John Danaher: ‘Eddie Bravo’s format is the best proposal for advancing submission grappling’

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Renowned grappling coach, John Danaher, recently posted on Facebook to clarify his views about BJJ competition rules. Danaher argues that the Eddie Bravo approach offers the best compromise between balancing time restrictions and logistics with emphasizing submission skills. The ten-minute format with overtime, he says, gives combatants enough time to submit their opponent with prolonging the contests unnecessarily.

In addition, he mentions that different rule sets are advisable for different situations. For example, submission-only, no-time limit matches are best for big superfights, where submission expertise should be the main factor that determines the victor. Also, he says that the ADCC and IBJJF rules are effective at encouraging the use of strangleholds for submission, which is appropriate for large tournaments to ensure safety.

Danaher posted on Facebook: 

“Reflections on rules: There are currently several different rule sets used in competition. It is natural to ask which one best promotes the interests of our sport.
Yesterday’s epic win by Gordon Ryan over the great Keenan Cornelius was set in a no time limit submission only format.
This is unquestionably the most pure form of competition as it settles unequivocally the most fundamental question of any jiu jitsu competition- which of these two has the better ability to control the other in ways that lead to submission? However, it is simply unrealistic to use it as the basis of tournament structure due to logistical reasons (matches would go on far too long and make scheduling and televising impossible).
In addition, it is not a fan friendly format. Athletes have to slow the pace of the match down to avoid losing due to exhaustion which can lead to long slow paced matches that do not make for exciting viewing.
Putting a time limit on the match can help quicken the pace, but often leads to draws unless points are added to the rule set.
Once points are added, they become the focus of training, as they tend to be easier to attain than a clean submission. The result is a generation of grapplers who emphasize scoring points over submission skills and the sport being pushed away from its soul – the ability to control and submit an opponent.
In truth, all the current rule sets have their good and bad points and the best approach is to tailor each to the intention of the promotion using them.
Remember that we must not only look to advance the athletes in the sport, BUT ALSO THE FUTURE GROWTH OF THE SPORT ITSELF. This means finding the delicate balance between displaying the essence of the sport, whilst presenting it in a way that appeals to people outside of it in ways that draw them in and make them part of it.
The best proposal for advancing submission grappling , in my opinion, is that of Mr Eddie Bravo. His format offers a long enough time (10minutes) to get a real chance of submission in regulation time, along with an overtime period that forces the contestants to demonstrate submission skills ( rather than takedowns or positional skills) and motivates them to focus on submission during regulation, since they inevitably will have to deal with them in over time anyway. Of course it is possible to stall out until regulation time is over and then look to win via riding time in overtime period, but you will at least have to demonstrate submission defense in taking this route ; and, if someone uses such a strategy against you, you get at least three good submission shots at him before the bout is over. The fact that it forces a winner and loser to every bout appeals to the casual fan and overall spectator appeal.
While no rule set will appeal to all, this one is the best to grow the sport through viewership whilst remaining as true as possible to the soul of our art – the ability to control someone in ways that lead to submission.
Ultimately however, we need a range of rules sets to keep the sport healthy.
Our sport has many different facets and no one rule set can cover them all satisfactorily. I think the EBI rule set is best for growing the sport of submission grappling through televised events.
I think standard IBJJF and ADCC rules are very good for keeping the positional game of jiu jitsu strong and for keeping a strong emphasis on strangleholds as the preferred method of submission in the sport and work well for large scale tournaments where hundreds of people of all ages and skill levels are involved and safety is an issue.
No time limit submission only matches are good for isolated super fights when purity of submission skill is appropriate.
Between all of these rule sets the sport can be kept healthy. Looking for one standardized rule set will inevitably weaken the sport in some areas.
Obviously we don’t want a vast number of rule sets, but a small list of around five different rule structures can cover the main areas of the sport and ensure that all the skills of our sport are kept strong among the athletes who comprise it.”

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