[Warning – The techniques mentioned in this article are deadly and should not be attempted without proper instruction and supervision. Do not attempt to perform them without the oversight of a qualified instructor. Death, brain damage, and serious injury can and does occur as a result of the usage of these techniques.]
Fighting is not a man’s thing; it is a human thing.
The following are true accounts of real-life events.
A 28-year-old female U.S. navy soldier was taking a bus to Khalid port in the city of Dubai where she was stationed when suddenly, she realized the man who was driving was not taking the main road.
When she questioned him about this, he shrugged it off, telling her not to worry about it. But her suspicions would soon prove to be legitimate when the man pulled off the road and parked.
After parking, he proceeded to make his way toward where she was in the back of the bus. He then sat next to her and tried to kiss her. She stood her ground, though, and protecting her boundaries, she pushed him off with authority.
After his initial attempt failed, the man pulled out a knife and told her that he was going to rape her and that she had no choice but to do what he said.
But having trained Jiu-Jitsu in the U.S., she swiftly disarmed him of the knife, breaking it in two. She then bit his hand for good measure and proceeded to wrestle him down to the floor of the bus.
Using her legs, she then locked his head into a dangerous, blood-restricting triangle choke. In a few short seconds, his vision would narrow, and he would black out, rendered helplessly unconscious at the mercy of the one he tried to attack.
She left, reported the incident, and he was arrested the following day.
A woman was walking home next to a fenced-in house when out of nowhere, a sickly looking white man with short black hair rushed at her, threw her over the fence, threw himself onto her, and told her that if she stayed quiet and did what he said, she wouldn’t get hurt.
She cussed him out.
Her instincts then kicked in, and she counter-attacked him the way she had been taught in a Jiu-Jitsu self-defense course – going for an armlock. She wasn’t able to finish the move, though. He managed to pull his arm loose, but she had an answer. As he began to hit her, she went to the more dangerous triangle choke, the same technique used by the woman in Dubai.
She adjusted from the missed armlock and threw her left leg around the man’s neck, as he frantically hit and grabbed her. She then threw her right leg over her left leg, trapping his left arm on the inside, initiating the blockage of blood flow to his brain. Weathering his strikes, she then squeezed with everything she had, effectively completing the choke. The man’s arms fell, and he passed out.
He was later identified, arrested, and sentenced.
Monique Bastos and two other women were walking together to, of all places, their Jiu-Jitsu training center, when all of a sudden, they saw two men riding toward them on a motorcycle. As they approached, It quickly became clear that their intentions were not friendly.
When they were close enough, they ordered the women to hand over their phones.
The atmosphere grew tense as adrenaline began to surge through her veins, but it would not be long before Bastos would realize… these muggers were unarmed.
She assessed the situation, sized up the two men, and in a moment of boldness, decided to do something.
One of the men was quick enough to run away with her phone, but the other, she attacked using Jiu-Jitsu. She took him down using a “rear naked choke,” a move that in Brazilian Portuguese is called the “Lion Killer” due to its effectiveness against opponents of all sizes.
During the struggle, she adjusted to a different technique called the ‘behind-the-back-triangle choke,’ and from there, he would be helplessly immobilized with no hope of escaping her control.
She then comfortably held him there and waited as the police were summoned, all the while instinctively adjusting her grip to match the level of resistance he used.
The man started screaming and crying for help when he realized he was unable to escape, but found no sympathy among bystanders. He was caught red-handed and had no choice but to give up the struggle or be choked unconscious.
He would be arrested approximately 15 minutes later, due to the decisive actions of a woman he never should have challenged.
Below you can see for yourself the effectiveness of her technique, as it was caught on video by a person nearby. Notice how she could have easily choked him out, but instead, she decided to let him stay awake. She was confident in her abilities; he wasn’t going anywhere.
Per MMA Junkie, Polyana Viana, a strawweight fighter in the UFC, was waiting for an Uber on Saturday night outside of her apartment building in Jacarepagua, Brazil, when she noticed a man nearby.
When he realized he had been spotted, he sat next to her and asked her for the time, which she told him. But when she moved to put her phone back in her pocket, he told her that he was armed and to give him the phone.
She noticed, however, that the supposed gun he was clutching was soft, so she didn’t buy the story. Either way, she was willing to bet he was empty-handed, and instead of handing him the phone, she handed him a lesson in respect.
