In recent years, the martial arts world has seen a resurgence of dubious and often ineffective martial arts practices, popularly known as “bullshit martial arts.” This phenomenon has been somewhat ironically fueled by the rising popularity and undeniable effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

BJJ has become an anchor of legitimacy in the martial arts community, which some instructors exploit to lend credibility to otherwise questionable teachings.

The BJJ Anchor

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has repeatedly proven itself in both sport and self-defense scenarios. Its success in mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions, particularly in the early days of the UFC, showcased its practical applications and cemented its reputation.

The techniques taught in BJJ, such as ground control, submissions, and positional dominance, are grounded in reality and have been tested under pressure.

This success has created an aura of legitimacy around BJJ practitioners and instructors. Many people seeking practical self-defense or martial arts training naturally gravitate towards BJJ schools, knowing what they learn works in real-world situations.

Misusing BJJ Lineage

Unfortunately, some instructors are leveraging their BJJ credentials to promote and sell other martial arts that don’t hold up under scrutiny.

These “bullshit martial arts” often feature exaggerated claims, mystical techniques, and impractical methods that have little to no evidence supporting their efficacy.

Here are a few ways this misuse manifests:

  1. Exotic Product Appeal:
    • Instructors blend BJJ with exotic or obscure martial arts, presenting them as a complete and superior system. The exotic nature can attract students looking for something unique or mysterious, but the effectiveness of these added elements is often questionable.
  2. Lineage Leverage:
    • Instructors who highlight their BJJ lineage as a focal point create a false sense of security and legitimacy. Students may be less likely to question the practicality of other martial arts components taught alongside BJJ, assuming all teachings are equally effective.
  3. Unfounded Techniques:
    • Some martial arts incorporated into these hybrid systems involve flashy but impractical techniques. These can include ineffective strikes, overly complex joint locks, or esoteric movements with no real-world application.

Learn more about how martial arts and modern combat sports respond to evolutionary pressure.

The Illusion of Validity

It’s essential to recognize that while BJJ is effective, this doesn’t automatically validate other martial arts an instructor might promote. The resurgence of these bullshit martial arts relies heavily on the halo effect of BJJ’s proven techniques, creating an illusion of validity for otherwise dubious practices.

At best, there are small elements within these bullshit martial arts that might have some validity when linked to concepts found in modern MMA and BJJ. For instance, specific traditional martial arts techniques can sometimes be adapted or modified to fit within a realistic combat or sports context. However, these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Critical Thinking and Due Diligence

For students and martial arts enthusiasts, it’s crucial to approach training with a critical mind. Here are some tips to avoid falling into the trap of bullshit martial arts:

  1. Research and Question:
    • Investigate instructors’ backgrounds and claims. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about techniques’ practical applications.
  2. Test and Validate:
    • Practical martial arts can be tested in controlled environments. Techniques should be applicable in sparring sessions or self-defense scenarios. If something seems ineffective or overly complicated, it probably is.
  3. Focus on Proven Systems:
    • Prioritize martial arts with a track record of success in real-world applications. Systems like BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Wrestling have repeatedly demonstrated effectiveness.
  4. Beware of Mysticism:
    • Martial arts that rely heavily on mystical explanations, unverifiable techniques, or grandiose claims should be approached skeptically.


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While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu continues to stand as a pillar of practical martial arts, it’s essential to be wary of instructors using its credibility to promote less effective, and often outright bullshit, martial arts.

By maintaining a critical perspective and focusing on proven techniques, students can ensure they receive training that genuinely enhances their self-defense and combat skills.

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By John Valentine

Combatives Instructor

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