The Most Misunderstood Rules In BJJ Competition

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Photo by: Kitt Canaria

Before stepping onto the mats of an IBJJF tournament, the competitor is obligated to clearly understand the rules of the competition. Yet often I find some misunderstandings about very basic things that we will talk about here.

For questions on the full rules please see: IBJJF Rules

Here are the most common beginner misunderstandings that I have observed.

1) You don’t get sweep points for escaping and reversing underneath mount or side mount. To be awarded sweep points the legs must be involved, as in a half guard or guard position.

2) You don’t get points for establishing or holding side mount. The three points come from the guard pass and control that confirms the successful pass. You do, however, score two points for establishing and controlling the knee on belly position.

3) You have to understand which leg locks are legal for your belt division. Don’t get disqualified for attempting an illegal leg lock because you didn’t know what is allowed. Straight foot locks without reaping are allowed in adult white belt divisions.

4) Make sure you know about illegal grips. If you grab inside the sleeves or pant legs, the referee with pause the match and tell you to release the grip. The proper (and safer) grip is a “pocket” grip with fingers on the outside of the kimono.

5) Neck cranks. It is permissible to grip your opponent’s neck for a collar tie or to break their posture but “can opener” neck cranks are disallowed in most competitions.

Advantages are a whole other topic and beyond the scope of what we are discussing in this article.

A IBJJF Referee’s Perspective

Brett Cooper is a BJJ black belt and the head official for the CBJJF. He has many years of experience refereeing BJJ tournaments.

The Jiu-Jitsu Times asked Brett a question about common misunderstandings about the rules and advice for competitors and referees.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Brett, what are the common misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the rules that you see from BJJ competitors? What is the most common situation where a competitor is upset about a referee’s call?

Brett Cooper: Most competitors are familiar with the basic scoring of BJJ, but a lot don’t understand all of the situations that lead to those points.  One of the most argued calls I see is around the differentiation between sweep points and takedown points.  A lot of athletes don’t realize that when a competitor stands up to finish a sweep, they cannot be scored takedown points unless there is a distinct break and disconnection in the finishing of that sweep.  This situation can last for a long time with the bottom athlete trying to finish the sweep while on their feet.  If the sweeping athlete is returned to the ground (even with a thunderous judo throw) there are no takedown points.  To a lot of coaches and other athletes, all they can see is two competitors on their feet and one gets thrown, so it looks like points.  This results in the uproar of coaches screaming, “Where’s the takedown points, ref?!?!”

The other situation that creates the most upset athletes is around illegal submissions or illegal behaviour.  Leg reaping, slamming, knee bars, neck cranks, etc…a lot of clubs incorporate these into their training so it is tough to not use them while in the high stress situation of a tournament.  A lot of competitors haven’t read the rules either, so it leads to a lot of confusion when you disqualify them.

Read also on Jiu-jitsu Times: Don’t Get Discouraged Trying New Techniques!

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