Is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Dangerous or Safe? A Balanced Examination

Last Updated December, 2023

An arm bar locked in
Image by Richard Presley - Flickr

Jiu-Jitsu is for the protection of the individual, the older man, the weak, the child, the lady, and the young woman from being dominated and hurt by some bum because they don’t have the physical attributes to defend themselves. Like I never had.

Have you been considering Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) as a new sport to engage in, but have concerns about the risk of injuries?

We're here to shed some light on this often misunderstood discipline and reassure you that the dangers associated with BJJ are significantly lower compared to other martial arts and sports.

Common Misconceptions

First things first, let's clear up a common myth: Some people think BJJ can be dangerous or violent. But trust me, it's not the full picture

Here's the deal: BJJ is all about control and technique, not brute strength. It's not about overpowering your opponent, but outsmarting them.

Think of it as a physical game of chess that takes place mostly on the ground. Grappling is the name of the game in BJJ, and being on the ground makes for a whole lot less risk of serious injury.

"But wait," I hear you say, "don't people who do BJJ get injured all the time?" Well, sure, like any sport, there's always some risk of getting hurt. But injuries aren't as common as you might think.

Look at the numbers: studies show that BJJ folks get injured less often than those playing more popular sports like football, basketball, and soccer. That's pretty surprising, right? But hey, the stats don't lie. We'll dive deeper into that later on!

A Peek Into the World of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a ground-based martial art that focuses on the principles of leverage, technique, and control.

Unlike many other martial arts, it encourages the idea that a smaller, weaker individual can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger opponent by taking the fight to the ground and employing joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat them.

While this concept might initially sound dangerous, it's crucial to remember that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training emphasizes safety above all else.

Practitioners are taught how to control their actions and protect themselves and their partners during training, reducing the risk of injuries.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Vs. Other Martial Arts and Sports

Comparatively speaking, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is safer than many other martial arts.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2014 found that BJJ practitioners had a lower injury rate (9.2 to 38.6 per 1,000 athlete exposures) compared to other martial arts like judo (25.3 to 130.6 per 1,000 athlete exposures) and taekwondo (20.5 to 139.5 per 1,000 athlete exposures).

This study clearly demonstrates that BJJ poses less risk of injury than other martial arts.

Even when compared to more mainstream sports, BJJ shines through as a safe option.

Consider sports like American football or ice hockey; another study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine stated that American football can see injury rates as high as 81 per 1,000 athlete exposures, and ice hockey up to 116 per 1,000 athlete exposures, making them significantly riskier than BJJ.

Comparative table - BJJ vs Other Martial Arts

Sport/Activity Injury Rate (per 1000 exposures) Most Common Injuries
BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) 9.2 Orthopaedic (especially elbow) Knee, Foot and Ankle
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) 236 (Nevada)
237 (Hawaii)




Judo 25.2 to 130.6 Upper extremities injuries (from grip fighting, being thrown, or attempting to throw)
Taekwondo 79.3 Lower limb Head & Neck Contusions, Sprains, Lacerations
Wrestling (Collegiate) 30.7 (Matches)
7.2 (Practice)
Not specified

Safety Practices in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's inherent safety largely stems from its emphasis on controlled movements, technique mastery, and respectful sparring practices.

Here are a few key aspects that keep it safe:

Tapping Out

The concept of "tapping out" is central to the culture of respect and safety in BJJ.

When a practitioner taps out, their partner is expected to immediately release any hold they have and stop applying pressure. This practice allows BJJ practitioners to train and spar at full intensity without causing serious harm to themselves or their training partners.

In essence, tapping out serves as an important safety valve, allowing participants to acknowledge their limits and train within them, fostering an environment that encourages learning and growth while minimizing the risk of injury.

This is universally respected among practitioners, immediately stopping the action.

Technique over Strength

BJJ doesn't rely on striking or powerful throws which can often lead to injuries.

Instead, it emphasizes technique and strategy, reducing the risk of harm by teaching the practitioner that brute force is not the answer.

Proper Instruction

A BJJ coach will always prioritize safety in training — teaching students how to fall correctly, how to apply techniques without hurting their training partners, and how to understand their physical limits.

Risks and Precautions

But let's be real for a second. Even though Jiu Jitsu is safer than many sports out there, it doesn't come without its risks.

One thing you might encounter is joint injuries—think shoulders, elbows, and knees.

These can happen if you're not using the right technique, overtraining or if things get a bit too intense while rolling (tap early!).

The good news is, these risks can be minimized. Training under an experienced instructor, someone that knows their Jiu Jitsu, can make all the difference.

They'll help you execute the techniques and make sure you're not putting yourself in harm's way.

Cauliflower ear is something that some athletes develop (and some not at all). But this kind of thing requires a lot of training and impact — it's not as easy to get as you might think

Another thing to watch out for is skin infections.

Stuff like ringworm and staph infections can creep up in combat sports since there's a lot of close contact.

But hey, there's no need to freak out!

You can reduce your risk just by keeping things clean. Simple things, like washing your hands, taking a shower after training, washing your gear after every training, can go a long way in keeping those nasty infections at bay.

Stay clean, stay safe!

Wrapping It Up: Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dangerous?

Like any physical activity, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does carry some level of risk, but when compared to other martial arts and sports, it's a much safer option.

As long as you train under the guidance of a your coach instructor and follow safety precautions, your journey into BJJ should be a fulfilling and safe experience.

Feeling reassured? Have you considered what a BJJ class is like?