Sport Jiu-Jitsu does not apply on street situation, the real Jiu-Jitsu is self defense
When I was 12 and started to take Jiu-Jitsu classes, without really knowing what this martial art was, as a kid and growing up, I first learned a lot of games, little by little some self defense concept and street fight BJJ concepts. All this mix with what today is called "Sport BJJ" and NO GI, it was not separate.
Every once in a while the teachers would put a glove in one student, who was allow to punch, and the other would have to manage to take him down and control him, without hitting back. There was no "NO GI" classes, what there was a pre-summer situation, where we would actually get train in case we would get in a fight on the beach. During those sessions, falling on the bottom was a big mistake, higher belts would yell at you "Imagine if you are down with your back on hot sand while someone is trying to punch you" (the sand get CRAZY hot on the beach if you are away from the water and closer to side walk. Is fun during summer to watch people who go bare foot to the beach having to run like crazy to get pass the hot sand toward the water).
Sometimes neither would wear gloves and slaps on the face and body were allowed from both sides (Taparia). Those were usually more intense.
During those classes we would learn to close distance, put down in several different ways, the street fight techniques like head butt, kick on the kidneys with hill if you on bottom (super common and not seen as a dirty thing) or stump on toes like some fighters still do on MMA. There was no just roll without the gi, if the gi was off, slaps were allowed and how hard it was would depend on the friendship of the players. Best friends would slap that hell out of each other, because there was a level of trust and the mentality of "better get slap here from me, to learn, than punched on the street from your enemy", not so close friends would end up slapping with more respect, afraid of escalating to a more serious level.
Big majority of classes were similar to what it is today. It sometimes surprises me how some places still just use the same structure of warm up (running around, jumping jacks, push up, sit up, etc) without any progress. Usually not more than 3 techniques were taught per class, but hardly ever just one, not many repetitions, not even close to the amount of drills done today and personally I have mix feeling about that, since I really don't enjoy drilling. Eventually specific training related to the technique of the day and regular roll (the part that we would actually consider the training and when we say, let's train "Vamos treinar" it means let's start to roll).
Once in a while, but I can recall how often, if it was something once a week or even a month, since was completely random , the techniques would be based on self defense. Those classes, growing up, were my favorite classes, head lock defenses, grabbing over the arm, under the arm, from the back, from the front, choking like the cartoon with both hand or one hand defense, defense from someone who grabs your collar, shoulder, wrist, hair, thumb facing up, down, right, left and so on.
The question "Why can't I just punch him in his face" would easily get beat by the answer "What if it's the father of your girlfriend? You should be able to control him without hurting him" which was in reality one of the few moments, maybe by accident, that we learned some philosophy in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Other than that, I (and everyone else) were teach to believe our techniques work against ANYONE dont matter the size, sentences that today we are tired of hear such as "If size matters, the elephant would be the king of the jungle, not the lion" (Does that reminds you Gracie in Action start?) would often be repeated as a proof that Jiu-Jitsu techniques were all we need and you could trust it.
We were teach to believe BJJ was the most effective martial arts in the world (and I still believe that in many ways) and that it was unbeatable, but there was only one way of proofing that: Fighting. I did start martial art to be able to defend myself, as a small guy who always talks my mind out, a little knowledge would come very handy, but I was never a trouble maker on the sense of look out for a fight, but BJJ and the believe of being able to defend myself from ANYONE no matter how BIG it was, made my limit to back down from a possible fight, a lot higher.
Without a good family structure and education, or maybe not even that, but a weak head, was enough to make very easy to Jiu-Jitsu teenager or young adult to get in a fight. I knew Jiu-Jitsu people who would actually go out with knee pads under the jeans (just in case he would get in a fight) and mouth guard (just in case too). Now we don't have to be very smart to agree that someone who go out on the street like this, is looking for a fight or, in the very least, ready to fight with the minimum provocation, instead of avoid in it, like any martial art philosophy would teach.
I would see or hear the students, instructors and also the head teachers talk or brag about recent or old fights every day in the academy, when, as a student, you hear about it daily, get train daily and convinced how good and effective your "art" is, what most people do? Follow the example they see: Go after a fight or at least do not avoid a fight.
My nature would not allow to just pick a fight, but does easily allow me not to "back down" a challenge.
First situation I had after BJJ, I was 13/14 , was playing volleyball with friends when a discussion starts, I wasn't even the center of it, but of course the biggest guy decided to sucker punch me (the smaller guy).
I had no doubt: double legged him (baiana) falling straight to the mount. I was so innocent that I tried to americana him. As an act of desperation, he bitted inside my leg ( I'm glad wasn't my balls, cause he wasn't very picky about where to put his mouth, apparently ) with all his strength until someone broke the fight apart.
The day I got my blue belt, when I was 15
First thing Monday I go back and tell the instructors what happened and they laugh at how innocent I was. " Did you try to americana him? Next time you punch him in the face"
My "enemy" was a older boy from my school, but from a different building, since he was one or 2 years ahead, so I knew how to find him. I walked to the head instructor of the academy, told the story and said I want to fight him again. What would you do on his shoes? (or on his gi?) What would the martial art philosophy tell you to do?
Well, forget all that, he said "(instructor's name) go on the second mat and teach Felipe some techniques to apply on a street fight situation"
And so I did, for several days had free private classes with one of his brown belts to learn all those details, so I would be ready.
