Self defense is arguably one of the top reasons average people start training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

While some people may aspire to be the next elite grappler or MMA fighter, the vast majority of us train for more personal reasons, including the ability to defend ourselves in a potential physical encounter.

This article discusses the top techniques in BJJ that apply to self defense situations.

Note that this is meant to discuss why these techniques are useful, if not vital, for self defense, as opposed to technical breakdowns of the moves themselves.

For the purposes of this article, we are assuming a single attacker with high aggression but less technical BJJ knowledge than you have.

As a disclaimer, the best self defense is always running away or avoiding the situation altogether. 

Additionally, these BJJ techniques will not save you from multiple attackers or heavily armed assailants, nor will they stop a martial artist with superior BJJ technique compared to yours.

Nevertheless, no system of self defense can truly be complete without techniques that accomplish the goals of these top BJJ moves for self defense.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Best BJJ Self Defense Moves

Escape from Mount

When it comes to any physical altercation, there are few positions, if any, that are worse than being mounted by an aggressive attacker on the street.

Not only are you stuck and unable to run, but you are vulnerable to strikes, head slams, eye gouges, and essentially whatever else your attacker wants to do to your face. You also have little ability for situational awareness when you are flat on your back with a bad guy or gal on top of you.

Escaping the mount is vital for ensuring that in a worst case scenario you can get away from an aggressor.

Whether it’s a bridge and roll, a hip bump and shrimp escape, or a fancy inversion, getting out of a mounted position is absolutely crucial when it comes to self defense in a street fight or similar altercation.

Escape from Bottom Turtle

If you have watched a street fight video or seen a fight live, you probably noticed that clinching and collar tie type techniques are very common, even among the untrained.

If a stronger attacker gets ahold of your head and slams you down, there is a good chance you end up turtled up on bottom with them on top of you.

In this case, you need to be able to escape or even reverse the position.

In a best case scenario, you could sit out to take the back, Granby roll, or back out and get up. Regardless of your specific preferred escape technique from bottom turtle, getting out of this position is an absolute must in any fight scenario.

As mentioned, there is a good chance that this position occurs even in the event of an untrained or lightly trained attacker.

Hip Bump Sweep

Let’s say you manage to recover guard from mount or bottom turtle, or simply end up with the attacker in your closed guard after a scramble.

You need a technique for reversing this position and turning the tide in a fight. The hip bump sweep is an excellent move for going from bottom guard to a full mount position against your attacker. 

The hip bump sweep is very effective against untrained attackers when they posture up in your guard. 

Furthermore, if they base to prevent the sweep, you have kimuras, triangles, and guillotines you can go to as the next step.

Triangle choke from guard

An untrained attacker is very likely to strike at your if you end up on bottom with them in your closed guard.

For individuals who do not understand the nuances of posture and ground and pound fundamentals, this can leave them open to a quick triangle from bottom as they pull an arm back to drop a heavy fist onto your face.

With some basic triangle choke knowledge, you should be able to wrap them up and put them to sleep before they know that hit them.

Guillotine Choke

The guillotine choke is an excellent counter when an attacker tries to football tackle you in a streetfight. 

People who do not train BJJ but played football or did some wrestling often leave their neck exposed when going for takedowns. This is a perfect opportunity to wrap up a guillotine and put them out.

Additionally, the guillotine from guard is an effective choke and also gives you leverage and control to stand up and escape.

Regardless of the specific position, the guillotine is an excellent technique in BJJ that transfers to self defense situations.


The kimura is more than just a submission. 

It of course allows you to devastate your opponent’s shoulder.

However, it also serves as an anchor for you to scramble to the back, reverse your opponent, or isolate an arm to control posture and minimize their leverage for strikes.

Additionally, you can find the kimura from a variety of top and bottom positions, making it a versatile technique for both sport BJJ and self defense situations.

Wall Wrestling

Although wall wrestling such as what you see against the cage in an MMA fight is technically not a part of sport BJJ, many BJJ schools double as MMA schools and have fighters and coaches skilled in the art of wrestling against a wall.

This type of fighting is not just meant for MMA. In fact, being held up against a wall by an attacker is probably second to being mounted in terms of bad situations.

The good news is that basic pummeling and standup wrestling offers an excellent way to reverse your attacker and put their back against the wall.

From there, you can back out and run away or even deliver a couple devastating knee strikes to slow them down and cover your escape.

Additionally, its fairly easy to drop a poorly trained opponent with a single or double leg takedown once you have their back on the wall.

Although you still want to prioritize escaping in a self defense situation, this could buy you a little more time to sprint away as they get back to their feet.

BJJ Moves for Self Defense

Regardless of which particular system you train, if your goal is comprehensive self defense, you need the grappling skills to escape bad positions should the fight end up on the ground.

Additionally, a few quick submissions from bottom can help you end a fight as well.

Of course, you also need to learn basic striking, rudimentary knowledge of weapons, and should probably practice sprinting as well if you really are serious about defending yourself against violent attackers.

BJJ in general does not cover everything you need for every conceivable self defense situation, and most practitioners will readily admit this fact.

Furthermore, grappling arts such as Sambo and others have techniques that accomplish the same goal, so it’s not like BJJ is your only option for honing self defense grappling.

Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that any self defense system that does not incorporate techniques for countering the previously discussed situations is very clearly insufficient for complete self defense.

July 12, 2021