BJJ and Dirty Fighting

I had a fun session with my instructor a few days ago working on techniques that sometimes get neglected in BJJ training – eye gouges, head butts, and groin slaps.

These techniques have no place in sport competition, but are undeniably relevant to street self-defense. Even if you have no desire to use such techniques in a fight, it is important to be aware of how they could be used against you and have appropriate defensive reflexes developed.

In the never-ending battle of words that has been sparked by the development of modern MMA, these sorts of “dirty fighting” techniques are frequently used as ammunition by proponents of arts that have not proven themselves in the MMA arena. “MMA/BJJ/boxing/wrestling/muay thai are sports,” they declare, “our art is for life-or-death self-defense – we use techniques which are illegal under UFC rules: eye gouges, groin attacks, etc, etc!”

It is true that “dirty fighting” techniques of this kind can be effective or even
fight-ending. Here’s the rub, though. They’re only as reliable as your delivery mechanism.
A real opponent is unlikely to stand still and cooperatively let you poke him in the eye,
kick him in the groin, or break his nose with a head butt. On the other hand, if you can
control your opponents body to connect with your techniques at will, then you have some dangerous tools at hand.

In our workout, my teacher showed how to use the standard tools of standup grappling – head control, pummeling, arm drags, russians, 2-on-1 arm control – both to set up my eye gouges, head butts and groin slaps and to defend against them. I had previously explored some elements of this sort of application, but he showed me that I still have plenty left to
learn.

I’m not an advocate of doing this sort of training all the time. The real skills that take
time to develop are the fundamentals of grappling. Once you have those, it’s relatively
easy to add on the dirty fighting applications. Still, it’s a good idea to try them once in
a while. If you only ever train sport application, then you run the risk of being taken by
surprise when a real-life opponent does something against the rules.

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