The revenge never happened, I went after the older kid, but he manage to get away every time, I heard he even join BJJ classes after all that. It took me years to forget this story. All I know is that a student of mine would have let go of the revenge idea in 5 minutes.
Another situation I had I was 15 and was taking the bus with my older brother, the bus driver took off with the door open while he was still hanging out of it (whoever have been in Rio knows how they drive and how rude they can be), needless to say my brother called him a few names. I notice from the mirror that the bus driver was angry and wouldn't stop staring at him. When our stop came by, as we were getting out they had a discussion, so the bus driver decided to get out of the bus to fight my brother.
My brother was a couple steps behind me, so as the bus driver walked on his direction and knew we were together, he had the brilliant idea to punch me in the face, probably thinking he was right (of walking with passengers hanging out of the door) and would teach us a lesson.
As he raised his arm to punch me in the face, my reaction without even thinking was to double leg him in the middle of Praça General Osório, the square in Ipanema where the famous Hippie Market takes place. Imagine the scene, where a 15 years old boy ( I'm around 60kgs nowadays, imagine 20 years ago) takes down a grown man, mounts on him and punch him in the face ( I was a bit less innocent already ) until someone break the fight apart.
Crazy detail: two cops watched the whole action without interfering.
So, yes, I did had a couple fights, but I was in no way looking after one, but Rio de Janeiro was leaving a fever of young BJJ practitioners getting in fights... The Jiu-Jitsu was in a big boom and every kid/ teenager were doing it.
So much power mislead (in a lot of cases) and worse, with the Jiu-Jitsu's idols being famous for getting in fights themselves and setting the "example".
(Just to mention the top cat, how do you think Rickson Gracie can have 300 plus fights on his curriculum, when he only had 11 professional MMA fights and so many BJJ/JUDO/SAMBO fights? I would risk saying that, if the numbers are right, possibly at least 50% of his curriculum came from street fights and even is it's 10% it's a lot...many others idols , Gracie or not, were often similar. I'm not revealing any secrets, make the research and see for your selves)
All the time the TV and newspapers would talk about how Jiu-Jitsu fighter had AGAIN got in a big fight in a night club, on the beach, on the street, on the market, on the stadium, everywhere. The media created the nickname PITBOY to describe the Jiu-JItsu trouble makers.
For years if I would say I do Jiu-Jitsu, the most common question would be "But you are not a PitBoy, are you? Let me see your ears"
Soon, any fight the head line would be "PITBOYS fighting again", even if there was two drunk guys trying to hit each other with no skills or ground techniques, what so ever. If a engineer would get in a fight and they would find out he did Jiu-Jitsu for a week, 3 years ago, they would call him not an engineer, but a Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
The bad reputation made the big boom of the sport go down as fast as it went up and worse, the ones that remained had to cary the bad reputation for years. (Wondering why is so hard, in Brazil, to get sponsors for BJJ up to this day?)
That was a big introduction that end up becoming a little BJJ's history in the 90's in Rio de Janeiro, but the initial reason for this article was to talk about Sport JJ x Self Defense JJ
When I learned there was no Gracie or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there was no Sport Jiu-Jitsu or Self Defense Jiu-Jitsu. I learned JIU-JITSU, where the Self Defense was part of the curriculum, just as much as what is today call sport Jiu-Jitsu.
Let's be completely honest, trying to say that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is different from the other JJ is just a way of selling the same product. Nothing wrong with that, but is the same.
Now, I have to agree that most higher belts from my generation and after do not know or at least do not care for the self defense aspect of it. My opinion? It's a mistake not to teach/learn all together. I have no doubt that my experience from self defense gives me an advantage when is time to understand where certain position come from, knowing the origin, the history of something (even martial art), will help you develop better and enable you to take better decisions.
But don't take me wrong, I love the sport aspect of it and couldn't careless that berimbolo, lapel guard or whatever technique can't be apply on street.
Self defense was my motivation to start training, but the sport aspect of it is what made me stay for so long.
I see the sport aspect as the evolution of it, not evolution on the sense that excludes and should be the only thing to be learn, no, not at all. But the evolution meaning that after learning those self defense fundamental and incorporate to your life, there is no more fun way than just roll and that is the point where the sport enters.
I believe my generation changed the mentality of teaching, the sport aspect have a good influence on this. Today I don't see in the academies black belts teaching the students to be ready to fight at any moment like when I grown up. The environment is much more relax. Instructors from different teams are friends and encourage their students to visit other academies and, the consequence of that, is a faster evolution to everyone.
I would go even further and venture to say that a "Sport Jiu-Jitsu only" student would still be able to defend himself perfectly in a self defense situation
( read my words, self defense, not MMA, that is something else), so in the end, what is right or wrong, as long as you are teaching/learning the right values and having fun?
Over 20 years in BJJ made me change many of my perceptions of my sport (or martial art, whatever you prefer), I no longer believe that it can be apply against anyone, no matter the size difference, I think that is a mistake and even dangerous to teach that to your student, but I'm sure that Jiu-Jitsu gives you THE BEST chance a smaller person will have to defend himself from a bigger aggressor. No other style will give you a better chance. So in the end, I still believe that if you have to learn one martial art alone, Jiu-Jitsu / Gracie Jiu-Jitsu / Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the one!