As I am writing this article I am thinking of the old school Jiu jitsu days and the reason it was created in the first place, but also how much it has grown thanks to sport BJJ. There are different opinions on this subject, and some might say that one is superior to the other, but in reality they are just different. They both serve their purpose, have similarities, and differences. One will benefit from learning both and almost always starts with traditional Jiu jitsu. The application of either will vary depending on your goals and what motivates you, also how far you are willing to push the limits.
When you hear traditional BJJ you cannot help to think of the art aspect in Jiu jitsu. That is one of the reasons everyone starts with traditional Jiu jitsu. It allows you to focus on the basics, and learn techniques that you can apply in a real life altercation because when you find yourself in a dark alley with two guys named Igor and Machete, trust me you will not be thinking about sport BJJ. Another benefit to traditional Jiu jitsu is that strikes are allowed. Striking is important because in order to use your Jiu jitsu sometimes you have to use striking so you can close the gap between you and your opponent. Whether you are on top or bottom striking teaches you to see a potential threat from a punch and neutralize it. Many submissions will have to be adjusted in order to be effective in a striking scenario, unlike sport BJJ where you are not worried about strikes. Your Jiu jitsu will be more direct and based on basics, so you are better able to survive in a dangerous situation. If you have ever watched old school Gracie gym fights where random tough guys would test their fighting skills against BJJ practitioners, you would quickly notice most of the fights end with a rear naked choke. There is nothing fancy about a rear naked choke, but learning how to take someones back in a real life scenario where there are no rules is what traditional Jiu jitsu is all about. Position before submission, and striking. That means you need to establish a solid position and control over your opponent before attempting any strikes. Old school traditional Jiu jitsu is very effective in that regard and gives you the advantage over another person. The person you face on the street most likely will not have any Jiu jitsu skills, but that might make them more dangerous. Traditional will prepare you for such a person because unlike two athletes that are trained in the sport of Jiu jitsu, and know what to expect from each other in a competitive setting, street fighters are unpredictable, and unorthodox.
The sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is gaining more popularity today, and it is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It allows athletes to make a living from competitions and sponsors, and just like any other sport, there are rules. This makes the sport of Jiu jitsu not applicable for self defense. In sport there are point systems, weight classes, belt levels (skill levels), and rules which all limit Jiu jitsu to a certain extent, and make it more unrealistic when it comes to how applicable it can be in a real life situation. When it comes to sport BJJ in an organized competitive setting rules are necessary, otherwise it will not be a sport or competition, it would just be a fight. There is nothing wrong with that, rules prevent people from getting hurt and not being able to compete and make a living. Not all Jiu jitsu competitors are full time athletes and rely solely on Jiu jitsu competitions to make a living. Most, still have to work a second job to support their lifestyle, so an injury might prevent them from working or earning money. Although, nothing can simulate a real life situation, competing in the sport of BJJ is the closest thing to it. You are forced to perform under pressure, and use your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills to defeat your opponent while they are trying to do the same. The most beneficial aspect of sport BJJ is the psychological factor. Competing will make you more confident, resilient, and also improve your Jiu jitsu game which will help with belt promotional purposes.
Not everyone will enjoy competing and some will be more natural at it than others. Competition is a great way to test not only your skills, but also your mental toughness. Jiu jitsu has many benefits and they go beyond the competitive arena. Training in BJJ for fun and enjoying the process of learning with a great group of other practitioners in your Jiu jitsu school is very rewarding. It will give you a sense of a tight knit community in which you will be able to build great relationships with people from various backgrounds. Whether you decide to compete or not you should never stop learning Jiu jitsu and growing as a person.