Martial Artist vs Grappler: What Do You Prefer?

I’ve encountered this issue recently, regarding what someone not in the sport might call a person who does jiu jitsu. Both terms are used when talking about jiu jitsu students, but what do you prefer? It does make sense to call oneself a “martial artist”- jiu jitsu is considered a martial art, and so in that line of thinking it makes sense.

I always prefer the term “grappler” though, when talking about jiu jitsu. Probably because this is what I think of when I hear the term “martial artist”:


…If only I could be so cool.

But the term grappler I feel also emphasizes more the sport element of jiu jitsu, which technically isn’t wrong, but doesn’t paint the whole picture. Jiu jitsu did start as a self defense system, and that history should be acknowledged and respected.

I guess it depends on how you view jiu jitsu itself: do you think of it as a martial art and self defense system, or do you think of it as more of a sport?

Let me know what you think- otherwise, have a great day everyone!


Filed under bjj, jiu jitsu

2 responses to “Martial Artist vs Grappler: What Do You Prefer?

  1. Definitely grappler. ‘Martial artist’ has too many woo-woo connotations now for me to be comfortable with it as a term to describe myself.

    Also, I don’t view BJJ as particularly wonderful for self defence: for me, self defence is something separate to the physical techniques (at which BJJ is extremely good). E.g., self defence would include things like verbal de-escalation, understanding legal ramifications, awareness of your environment, establishing escape routes, dealing with chemical change (e.g., adrenalin, alcohol etc) and the like. I have never seen a Brazilian/Gracie jiu jitsu class that taught any of that, though I’ve obviously not seen every jiu jitsu class. 🙂

  2. The term Martial Artist brings to mind hordes of twelve year old karate black belts yelling “Kiai!” while chopping at the air and the overweight, middle aged fraudster with a mullet taking advantage of those kids’ parents.

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