unconscious. Then the Geek should have just walked away.

Sam Harris makes this point eloquently in his essay on violence. The Geek should have realized that he was dealing with a sociopath.4 If you’ve gained the upper-hand in a fight with a man, whom you witnessed rough-up a woman (the details of what he exactly did are sketchy – push her down, and pull her up violently?) AND who succeeded in hitting you with a volley of sucker punches on two separate occasions, then you have no business trusting him to not attack you when he finds another acceptable opportunity.

“No, no, you can perfectly trust me.”

3:48. The Goon begins aggressive posturing.

4:02. While the Geek was looking at the camera guy, the Goon hits him with a leaping hook. I don’t know anything about punching, but the punch thrown by the Goon looks awful.

4:04-4:09. The Goon tries to throw a right hook but decides against it, as the Geek has closed the distance and clinched. He forces the aggressor back, who then trips on the low concrete wall directly behind him. The Goon falls into the high grass behind him. The Geek transitions to mount. He has, understandably, lost his cool again.

4:28-4:40. After a bit of grip fighting, the Geek hits him in a few stiff elbows. There is a lot of chatter in the background, but I think the Goon says he has given up. Unlike the punches from mount before, I bet those one or two elbows hurt for real.

4:50. The Goon sees an opportunity to escape! He sits up quickly…but not quickly enough! The Geek takes his back, immediately locking up a rear-naked choke in the process. This time he almost immediately begins to strangle him. The Goon, that pained strangled look smeared across his face, taps after 8 seconds or so. When he comes into the light, the area around his eyes look puffy. Maybe Our Geek did get a few good shots in after all.

The damn Goon is still ambling around the Geek. He looks beaten, no doubt. But to my eye, he also looks like he is reconsidering whether or not he has ‘really given up.’ If the giant, random guy with dreadlocks hadn’t come by and punched the Goon in the face at 6:05 (with contact you can hear, my audience), I would not have been surprised at all if the Goon had punched the Geek again.


We’re all very proud of the Geek, all things considered.  It could have been a really costly mistake, him letting Goon up.  Just the prospect of The Goon picking up a rock and beginning to swing it, for example, is justification enough (in my eyes, at least) to have strangled him unconscious.  But nothing substantive panned out in that brief lapse of judgment, luckily enough. Our BJJ Hero did prevail in the end.

And it goes to show, again, grappling with someone who doesn’t know the first thing about ground fighting is like dragging someone out into deep water and, without them having the slightest inkling how, commanding them to swim.

Thanks for reading.


1. I should mention here that not all purple belts are created equal. Nor are all styles of or approaches to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu equally effective in self-defense scenarios.

2. I admit here and now to seeing something of myself in this “Geek.” And while I am nearly certain I would not have been that merciful, I’m glad to see just how judicious he was.

3. Consider, furthermore, some empirical data. How many MMA matches are finished with punches from the top of full mount? I would be willing to bet Christmas dinner, it’s an appreciable portion of all “ground and pound” stoppages.

We can also ask ~P. How many MMA matches are finished with punches from the bottom of full mount? Is there even one in the history of MMA? If there is one, it must have come about for outlandish reasons.

4. Or at least someone acting with sociopathic tendencies.


Perspective, Babbling

I had originally started this blog as a convoluted sort of way to make a little money plying my fledgling craft as a writer. And while that money never really materialized (at least not in the way I had anticipated), I managed to tell a few jokes, learn a few things, and keep a record of a particularly interesting time in my jiu-jitsu ‘career.’1 To speak directly on the matter, this year, through the guidance of my instructor and the multifaceted challenges set to me by my teammates, I managed to get a lot better than I really had ever imagined myself capable of being.

Mmm, that rather immodest statement must be tempered some. I don’t think I’m world caliber – far from it. Given the reports I’ve received from the front lines about the level of competition at the Mundials, I am relatively certain it would have been all blood and pain and crying on my part.

Instead, what I mean to say, or reflect on rather, is “of that which I thought myself capable.” I had never considered myself capable of some of the things I can do now.2 Blue belt was a long, difficult road to traverse. What it must feel like for those among my audience who so easily transition from blue to purple, I could not even begin to imagine. But it’s over now. The road is traversed. Well, it is more accurate to say that a particularly difficult section of the road has been traversed; and these days, the path is much smoother.

Eighteen months ago, I had planned out a backpacking trip from my hometown in South Texas to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, My Grand South American Adventure. There’s this swath of land in the South of Panama known as The Darién Gap, which is the piece that connects the country to Colombia, has no roads, and is inhabited with guerrillas (FARC). I had planned on catching a ferry from a small Panamanian town that’d take me to the Caribbean shores of Colombia. It would’ve been awesome.3

Anyway, all this to say that I have progressed, in my jiu-jitsu game, past a difficult point in my jiu-jitsu career, the equivalent of The Darién Gap. I escaped capture from Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, have safely arrived in Colombia, AND now am heading straight for Venezuela in active search for Dayana Mendoza look-alikes (one of whom, I will marry on the spot).

What does that mean in the context of Our Gentle Art? I haven’t the faintest damn idea.

Now I am suddenly re-realizing why I hate jiu-jitsu analogies. God damn it. But I will stymie my impulse to delete what I just wrote, because I never talk about travel on this blog, yet was supposed to do so.

I will write some jokes for this one-year anniversary entry in the future. I just can’t today. As it turns out, I’ve been rather busy lately with one of my part-time gigs – the same business which occupied me last week has yet to be cleared off my plate. Well, thanks for reading.


1. Some people would say ‘journey.’ But I never will.

2. This reads somewhat sour to me right now, as last Tuesday I had a suboptimal performance during competition class. And I suspect because of the beating I received early this morning at Atomic Athlete, I am going to again receive a beating from one or two or three or four or five persons too many today.

3. It will be awesome. My passport expires in May 2015. I have five full pages, and need eight more before it’s completely and entirely full. I will fill this damn thing up before it expires. It’s a life goal of mine.

Short Entry This Week

First, I need to give a big congratulations to the members of my team, Seth Belisle, Vidush Rana, and Rebecca Varady, who had the stones, the mettle, the moxie to put it on the line at the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship this past weekend. If any of the three of you noticed an overly-large, translucent and disembodied, floating head cheering you on from the stands, that was me.

“Drown your opponents in the bathtub, Seth. Insolence is not tolerated at Gracie HumaitáAustin.”

And while my brave teammates did not have outcomes for which they had so doggedly trained, they are still better than they were two months ago. They know a little more about themselves, about their limits, about what needs to be fixed in their game, and what the competition is like at the highest level. Next year, we’ll come back stronger.

Going to have to cut this entry short. What’s new? André Galvão was disqualified from competing this past weekend for arguing with a ref, and subsequently flipping his shit. It was, by all accounts, terrifying. I mean, how would you feel when one of the most talented BJJ practitioners in the world started flipping out while talking to you? How quickly would you resort to begging and pleading? How quickly would you call the goddamn police, “I’m about to be murdered by a rampaging, gorilla of a dangerous man!”?

Rodolfo Vieira did not face Roger. Roger, apparently, has made the full transition into MMA and, thusly, did not compete at the Mundials. I’m pretty disappointed that my dream match is, well, just that – a dream. Dammit.

Thanks for reading. Next week, my blog will be a year old. Expect celebrations.