Fight or Match?

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Is BJJ a fight, or a match?



I imagine that as soon as you all see this, an answer will pop into your head. In my case, the answer IS simple too… but my discussion is more so aimed at WHY we sometimes need clarify this point.

BJJ is a match. Physical chess. 2 people step on the mats and trial their skill against one another. The athletic conditioning of the participants plays a big part, but a lot of the focus is on how many “moves” and techniques they each know. The highest goal being to control and submit your opponent.

Boxing is a fight – (I have only recently started going back to boxing classes, so it is very much a fight for me at the moment ☺) 2 people step into a ring and trial their skill against one another. The athletic conditioning of the participants plays a big part, but a lot of the focus is on how many shots can hit the target. The highest goal being to knock your opponent unconscious or cause sufficient discomfort to force the referee to call stop.



I have used my 2 key distinctions there, in those paragraphs… see if you spot them… I’ll wait…

Control. Discomfort.

That is what leads the distinction for me. Thinking in terms of a match emphasises control. Restricting hip movement, limb movement, breathing space, its about controlling a resisting human being. The person being controlled can be very much aware but be unable to act. A fight emphasises hurt and discomfort. It focus’ on hitting exposed areas, and if you can land a “KO blow” you can expect the opponents body to shut down entirely. The person being hit may be switched off, albeit briefly (one hopes!)

Let me make clear, I do not say this as I value one mindset or aspect of physical combat more than another. I can assure you, dear reader, that is not the case. Boxing / the striking arts are incredibly skilful, but it must be realised that there is a different focus needed to be successful in each case.

Perhaps this mixing of terms comes from our ego, wanting to “fight” someone, without the risk of being “hurt” ourselves – so going into a BJJ match wanting to fight the opponent! I am sure there isn’t this confuddlement (yes I am making up words) in boxing… “I am going into this fight in order to restrain and control my opponent!”… I’d be taking shots left, right, and centre with that approach! Our ego always needs checking from time to time, in any combat sport, or sport in general for that matter! But in a situation where so much emphasis on placed on physical control, we must also work at keeping the mind under control too.

As a final point, I know that others will feel that neither of these situations constitutes a fight, perhaps a fight should be “without any rules”, and I can agree. Although a street fight is (hopefully) rare for us all, I believe it is most realistically reflected – at least initially – in striking. Few people in a street brawl would drop straight into a berimbolo, or look to “play from half”. Real confrontation from the trained, and untrained will usually involve punches, kicks, or at least flailing of arms and legs to simulate strikes! If you ever are unlucky enough to be involved in a streetfight, and your assailant drops straight to the ground (I’m thinking of The Simpsons episode – “crawl atop me, and meet your doom!”) then I would advise you take to your running shoes, and get outta dodge! They’re probably a bit weird, or they have all of Keenan Cornelius’ instructionals, in either case, best to take route one!

Be good!

Luke Spencer is a BJJ black belt under Eduardo Carriello, GB Oval, currently teaching put of Southend Combat Academy, and 1-2-1’s, guest instructor at Leicester Shootfighters. Likes dogs, anything Canadian, pina coladas and getting caught in the rain!

picture of author Luke Spencer

Luke Spencer

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