Competition Formats: The Round Robin

There are many different tournament formats out there that have their own unique strengths and drawbacks.  Over the weekend I participated in Grappling Industries’ tournament in Toronto Ontario, at this tournament the divisions were done as a Round Robin with more weight given for wins by submission than points and I found the format to be refreshing and fascinating.

My experience has been mostly with single elimination tournaments and occasional double elimination.  Tournaments are very pricey (this one for example was priced at $70+), so the reality that win, lose, or draw I’ll have a chance to have more than 2 matches is one that excites me.

round robin

In this tournament, in the bracket which I competed in, everyone had a match with everyone.  Because submissions were worth more, a person could lose to someone else on points but still go on to win the bracket if they subbed everyone else.  This allowed for a very interesting showcasing of style vs. style.  That is to say, very often we assume that just because X can beat Y and Y can beat Z that X can beat Z.  In BJJ this isn’t the case, and sometimes even though X beat Y very thoroughly, and Y beat Z equally thoroughly, X may have some tools in their toolbox that Z isn’t ready for.

The experience of witnessing this reality first hand can be a real eye opener.  Styles make matches, and for once we actually got to see different styles mixed up against each other, instead of a one and done deal.

The major downside to this was that the day was very long.  There were matches that took place that may not have been necessary to sort out brackets, but because of the format, they happened anyways.  Even so, everyone involved got more experience than they would have at a different tourney.

It comes down to the question of what you value in a tournament.  I personally like to win, but care less about winning than the experience of competing.  The experience of having another trained person not really care whether or not they harm me, and come at me with whatever they’ve got in order to try to win, and vice versa.  I can’t take my submissions as hard as possible in the gym; I’m not competing against my teammates.  At a competition, my main objective isn’t to learn and grow with the other people there, it is to win.  The round robin format gives more opportunities for victory, or at least to experience other people when they are aiming for victory, which is a valuable experience in and of itself.

Anyways that’s my take on a round robin format with weighted points for submission.  Have you experienced this sort of format either at a Grappling Industries tournament or another?  Would you be more or less inclined to compete with this sort of format that guarantees you more matches?

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. I really enjoyed this article. Emil you are very well spoken & articulate. I also totally agree with, appreciate & share your mentality & motivation behind competing & training and it’s very refreshing. So many people these days go to martial arts classes & competitions & try to fool themselves & everyone else by taking on only the easiest in competition while avoiding real challenges like the plague. They relish in & brag to each other about the tapping out of newbies whom they had no business live grappling to start with. I hope your attitude towards martial arts spreads around a little as all students would benefit by having more students like you or I in their class. Keep it up Emil. Ooos


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