Self-defense for Runners and Cyclists

Almost nine months ago, I joined a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy and have been training 1–2 days per week since. In some very simple ways, BJJ has changed my life. It’s great exercise, it’s a great community of like-minded people, it’s humbling, and I feel much more comfortable in potentially-dangerous situations.

There are many things in my daily life which I can’t control, like traffic and the weather. Although you can’t fully control a dangerous situation, whether it’s someone with a firearm or you’re threatened by multiple attackers, BJJ will give you more control both physically and mentally.

After one year of training, I am certain this will be a lifelong passion of mine. If you’re an avid outdoor runner, cyclist, or walker, I believe some type of martial art is essential. Every summer in Indianapolis, I hear about a runner or walker being attacked on a popular trail. Just last month, I saw a road rage incident between a cyclist and car. I’m not a paranoid person but I am aware.

I work with too many outdoor endurance athletes to not recommend this. You’re running and riding all hours of the day through unfamiliar areas.
Not only will BJJ improve your personal safety, but it will lead to improved athletic performance.

Locating a reputable BJJ school can be difficult, much like the fitness industry. Unfortunately, people “misrepresent” their qualifications — again, much like the fitness industry. Below is a detailed list of things to ask and consider via Jiu-Jitsu Times:

“Teaching style of the instructor

  1. Does he/she explain technique well? How many times does he demonstrate the move?
  2. Can you understand what the instructor is communicating?
  3. How well does he teach beginners?
  4. Does he/she walk around and coach during drilling or does he/she just silently sit against the wall?
  5. How well does he/she answer students’ questions?
  6. Is this a person you think you can get along with on a daily basis?
  7. What is the coach’s demeanor? Friendly? Drill Sargent?
  8. How does the coach act when the student can’t complete or doesn’t understand a move during class?
  9. Is the instructor patient with his students?
  10. Does the instructor favor the better athletes in the class while not spending enough time with students who are struggling?
  11. How many instructors are the at the school and who will be teaching the beginner classes and the classes that fit your schedule?


  1. Are the students paying attention to the instructor?
  2. Are the students respectful to each other?
  3. Do the students look happy to be there?
  4. What is the quality of the follow-up questions from the students?
  5. Can you be friends with these students?
  6. How do the experienced students treat white belts while rolling?
  7. How aggressive are the students when they are rolling?
  8. What is the ratio of colored belts to white belts in the class?


  1. Is there enough space for all of the students?
  2. Are the mats clean?
  3. Does the school look clean and organized?
  4. Does the school location have enough parking?
  5. Is it close to your job or home?
  6. Is the neighborhood safe?

After the class is over, feel free to introduce yourself as a prospective student to the instructor or speak to the front desk person with these questions.

  1. How do promotions work? Is there a fee for getting promoted?
  2. Do you have to buy the school uniform and are there any restrictions on uniforms?
  3. Is there a curriculum at the school? If yes, How is it structured?
  4. What is the instructor’s linage?
  5. What are the monthly fees and what are the contract lengths? How many classes can you attend per week?
  6. Are there beginner classes?
  7. Are there additional classes such as Cross Fit, Kettle Bells, Muay Thai, MMA, or Cardio Kick Boxing? If yes, are there additional costs to attending?
  8. What is the class schedule?

If the head instructor, front desk person, or sales reps ask you to sign anything or gives you a hard sell, tell them that you are just looking. Since you didn’t work out, you won’t be in a beat up and tired state like I was. If you thought the place might be a good fit, tell them you will need to check your schedule to schedule an actual free workout. Also, you did not sign a waiver of give them any contact info in most cases so you can just walk away without expecting to be badgered with numerous follow-up calls.

It is also important to ask yourself:

  1. How is the location relative to my work and home and can I realistically make the classes on a regular basis?
  2. What does my gut instinct tell me about each school?
  3. Do I go with a name brand that might not have been impressive as a small independent school?”