EDIT: Adam Nadow trained at American Top Team in Longbeach, the article originally stated it was Florida.
The rift between “sport” and “self defense” jiu-jitsu techniques seems more and more manufactured all the time.
Last week we saw the latest example: newly belted BJJ black belt Adam Nadow was attacked just outside his studio, Fusoshin BJJ in Oregon. Adam’s attacker was by all accounts a vagrant under the influence of drugs. He lingered outside his school, shouting obscenities. Eventually, he threw a bottle at Adam, kicking off the altercation.
As expected, Adam made quick work of his attacker. After a brief clinch, we took his attacker down, moved to S-mount and got a “gift wrap”. He then took the back and apparently choked him unconscious with a rear naked choke.
“I don’t really understand this unlinking between sport jiu-jitsu and self defense. you’re awarded points for defending yourself.”
-Adam Nadow, the strenuous life podcast
After reawakening, Adam held control of his attacker for a few more minutes until a police officer arrived. During this, he had a bow and arrow choke at the ready in case he needed to put him out again.
Most of the second half on the video shows this unfolding. Adam, a consummate professional, turns his attacker to flatten him out and keeps him ready to be handcuffed for the approaching officer.
Recounting the incident on Stephan Kesting’s Strenuous Life Podcast, Adam detailed his training background at American Top Team in Florida before receiving his black belt under Rigan Machado. He also mentioned being an EMT in LA county for a year and a half.
What is great about this story is that Adam, like most BJJ professionals, has trained in both the self-defense AND sport aspects of the art. He doesn’t see why the two seem to be at odds so much. After all, taking an opponents down, getting the back, and holding the position is exactly what one would do in either the streets, or a tournament.
The Wide Utility of BJJ
The fact that Adam used a bow and arrow, typically viewed as a “sport” technique for control of his attacker underscored the wide utility of all BJJ techniques. We’ve seen examples of this in other street fights. A few years back, a BJJ purple belt got into an altercation at the basketball court. During it, he inverted off a failed armbar and landed in the single ashi-garame position. He ultimately warned his attacker that he could “tear your leg right out of it’s socket.”
We certainly recognize that there are differences between training for the tournament and self defense. But the differences often seem exaggerated by schools looking to market to a non-competitive audience. In fact, there is ample evidence that competitors, like Ryan Hall or Matt Serra, seem to be perfectly capable of protecting themselves. And at the white and blue belt levels, students often learn largely the same fundamental techniques.
Want more proof? Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite self defense videos of last year.