“He was really close to me,” she told MMA Junkie. “So I thought, ‘If it’s a gun, he won’t have time to draw it.’ So I stood up. I threw two punches and a kick. He fell, then I caught him in a rear-naked choke. Then I sat him down in the same place we were before and said, ‘Now we’ll wait for the police.”
— Dana White (@danawhite) January 7, 2019
In the above picture, you can see the damage she inflicted. And the Jiu Jitsu rear naked choke was where she ended the altercation.
On July 15, 2019, a woman was walking at 1 am on the streets of Brazil when a man — a sexual predator — approached her at knifepoint.
Like the women previously mentioned, she knew Jiu Jitsu. She reacted by quickly getting control of his weapon-bearing arm, the right hand, and taking him to the ground. She landed in a dominant mount position.
There, a battle ensued. While maintaining control of the weapon, she began to back away, trying to disengage and get away. He tripped her and she fell to the ground. She then put him into the guard position — a dominant Jiu Jitsu ground position.
She utilized this technique for a few seconds, never letting go of the weapon hand. He then attempted to pull the knife back and away from her (possibly in an attempt to stab her), but in doing so, he sacrificed his balance.
She took advantage of his error and flipped him over using a sweep, which gave her the top position again. She then began to bash his head into the pavement.
The man held firmly to her shirt, though, and her second attempt to get away ended up like her first — he tripped her and she fell to the ground.
But she never gave up. She once again quickly regained top position through skillful grappling, stood up, and this time, broke his grip on her shirt and got away. The man is now in prison.
Here is the video, with actual footage, and a breakdown from Jiu Jitsu experts.
So can girls fight? Yes. Yes, they can. The common thread of all of these fights? All of these women knew at least some amount of Jiu Jitsu.
What is Gracie Jiu-Jiu Jitsu? Why does it work so well?
Known as “the gentle art,” Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a weapons-defense, punch defense, grappling, and ground-fighting martial art which uses leverage, energy efficient movements, chokes, and body-locks (armlocks, kneebars, heel hooks, etc.) to exhaust and ultimately dominate larger, and stronger, opponents. It is mainly a ground-fighting martial art.
It was created by a man who could never, in his whole life, do a single pull-up. Helio Gracie, a Brazilian, was a frail man who experienced inexplainable fainting spells as a child. He was taught Japanese Jiu-Jitsu by his brothers, who had learned it from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu expert Esai Maeda.
Helio Gracie, 1913 – 2009
He wasn’t even supposed to be involved with the Jiu-Jitsu that his brothers were doing due to doctors concerns about his health, so he would instead watch as they practiced and taught. But as time passed, he began to learn the art through observation.
Eventually, he would prove to be good enough to compete with his brothers, and Carlos, his older brother, would allow him to be involved in their activities. Helio then modified the moves he learned so that he, as frail as he was, could use them against much stronger opponents.
Although Helio’s older brother Carlos was the first Gracie to learn the system, Helio would be the one that history would prominently remember due to the modifications he made to the system to overcome his physical disadvantages.
Helio’s Jiu-Jitsu was so good that he became a celebrity in Brazil, routinely challenging fighters that greatly outsized him to both grappling matches and no-holds-barred fights. Many of his fights, he won. Some, he lost. But the common thread in all of his matches was that he did, at his size, what no one would have ever expected him to do against opponents of that caliber.
His eldest son, Rorion Gracie, would later go on to create the UFC or Ultimate Fighting Championship to prove the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on a world stage. Royce Gracie, Rorion’s younger brother (and sixth son of Helio Gracie), put the Gracie family on the map, according to plan, by defeating bigger and stronger opponents time and time again. His well-publicized victories in the UFC in the U.S.A would ultimately cement the status of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as one of the most elite martial arts in the world.
The Gracie family has proven that the Jiu-Jitsu they’ve created is a deadly martial art for women and men alike because the technique of the art overcomes size and strength advantages in a way one would think impossible.
There are a lot of different martial arts out there; why should I train Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?
Yes, there are many amazing martial arts in the world: Krav Maga (influenced by Jiu-Jitsu), Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Muay Thai, and Hapkido to name a few. These arts focus much more on standing technique, which is extremely important. It is crucial to know stand-up fighting; as a matter of fact, no martial artist is complete without it.
