Master Leão Teixeira and the art of breaking up a fight with BJJ

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Leão Teixeira.

Grandmaster Carlos Gracie (1902–1994) used to teach, “The mouth is the first weapon of the BJJ practitioner,” and it is through words that a student must try to intervene to break a fight in a safe, effective way.

But even for an experienced fighter, it can be tricky to navigate the chaos of a street fight. With this in mind, we asked the experienced José Henrique Leão Teixeira, a self-defense specialist, which are the key points to help one act with little energy and precise movements.

He listed the fundamental aspects for someone faced with the prospect of breaking up a fight — say, a man attacking a woman, or two of their own friends looking like they’re about to lose control. Here’s Leão Teixeira’s advice:

  1. Clearly verbalize your intentions. Speak with authority and calmly, without forgetting to look the people involved in the eye.
  1. Maintain a safe position. BJJ gives you the ability to understand the correct distance, quickly. Analyzing the place is important too. Observe with a quick glance whether there is any danger in case you fall — any sharp objects or dangerous places nearby.
  1. Observe and understand the situation quickly. Sometimes you need to break up a fight and more people in the surroundings are involved. In this case, someone may attack you from behind.
  1. Be ready to act in case something goes wrong. Think fast and stay active.
  1. Your safety first. In an airplane emergency, for example, first you put on the mask to then help others put theirs on. In a street fight scenario, you must also be ready before you can help. Don’t go in haphazardly, which would increase the risk of you becoming one of the victims. You must have sharp peripheral vision and total attention to go in and break it up properly.

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