Cheating Is Not Always Wrong, Here’s Why

Very often, people view cheating/dishonesty in competition as immoral. While there are certainly boundaries of what is and is not acceptable, I’d argue that at least to some degree if you’re not cheating, you’re not really playing the game to its fullest and are not trying. Things that one may consider cheating are in fact very real and valid strategies.  Hear me out on this one, and maybe by the end of this post you’ll agree:

Strictly speaking, disengagement is against the rules, but most seasoned competitors will back away from an opponent if they feel threatened rather than remaining engaged. Their interest in protecting themselves from immediate attacks overrides their interest in staying true to the rules. We see it all the time.

Similarly, many people who know what they’re doing in competition will use the boundaries as a weapon. As soon as their opponent starts to get an edge, they step out of bounds, forcing a break in the action. It’s actually quite a brilliant way to cheat, but it is nonetheless technically cheating.  Here’s an amazing example of this in which Bruno Malfacine used this tactic to overcome the much larger Guybson Sa:

Strictly speaking, Bruno was cheating by using disengagement and “running out of bounds.”  But it was fair game in this match, and he shows his true skills as one of the greatest of all time. He played the game very intelligently.

Turning to a more tangible/definite form of cheating in many tournaments, neck cranks are illegal, but rear naked chokes are perfectly legal.  A common tactic to get an opponent to expose their throat is to neck crank just a tiny bit so that they are forced to move their chin. While a referee may not see the difference, both competitors certainly know.

Another common rule is that against reaping. If a competitor is in a leg entanglement and knows that their opponent cannot reap, one possible tactic to escape that entanglement is to turn in a manner to force a reap, thus forcing the opponent to change their positioning.  This is most certainly a kind of cheating.

I am absolutely not advocating being a dirty competitor. There are tactics with which I strongly disagree. For example: the notorious “Brazilian tap” in which a competitor hides their tap from the referee to get the opponent to release and then pretends they didn’t tap. I think that’s just ridiculous. But there are plenty of examples of ways that competitors bend or even break rules in order to gain an edge over their opponents.

For anyone out there who insists that they would never cheat here’s a scenario:

You make it to finals at Worlds and are caught in a tight guillotine. You’re about to black out. You go to strip your opponent’s grip, but you wind up grabbing a single digit. You know exactly what just happened, but your opponent releases and the match ends. Do you wave off your win and tell the referee you broke a rule to win the match, giving the opponent first place? Or do you accept the win knowing full well that the reason you won was that you broke the rules (read: cheated)?

So what do you think of cheating? Are there gray areas? Do you agree with my philosophy that if you’re not at least somewhat cheating, you’re not really trying?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here