It is critical, however, to know what to do when a fight goes to the ground, which is where most physical altercations end up. This is where Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, being much more ground-focused, comes into play. So while one should never be hesitant to take one of the above-mentioned martial arts — without ground fighting skills, a person can only be so prepared.
The heroic woman mentioned above from England was also a kickboxer, which could have served her well if she had been able to see the attacker coming; who knows, she may have been able to knock him out. But the attack happened in the dark of night. So when the fight immediately went to the ground, she used the Jiu-Jitsu she had learned to end it.
The ground is also sadly, but un-shockingly, the zone in which many sexual assaults occur. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the best answer to this problem. As evidenced by the incident in Gloucestershire, England — fighting in those types of scenarios using Jiu-Jitsu is not only doable, but extremely effective as well, due to the emphasis that Helio placed on worst-case-scenario preparedness when he created the system.
People who are savvy in multiple martial arts find themselves much better prepared than those who focus on only one. Someone who has a mixture of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai skills, for example, will be a much more complete fighter than the person who only trains in one art.
Groundfighting, though, must be a priority for anyone considering training in martial arts, due to the overwhelming number of fights that are decided there.
This is what happens when Jiu-Jitsu and stand-up techniques are combined.
Take a look, if you wish, at the video below of a woman, a Jiu-Jitsu and stand-up practitioner, who challenged an egotistical man who didn’t want to train with her to a fight.
She was unstoppable and showed gritty composure no matter where she found herself. Her stand-up was incredible, and likewise, her groundwork and takedowns (Jiu-Jitsu). When she had thoroughly exhausted her opponent, she finished him using a perfectly timed Jiu-Jitsu armlock. He, on the other hand, was never able to get comfortable. And because of his ineptitude, he was picked apart, and ultimately, dominated.
A little training goes a long way.
You may be thinking, this all definitely sounds great, but the time it takes to learn all that stuff?… not so great.
Stand-up martial arts can be learned a lot more quickly than the grappling-focused Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which is extremely dense. But it is very important to note that the woman from England, mentioned above, was not reported as someone who was a Jiu-Jitsu “enthusiast.” Instead, she had supposedly only taken a “self-defense course” in Jiu-Jitsu. But what little she learned may have saved her life.
The armlock to triangle choke combination that she used is a commonly drilled transition in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu — they work in tandem, just as the scenario played out. A missed armlock provides the perfect opportunity to use a triangle choke, and vice versa. She executed this perfectly, and seemingly, without long-term training.
Likewise, Monique Bastos, the woman from Brazil, was only a one-stripe Jiu-Jitsu blue belt at the time of the attempted mugging, which is a relatively novice rank in Jiu-Jitsu. She was, however, more than ready to take care of business when her safety, and the safety of her friends, was threatened.
So while long-term training is inarguably ideal, these circumstances prove that it is possible to learn a great deal of life-saving knowledge in a short amount of time.
The Gracie family has also developed a program specifically for women called Women Empowered. Recently integrated into the Air-Force in their effort to keep service members safe, this curriculum contains the counters to the types of attacks that are statistically most likely to be used against women.
The program is designed to prepare participants mentally and physically to be combat-ready should a crisis situation occur. Some of the techniques taught as a part of this program include takedown defense via guillotine choke, bear hug defense, choke defenses, hair-drag defense, and weapons defenses.
The techniques taught in the Women Empowered curriculum are very similar to those taught in the co-ed Gracie Jiu-Jitsu courses, (Combatives/The Master Cycle) but with a stronger emphasis on sexual assault prevention as opposed to more generalized street self-defense.
Free women’s self-defense seminars are also frequently offered by Gracie certified training centers. The complete list of upcoming seminars and locations can be found here.
Ok then, where should I train?
There are certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training centers all over the world. The Gracies themselves (grandsons/daughters-in-law of the late Helio Gracie) oversee these facilities and regularly drop in to visit. The stress-free, ego-less teaching methods of these training centers are designed to bring the very best out of each and every student. The complete list of certified training centers can be found at this link.
If there is not a certified training center near you, don’t worry; there are still several good options to consider. The first being that you can purchase programs such as Woman Empowered, Combatives, Bullyproof (for children), and The Master Cycle online and train with friends or family (online support packages can be purchased as well).
If you would rather go to a training center, there are several high-quality affiliate gyms of the Gracies around the world. Their programs will differ slightly from those of the certified training centers above, but the teaching is trustworthy nevertheless.
