BJJ Pros and Cons (Complete Guide to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a martial art designed to help smaller or weaker opponents beat a bigger and stronger one. But there are downsides too, so let’s review all the BJJ pros and cons:

The pros of BJJ include excellent self-defense, physical fitness, and enabling a smaller person to successfully defend against a larger person. However, the cons of BJJ are that much of the work is focused on wrestling, with very little kicking or punching taught.

Ultimately, it’s a combat sport and martial art that originated in Brazil. What isn’t so clear are its origins.

The Gracie family is credited with developing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from Judo. The two martial disciplines are actually extremely similar. The emphasis on takedowns and groundwork is where they diverge.

BJJ was derived from one style of martial arts.

But as it evolved, the teachers added their adaptations; the BJJ we see today is a blend of old and new. This makes those who train BJJ adept in self-defense regardless of their size or the size of their opponents.

I wrote in a recent article of mine about the differences between Judo and BJJ for self-defense. Ironically, both are based on Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. But one has a clear advantage over the other.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

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Does BJJ ruin your body?

BJJ is not harmful to the body, especially if practiced recreationally rather than competitively. BJJ is a martial art that people practice for the rest of their life. Unlike other martial arts, there are many people who begin in their fifties and live in good health.

I once heard Rener Gracie say that BJJ is the martial art you retire into.

And by that, he meant when martial artists get older, compared to BJJ, martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo can become damaging to joints, and injuries become more common and potentially more devastating.

BJJ, however, while not without risk of injury, is a better way to go as you get older.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is one martial art used to get into shape for the first time or get back in shape. BJJ is a martial art that requires the use of your entire body. The workouts are frequently rigorous, making it the ideal martial art for staying in shape for a lengthy period.

As a BJJ enthusiast or casual trainee, you will learn how to do joint locks such as the armbar.

And you will have it performed against you, but only to a limited degree. Nobody will try to pull an armbar move on you to the extent of injuring you. It’s all about mastering the skill, not the other way around.

Can you train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu every day?

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu can be trained every day, especially for those planning to compete. However, a better approach for most students, especially new students, is to train 3 times per week.

When students first sign up, I always saw it as a red flag at the martial arts school I ran for many years if the person (or parent) wanted to do more than 3 days per week. While it’s great to love something so much you want to do it daily, the risk of burnout greatly increases.

I can’t tell you how many kids I would see sign up for 4-5 days a week and then quit after 4-6 weeks.

Also, 3 times per week allows muscle growth and rebuilding to happen. (source) But it all depends on what exactly you are going after. Do you want to be one of the toughest people in BJJ? Fine. You can visit the mat seven times a week.

But when you begin to see BJJ as a chore, do not come back crying to me.

Learning martial arts should be primarily for fitness, self-defense, fun, or an eclectic mix of the three. Seeing martial arts beyond these three perspectives is, sadly, going to cost you more than you bargained for.

But remember, slow progress beats no progress. And training 7 days a week doesn’t actually speed up the black belt process significantly. In most cases, it will still take the better part of 10 years, even training daily.

Not only training 1-2 times a week could make that black belt take longer. But slow and steady wins the race, and there’s no substitute for years of training.

So, if you can consistently go for training 2-3 times a week, you have a better chance of developing in BJJ.

Another essential aspect of Jiu-jitsu is the ability to compare oneself to others. If you can only train once or twice a week, you may be dissatisfied that you are not growing as quickly as people who can practice every day.

Everyone in BJJ goes through the process of letting go of their ego and focusing on learning rather than winning. It’s a key reason why BJJ helps you grow as a person. If you can only work out once or twice a week, remember that we’re here to learn, not win.

To summarize, train when you can, and reassure yourself that you’re in it for the long haul.

How long does it take to be good at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

It takes approximately 1 year of training multiple times per week to get good at the basics of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Then it takes about 3 years to master those basics. But earning a black belt in BJJ usually takes between 8-10 years to achieve. 

There are, of course, exceptions to any rule.

MMA fighter BJ Penn famously achieved his black belt in three years and four months, making him one of the fastest people ever to gain the rank of black belt. This type of advancement is exceedingly uncommon for the majority of people.

It is also critical to remember that for the majority of people, learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is seen as a lifelong journey rather than a beginning and an endpoint.

The ultimate goal is to obtain the title of BJJ black belt. Earning a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a challenging endeavor that takes years of hard effort, discipline, and dedication.

What, after all, is the definition of good? 

That point when you’re ecstatic and eager to rip up the mat with anybody and everyone in sight?

I seriously doubt it, and you should as well. You wouldn’t spend more than five years of your life learning a martial art and not become humble about it.

Top 5 Pros of Training BJJ

1. Great for knowing how to take down an opponent

Taking down an opponent is one thing you will surely learn in BJJ.

As BJJ combines Judo with other grappling martial arts, bringing down an opponent from a standing position and forcing them to the ground is where the magic happens.

