Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Self-Defense: A Story

A friend of mine, Sean, was jumped Sunday night. Deeply intelligent, and a man of no exaggerations, this was his account:

“Sunday night I had the unfortunate experience of being jumped. A hot headed drunk driver got out of his car and decided it would be a good idea to release his frustrations of the night on the nerdy guy (me) sitting on the sidewalk. The guy was at least 50 pounds bigger than me and completely took me by surprise.

I used two moves from our self defense curriculum very effectively and after 30 seconds of his assault, the attacker found himself unconscious from a collar choke. When he woke up, he was greeted by APD officers who congratulated him with a DUI and a free ride to jail.

It was late at night in downtown Austin. The streets were vacant, and I didn’t have any friends with me. However, because of my brothers and sisters that have trained with me on the mat, I wasn’t alone. Thank you.

One team. One family. One legacy. “

After he mentioned the incident in abridged fashion on Monday night – you know, that he got jumped and strangled the guy unconscious – I immediately needed to know the entire story, and wrestled the totality of it from him. Forgiving the errors which naturally come with the transmission of stories, this is what he told me (to the best of my ability to remember).

Sean, our Hero, was sitting down on the curb by a streetlight in the late hours of the evening. Some guy – we’ll call him ‘Guy’ – calls out from the window (stopped at the light this moment) “Are you looking at me?!”1

‘And I was not,’ Sean told me Monday night. I know Sean well enough to know he would never instigate anything with anybody, even if a person deserved it. He continued, ‘But I was now, you know what I mean? So I said…’

“No man, I’m not looking at you. But I am now…” – ‘Cause I was, at that moment, technically looking at him.’

Sean then ignores the situation, thinking it’s all over. And I’m not sure what Sean was doing at the time (sitting, standing or what?), but I do know this guy tries to tackle Sean, who then clinches with him. So Guy and Sean are clinching on the sidewalk somewhere in downtown Austin. Sean goes for a shot, and the guy tries to lock in a guillotine! In real life, of course, strangleholds could end in death. And if I was Sean, I’d have been officially shitting my pants now.

Of Jones vs. Machida fame.

Sean, however, kept a cool head, executed the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Self-Defense for the standing guillotine, and took him down. He solidified his cross-side position for a few seconds, and then moved into mount. But as all us jiu-jitsu practitioners know, the mount is both more dangerous than the cross-side, and less stable. And my audience, Our Hero Sean was reversed.

Guy started throwing punches from the top. Sean opened his closed guard, and began blocking punches.

And then, in the holiest fact I heard on that Wonderful Monday night, Sean strangled the guy unconscious with a collar choke. Ladies and Gentleman, a collar choke on the street! Golf clap everybody.

The cops showed up, and the other guy got arrested! He was, after all, operating a motor vehicle almost certainly over the legal limit. – not to mention assaulting the hero in this story for no goddamn reason whatsoever. What did the police officers say about the incident?

“Well, it looks like this guy picked a fight with the wrong dude.” Sean got to walk away, while the police took The Guy to the clink, the stripey place. Everybody who needed to win won, and everybody who needed to lose lost. Overall, the story made me incredibly happy to hear.

The End.2

Happiest of the outcomes of this fight was that Sean hadn’t been training much the past couple of months, and then showed up the day after the fight, scraped knee and all, to begin training again.


1. I’m stifling my impulse to be vulgar.

2. Briefly, allow me to digress into the mind of a jiu-jitsu person. What bothered Sean the most about this altercation was not that he got assaulted, not that the whole thing started in the first place, but that he lost top position. Let me say that again, in case you missed it. Being assaulted by a drunk asshole didn’t upset him. Being put into a guillotine-type situation (where you could be killed) didn’t upset him. Scraping up his knee a little bit didn’t upset him. Losing the top position is what upset him the most. While there is a certain amount of logic to it – he made a mistake and suddenly found himself in a position where he could be injured – there is also something to be said about him STRANGLING this bastard unconscious, something to be said about the final result of the fight. If Sean had chosen, he could have ended Guy’s life.


3 thoughts on “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Self-Defense: A Story

  1. Scary stuff. I found your site by googling “Sam Harris bjj” because I was looking for the essay “The Pleasures of Drowning” to link to a friend. While reading this, I couldn’t help but frame your friend’s story in the context of Sam’s related essay, “The Truth About Violence”. Although the end result was nearly optimal, I get chills thinking about all the variables in these kinds of situations.

    Nice blog, mate.


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