The Valente Brothers, for example, were trained by the Gracies, and offer pure Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Instruction. They have also developed their own women’s self-defense program based on the same principles as Women Empowered — so don’t hesitate to go to one of their gyms if you are nearby.
Pedro Sauer is another man who was trained by the Gracie family. The gyms under his umbrella also offer pure Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instruction and can be fully trusted.
If you can’t find a direct Gracie umbrella school, though, here are some additional pointers.
Be aware that there are a lot of Jiu-Jitsu schools in existence that are sport-focused. These gyms do not prepare students for the reality of life and death scenarios, due to their emphasis on teaching students how to score points in competitions.
Avoid these gyms.
Go with a school that will prepare you to defend yourself on the street where it counts. Below is a video of Rener Gracie, grandson of Helio Gracie, explaining this in more detail.
For a school to be worth your time and investment, it must be Gracie-approved and self-defense focused.
Knowing the teaching lineage of the instructor(s) at a school is very important. Ask the hard questions when doing your research. Instructors, upon being asked, should be able to divulge exactly who they learned from, and who their instructor learned from, tracing the lineage all the way back to Helio Gracie. But just know that almost all modern-day Jiu-Jitsu representatives are in some way connected to Helio. Because of this, you will still need to ensure that they are Gracie approved, and self-defense focused, even if the lineage is clean.
There are many unqualified teachers out there who are misguiding students and making a lot of money doing it. So don’t be fooled.
This advice is equally important should you decide to participate in the oft-offered stand-up martial arts classes at these gyms. Ask the instructors where they learned and who qualified them to teach. Doing this will ensure you are spending your money learning from instructors who are legitimate.
Ok, what standup discipline should I learn?
When it comes to ground fighting, there are only a few genuinely good options to choose from: Jiu-Jitsu and (Jiu Jitsu-influenced) Sambo — Jiu-Jitsu being the best choice for someone who doesn’t want to use muscle and power to finish an opponent.
But with standup, there are so many options. There’s Karate, Tang Soo Do, Muay Thai, Hapkido, Aikido, Taekwondo, Jeet Kune Do, and many others — all with differing philosophies.
So how does one even begin to decide which to choose?
Deciding on a standup martial art is like choosing a gun. When you look for a self-defense weapon, you look for something that you can comfortably carry, something that has the right amount of ammo, the perfect bullet size, and most importantly, something that feels right when you shoot it.
Some people like Glocks, some people like Sigs, some like Smith & Wesson… the list goes on. The point is that, in order to choose a standup discipline, you have to try it out.
Karate is defensive. It combines well with Jiu-Jitsu due to the fighting stance and philosophy compatibility. Muay Thai is more offensive, but it is also far more deadly if a person knows how to wield it. Krav Maga is designed solely for max violence and killing.
Standup arts are all so different from one another that the only way to decide on one is to go do a few trial classes at a gym and try them out. As a rule of thumb, though, in our opinion, Karate, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai are tier 1 standup arts.
Karate is a great distance-managing art that focuses on patience and keeping an opponent at bay — exhausting them slowly, as is the case with Jiu-jitsu. It is very difficult to get around a Karate practitioner and cause harm.
Muay Thai, on the other hand, is brutal. The art utilizes elbows and knees, and the blows are devastating. This art is simply savage. Anyone looking to try out martial arts should give this discipline a shot before deciding on a standup art, as the striking style is both devastating and safe.
Muay Thai practitioners are taught to protect the three biggest points of weakness on their own head every time they deliver a strike. When a person begins learning how to utilize knees and elbows, they become a true weapon.
And if you feel your best shot at winning in standup is kicks — perhaps you are flexible or have strong legs — you may want to try Taekwondo. Taekwondo is known as the best martial art for kicking. The power generated by people who are taught Taekwondo kicks is enough to knock most people out cold. And kicks are the best way to keep an opponent physically away from you.
There is nothing that feels as secure as having a good kick game.
So try out a few styles, do your research, and choose something that you’re comfortable with. At the end of the day, you just simply want something that feels right for you.
Women, men, boys, and girls alike are benefitting from the values and principles of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts in general. If you are tired of being afraid, it’s time to do something about it.
You deserve to be safe. No matter what anyone has taught you, you are worthy of protecting yourself. The world is a different place now because of the impact of martial arts. Protect yourself, protect your loved ones, and live empowered.