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Take Down or Stand Up? Why You Need to Learn Striking to Improve Your BJJ Game

“Are you a ground person or a stand up person?” This question used to be how fighters, grapplers, martial artists, wrestlers and other practitioners would identify and categorize others’ fighting style when mixed martial arts (MMA) was booming. However, today, that answer should not be limited to an “either or” answer, but rather “both.” It doesn’t help you in a fight if you are a “ground” person, but cannot take a punch nor help if you only know striking and get taken down. Even if one internally identifies him/herself as a “ground person,” it is still necessary to know how to strike to effectively defend against it.

Most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners do little to zero stand up striking when training. Obviously, this is because BJJ as a sport is meant to go to the ground and is a form of grappling instead of striking. That is, BJJ is more about putting an opponent into a specific position for a submission rather than hitting or kicking that person. Additionally, it is very clear to see why so many BJJ athletes would rather practice BJJ rather than kickboxing: injury. With BJJ the risk of injury is much lower than stand up striking because fighters can more easily control the pace of the match and can “tap” to signal submission before receiving serious injury. With boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do, those luxuries are not necessarily present. For a striker to control the pace, that usually involves moving around the ring rather than grabbing and holding. Furthermore, strikers cannot simply “tap” before receiving the punch or kick. Additionally, constant blows to the body cause more damaging and targeted impact which can be off putting to anyone who is used to grappling.