Then it becomes easy for a BJJ student to submit or get a surrender from their opponent. Often, real fights end up on the ground. So being in control of when and how that happens is a real advantage.

2. Great for knowing how to defeat an attacker on the ground

When your opponent brings you down, even if they’re new in BJJ, they’ll still find it incredibly difficult to get back up, and that right there is half the battle.

The strength of BJJ is such that once you get that opponent to the ground, make sure they stay down. The only reason they would get up is that they have submitted, period.

Also, the different holds that are taught in BJJ are very painful for anyone that’s put in one.

While these holds can be effective while both fighters are standing, as the opponent can execute a back kick or something else to break that hold on the ground, it is definitely a submission point.

3. Perfect for defending against a larger and/or heavier opponent

BJJ teaches students that being undersized isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, so it promotes confidence.

Remember Hélio Gracie, the founder of most people’s idea of BJJ, was only 5′ 9″ and weighed 143 pounds. Leverage is a critical aspect in BJJ, so a heavier opponent can be viewed as easier to bring down than a less heavy opponent.

You will learn how to use your opponent’s momentum and the floor against them with little or no effort from your end.

4. Training helps build strength, flexibility, and healthy weight management

BJJ is regarded as a more aerobic martial art.

Rolling about on the ground, or grappling as it’s known in the martial arts community, is a big part of BJJ training, which means you’re working on many different muscle groups.

Despite the fact that BJJ offers a unique set of abilities and maneuvers, everything you do as you work toward that objective is a workout.

Anything deemed a workout certainly aids in weight management and physical flexibility.

5. Low risk of concussion

BJJ doesn’t involve striking.

Sure you may get bumped, and you will certainly get knocked down and smushed. But you won’t get punched in the head.

So, when compared to other sports such as soccer, rugby, hockey, basketball, and even Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is comparatively safe.

In a recent article I wrote, I pointed out the differences between Aikido and BJJ when used for self-defense. I even cover the 1 technique that will surely cause a BJJ practitioner to beat an Aikidoka every time.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Top 5 Cons of Training BJJ

1. Lack of stand-up training for punches and kicks

BJJ encourages fighters to get their opponent on the ground as fast as possible, and if you cannot do this, BJJ will put you at a slight disadvantage.

Standard BJJ curriculums do not include much striking or kicking training.

Without basic striking, BJJ will primarily only be good for submitting opponents who foolishly let you take them to the ground.

If you can’t impose a takedown on your attacker, you will not have an offensive martial art skill set.

2. Not very useful against multiple attackers

BJJ can be limiting when being faced with multiple attackers.

Since it is primarily a grappling art and involves two people, what do you do when more than one person is the enemy?

Most BJJ artists, especially UFC fighters, learn and mix different martial arts to generate unique styles to be applied in various situations.

3. Relatively high rate of injury 

Some people say BJJ has a high injury occurrence rate.

This is a half-truth. In a study conducted by SAGE Journals, the occurrence of injuries in BJJ compared to other martial arts (Judo, taekwondo, wrestling, and MMA) is substantially low. This means that, for every thousand BJJ fights, just nine persons are injured.

This is not a platform to discuss and celebrate injuries.

Still, as part of any sport, injuries will happen, albeit accidentally, and as such, sportspeople should be properly educated on how best to prevent them.

But in my own practice, I have torn my rotator cuff and torn ligaments in an ankle. Early on (in the ’90s), I also fractured a rib.

4. Training in a gi and on mats doesn’t prepare students for a real-life attack

Unless your school offers no-gi classes, most training is done on the mat and wearing a gi.

A gi, if you don’t know, is basically like a robe with loose-fitting pants. Many of the moves taught are designed to work on opponents also wearing a gi.

So if your goal is self-defense, look for a school that offers at least some no-gi classes.

Don’t get me wrong. Training in a gi is fun, but you’ll never encounter a real-world opponent wearing one. And that can leave you at a disadvantage.

5. Training for chokes and arm locks can be painful or damaging

You’ll inevitably experience pain and injuries when training any martial art.

And learning to be resilient and not give up is one of the key benefits of martial arts. In BJJ, however, chokeholds and arm locks are rampant, and injuries can happen by accident, especially in a large class with just 1 instructor.

The most common injuries in BJJ usually occur in competitive matches and rarely in training.

Most injuries are also orthopedic; a large number of them are elbow sprains. Other common but rare injuries are lacerations, rib fractures, and neck injuries (very rare).

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu: Self-Defense Pros and Cons


Firstly, we looked at if BJJ ruins the body.

Then we checked if it is good to train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu every day. We looked at how long it would take to be very good at Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. We also considered the pros of BJJ, including whether jiu-jitsu focuses on offense or defense.

Then we wrapped up with the cons of BJJ.

Curious about the word “OSS” that gets used in a lot of Japanese-origin martial arts classes?

I get into the meaning and origin of the word OSS in a recent article, including how it ended up being used dominatly in BJJ which is as much Brazilian as it is Japanese.

Click click that link to read it on my site.

Image by gregorycosta from Pixabay

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