Different Rules, Different Strategies

IBJJF Manila

If you don’t follow John Danaher on Facebook, you are missing out on daily pearls of wisdom from one of the greatest minds in jiu-jitsu (this should come as no surprise considering he holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Columbia). Several of his BJJ fighters – Garry Tonon, Gordon Ryan, and Eddie Cummings – have dominated many submission-only events, and the team is known as the “Danaher Death Squad”.

You can check out Professor Danaher’s Facebook page here.

In commenting on the leg lock heavy strategy of many of his death squad fighters, Danaher made the observation:

My own belief is that jiu-jitsu needs around five different rule sets to make sure all the skills of the sport are kept strong and growing in healthy directions.

What does Danaher mean by this comment?

If we understand that the strategy (and consequently the training methods and focus) employed by competitors in any competition will be largely dictated by the rules, we can see how there is no perfect set of rules to encourage all of the aspects of a complete jiu-jitsu fighter.

When Danaher says “all the skills of the sport are kept strong” he is implying that a complete jiu-jitsu skill set involves all the aspects of grappling: takedowns; then positional dominance, control; and finally progression submissions on all parts of the body.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the major categories of competition rule sets and how the skills of BJJ are favored and conversely, ignored.

IBJJF Rules / Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Due to the points system, IBJJF rule sets place more emphasis on sweeping from the guard, passing the guard, and positional dominance (4 points for mount and back mount with hooks).  Less emphasis is placed on takedowns because there is no penalty for guard jumping. There is also little emphasis on leg locks because many leg locks are prohibited by belt level and, in the case of heel hooks, banned completely.

ADCC Rules

Due to there being a penalty for jumping guard, there is a greater emphasis on standing takedowns. After the points, free time has elapsed.  There is also a greater emphasis on leg locks than IBJJF competition. The point system encourages sweeps and positional dominance.

Submission-Only Rules

In submission-only rule sets, there is practically no emphasis on takedowns as there are no points and leg locks can effectively be attacked from the bottom position.

There are no strikes to consider, so fighting from dominant positions is nowhere near as important. However, this can lead to a bad habit of ignoring positional dominance, which is important as soon as strikes are introduced into the equation.

Leg locks are all allowed and may be the easiest way to achieve a submission as opposed to taking your opponent down, passing his guard, then attempting an upper body submission.

Matches tend to have a slower pace due to longer time limit.

4) Jiu-Jitsu For MMA

In jiu-jitsu for MMA, there is a strong emphasis on fighting from the top to avoid strikes, so takedowns and wrestling may be considered the most important factor. There is a more limited subset of total submissions that have proven to be effective because strikes are part of the equation. This also makes jiu-jitsu for MMA very different from submission-only rule sets, as striking severely limits the effectiveness of leg locks.

Shorter rounds give jiu-jitsu for MMA a faster pace.

I would love to hear a more elaborate explanation by Coach Danaher as to his ideas on the four different rule sets.

Is your training most strongly influenced by one of the those rule sets? If so, which ones?

Read also on Jiu-Jitsu Times: Learn To Defend Illegal Techniques!


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