Why is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu essential Self Defence for Women of all ages?

Martial Arts charlatans selling theoretical self defence to women is one of my pet hates. It is all too common unfortunately.

The reality of self defence is that the average woman is at a significant physical disadvantage when defending themselves from the average man. Even in a self defence situation involving the same sex though, we strive to provide our students with skills that give them a clear advantage. The goal is NEVER a fair fight when we are talking about self defence. Instead we want the skills we develop to result in an unfair advantage in our favour existing before the confrontation even begins.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is the most powerful unfair advantages (excluding weapons) that I have discovered in 30 years of Martial Arts obsession….but…don’t take my word for it. Continue reading and I’ll provide plenty of proof.

Before we dive down the self defence rabbit hole that this article focuses on, its worth noting that women of all ages practice BJJ for many more reasons than to develop self defence skills. For some its a competitive outlet that allows them to put their skills to the test against women of similar weight and experience. For others its an incredible fitness routine and source of stress relief. The benefit of BJJ are endless and personal to each participant but lets get onto the topic at hand….Self Defence!

Lets be clear…the best self defence is running & shouting for help…followed by using your training to make space to run & shout for help. Life is not a movie, without decades of training and a certain level of physicality you are not going to find yourself standing amidst your stricken foes having knocked them all out with punches and kicks.


If you find the option of running unavailable, or it has been taken away from you (enclosed space, physically held, etc) then BJJ provides a skillset to turn around a dire predicament.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is based on

  • Leverage, utilising your strongest body parts against your opponents weakest.
  • Control, understanding positions and what the available attacks or defence are.
  • Connection, limiting your opponents ability to punch and utilise their full power.

Above all BJJ is KNOWELDGE that attackers are simply incredibly unlikely to possess.

Its important to note that very few people actually train BJJ consistently for “self defence”. Thats not what brings us back class after class, week after week, month after month, year after year….the consistency that creates mastery and legitimate skills. We do it because it is SO MUCH DAMN FUN! Oh, and also as good a total body workout as you will ever find.

….but back to the self defence this article is based on.

The realities of self defence should be made clear.

I won’t mince words……

  • A sexual assault requires close contact….strangulation requires close contact……most common assault requires close contact…… Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu IS the art of close contact fighting.

I am a father of 2 beautiful girls.

There is no doubt in my mind, they will train in BJJ when I feel they need to learn self defence. Not a weekend course on how to piss off an attacker and escalate a situation, not a class in carrying my keys as I walk as a weapon and not some fantasy that I will “just know what to do” when the worst happens.

BJJ is a real life super power. There are the trained….and the ignorant. The ignorant have a habit of coming up 2nd best.

No self defence is fool proof and BJJ isn’t the be all and end all…but it is the foundation upon which all other physical self defence should be based. Its the safety net if running isn’t possible, if kicking the groin doesn’t have the magical effect you were told, if poking the eyes is harder than you thought or if you are in the midst of an assault where you find yourself trapped under a larger opponent and need an advantage to turn the tide.


  1. This is a classic from outside of a competition setting

This first video involves a girl taking on male challengers to grapple in a park. They are a mix of untrained but some clearly have wrestling experience. She “taps” all of them and chokes others unconscious. A tap in Jiu-Jitsu is how we train safely. The alternative is broken limbs or unconsciousness. In this example strikes are not being thrown which to the untrained or wilfully ignorant may be an issue, but once you train, you realise that strikes are far harder to throw (and often get you in deeper trouble as you extend your limbs) against a trained BJJ practitioner than you might think.

2. Competion footage of adult women and children beating men and boys in competition

Not sure what the point of modelling photos in the video thumbnails are but what other combat sport will you find many examples of women beating men…..there’s not many. BJJ however this is not an entirely rare occurrence. Due to the smaller participation of females in the sport, they sometimes find themselves included in the mens categories…this is NOT a trained woman vs untrained men…this is TRAINED vs TRAINED. Imagine what they would do to the untrained.

3. What “Technique” really means

The following video shows a very basic technique…in fact the first technique I teach in women’s self defence classes in schools.

This is what LEVERAGE looks like. Its about exploiting weakness in opponents…not fighting against their strengths.

4. Female Police officers real experiences

5. Various videos of BJJ in actual violent altercations

Lets note that all the heroes in these videos are men…why? I’d imagine because far more men train in BJJ so are more likely to be caught on camera…but the techniques are genderless. Most of these situations result in the hero either establishing back control to stay behind their opponent, mounting them to dominate position (an unfair fight) or locking a triangle variation around the neck which can be use to choke, control or isolate limbs of opponents. From a leverage perspective it is also very strong.

Convinced? …. I thought so 🙂

Get to your nearest BJJ school. If its not Compound Martial Arts, we would be happy to recommend one that we know and trust to you in your area. BJJ schools are generally full of nerds, nice guys/girls and people united & bonded in a love of Jiu-Jitsu.

Get empowered with real abilities in one of the most effective and enjoyable arts you will ever pursue.

Good luck on your journey.

Oisin McCabe

– BJJ Black Belt, Karate Black Belt, Judo Brown Belt, Coach to Multiple Kickboxing Champions.


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