Using BJJ in Self-Defense and the Law

Conversations regarding the legal consequences of employing martial arts techniques off the mat are rare, if had at all. Usually these conversations are had after an incident has already occurred, to either chastise the student for using said techniques on the street or as a cautionary tale to other students.

In a self-defense situation, we are only legally justified to use just enough force that is necessary to end the attack; you are not allowed to punish your attacker. As martial artists, we should be hyper vigilant to exercise due care not to use our knowledge to inflict unnecessary harm, not just because it’s legally appropriate and safe, but because it’s what we ought to do.

The more knowledge you obtain, especially in the case of professional fighters and high-ranking belts, the more scrutiny your actions are under when used in a non-sanctioned event. For example, a professional fighter getting into a simple assault and battery, those charges could increase to aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The deadly weapons in question are the hands and feet of the fighter. This isn’t such a crazy notion to people who understand how skilled fighters can use their precision and expertise to devastate.


This also applies to the amateur student. For example, a Jiu-Jitsu student encounters an attacker who throws an unexpected punch, the Jiu-Jitsu student ducks under the punch and takes the assailant down to the floor. Then for good measure, they mount the attacker and apply a shoulder lock until they hear the wretched sound of torn ligaments. You are not justified to punish your attacker in any capacity. In this example you are obligated to walk away, if you can do so safely. Within the confines of a Jiu-Jitsu setting, that response would be given 6 points and a submission for the win. In real life you have a criminal and possible civil action.

Often people fail to realize  that walking away from a bad situation has nothing to do with weakness, but rather everything to do with strength. We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we realize our own.

It should be the student’s instructors responsibility to inform their students of their respective states law on justifiable use of physical force in a self-defense situation.

I would be remiss to not inform you that I am not a lawyer (yet!) but rather a law student and BJJ enthusiast. Proper counsel should definitely be consulted on this issue and how it pertains to every martial arts school and instructor wherein.

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