Like many of you BJJ addicts reading this article, I try to watch the top level grappling competitions. I Love to see the Buchecha’s and the Lo’s and the Gordon Ryan’s pitting their skills and physical condition against world class competition. Sometimes, the fans are treated to epic battles. Sometimes…errr..the matches are not quite so action packed.
Stalling. Playing a strategy to eke out a win by the narrowest of margins when the stakes are high. Being overly defensive to not expose an opportunity. Playing it safe to run out the clock.
A second and less obvious part of sport grappling competitions is how the points system (or lack thereof) will have the consequence of eliminating one of the 4 steps of the system of jiu-jitsu (as outlined by Prof. John Danaher in video below) and separating the sport from the original combat roots of jiu-jitsu. An example would be a double guard pull, which doesn’t have any practical use in the area of real fighting, but is a common strategy under some rule sets.
The minds of jiu-jitsu have experimented with and tweaked rules coming up with different rule sets with varying degrees of success. Most fans want to see the same thing : exciting, action packed matches that end definitively in submission. However carefully the organizer tries to eliminate the problems of stalling, or competitors playing the edges of the rules, serious competitors will devise intelligent ways to exploit and win under those rules. You can hardly blame them. But it is not always the most exciting exhibition of what BJJ fans want to see.
Perhaps the most well known 3 rule sets at this point are:
Pros: Reward positional dominance. Some points for take downs gives increased importance to standup.
Cons: Prohibition of many leg attacks, stalling and playing tactics to win by sweep or passing advantage. Less emphasis on submission.
Pros: Points free at the start encourages submission, negative points for guard pulling encourages takedowns, leg attacks allowed.
Cons: Frequent boring standup wrestling stalemates. Wrestlers stalling and hoping to win by takedown points.
C) EBI /Submission only
Pros: The full menu of submissions allowed (especially heel hooks!). Unique tie breaking system. Financial incentive to go for the submission.
Cons: No importance of takedowns. Frequent situation of 2 competitors sitting on their butts “playing footsies” and trying to heel hook each other. Stalling to try to win in escape time in the overtime.
So how do the organizers change the rules to eliminate the stalling tactics that result in boring matches? At first, it seems like NO rules/submission only might be the obvious solution, but sub only matches with no time limit or judges can go on literally for hours. It seems that some rules ARE required to force the action and provide a mechanism for a winner to be decided.
Some fans suggest penalties for passivity like in wrestling and judo, but these are often subjective and not applied in a uniform manner.
Is there a perfect rule set for sport submission grappling waiting for an innovative promoter to try?
What rule changes would you like to see for sport jiu-jitsu competitions?