That Pajama Stuff Only Works on Mats

One of the tropes the RBSD/Combatives crowd loves to drag out is the idea that grappling is really nice in the gym, but in the “real world”, will only get you killed. An oft-repeated comment is that it is okay to do jiu-jitsu moves on soft, comfortable mats, but Da Streetz don’t have mats.

I guess the implication is that those of us who do jiu-jitsu are giant wimps and need to have the equivalent of a Tempur-pedic mattress to train on!

Not only is this wrong, and incredibly short-sighted, it also shows an immense (almost willful) ignorance of history. Which is even more damning of their intellect since that history is easily discovered with the ease of the internet and search engines.

I can safely say that there are literally a metric ton of videos showing real world applications (on typical hard surfaces) of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. In addition, the US Army recently released a huge report on H2H usage by troops since the era of Modern Army Combatives (a report I plan on covering soon in a blog post).

More so, this kind of thing goes back to literally the dawn of the age of BJJ and is part of it’s very beginnings, where it was only advertised as a fighting and self-defense method. In fact, on the video tape that served to widely introduce the Gracie family to the world outside of Brazil (released in 1989 in the US), there was a lot of footage showing exactly that. One of the clips I particularity loved was that from a series of challenge matches held between representatives of Gracie Jiu-jitsu, and a large karate school in Rio.

To understand what set it up was that this took place in the early 1970’s during the karate/kung fu movie explosion led by Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon. The head of the karate school was doing pretty well, and went on a localk TV show in Rio and talked about how perfect Karate was, and that jiu-jitsu was okay but could not stand up to Karate. Of course the Gracies disagreed and agreed to settle the dispute in the challenge matches.

The rules were no biting or eye gouging. Other than that, anything went. No gloves, and no other limitations.

Here is what I found so interesting. The event was help on an uncovered CONCRETE floor! And guess who insisted that it take place there? The Gracies. That’s right. The Karate people wanted it to be on mats or in a boxing ring. It was the grapplers, who planned to take the fight to the ground, who wanted it on a “real world” surface.

And so what was the result? See for yourself:

Wait! How was that possible? The grapplers completely dominated and were not bothered at all by the hard surface. How could that be?

Because it is no big deal! Only someone who does not train for the groundfight and does not understand it would think it matters. Sure, we train on mats. When you are actually practicing for hours upon hours a week, it would be hard on the body to roll on concrete all the time. So in training, we prefer someone a little more forgiving. Just for longevity sakes, if nothing else. But when it comes to the real world, there is nothing at all that is the matter with fighting on a hard surface. Especially if you are a knowledgeable grappler, and can control the direction of the fight, a hard surface can actually be your ally (as in the above video). Notice in the video how every single one of the karate practitioners hit the floor extremely hard? Anyone want to think that that did not help the jiu-jitsu practitioners? Being able to take the fight to floor when they decided was a pretty good tactical decision, wasn’t it?

So the next time you hear the self-defense guru trot out the “no mats in the streets” cliche, you will understand how absolutely meaningless it is.

2 thoughts on “That Pajama Stuff Only Works on Mats”

  1. Cecil,

    I look forward to seeing the military research paper on grappling / hand to hand combat / military police data, etc.

    I don’t follow the Reality Based Self Defense RBSD stuff, not sure who or what that’s all about.

    What I do know is that Grappling , Wrestling, Boxing, Pankration was around since the beginning of time, way before the Greek civilization.

    It is the basis for Western hand to hand fighting, there are old manuscripts dating back to before the dawn of the invention of the printing press that documents European, Asian, Middle Eastern fighting systems.

    Europe has an abundance of fencing books, boxing, wrestling, Savate, Medieval fighting methods and into the Renaissance.

    What is new is old and what is old is new. Times change and as cultures, technology, & times change so do the fighting methods.

    Pistols, shotguns, rifles, all new refined weapons in the last 30 years , makes street self-defense, home defense, all a different landscape where new thinking is required.

    The idea that Grappling irregardless if it is Sambo, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Greco Roman, Freestyle , Folkloric, etc. is not important is completely over looking the multi-disciplinary benefits of:

    1. Health & Fitness / Wellness
    2. Developing Physical & Psychological Strengths (ability to focus & concentrate, physical strength, reflexes, flexibility, calmness under pressure, ability to flow against an adversary.

    3. The ability to use less deadly force when necessary instead of having to use to much.

    4. Weapon retention, ability to survive against an overwhelming surprise attack.

    Only thoughts, look forward to seeing the military research on hand to hand fighting.

    Curious how the research study was conducted. & what the empirical data collected represents.

    Great Job Cecil!

    I am also seeing the crime report data compiled by local municipal & County police & Sheriff departments across the country, absolutely fascinating to have real empirical data to quantify what is going on in society & what the implications are.

    How many attacks involve a knife, blade, club, edged weapon, firearm, multiple opponents, etc.

    Even if I only was a firearm guy, I would still need some type of combative stand up grappling & ground fighting, it’s a healthy way of life that burns calories and builds a sound body & mind, many health benefits even beyond the self defense dimensions.

    Stroke, heart attack, diabetes, cancer, are probably our greatest opponents for self-defense & self-preservation!

    Rigorous martial arts training that involves Grappling & Boxing, weapons training, the kind of exercise that really makes a person sweat and look & feel healthy, this is what a good life is made up of!

    That’s for sharing your knowledge Cecil!



  2. Yeah, I always shake my head when someone says something about grappling not working “on the concrete jungle” or something equally silly. I’ve grappled on concrete several times. A couple of times I had minor scrapes on my knees or elbows but otherwise I walked away in good shape.

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