Should Grappling Competitions Adopt A Single Rule Set? Or Are There Benefits To Diversity Of Rules?

Within the sport of competitive grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu there are dozens of potential rule sets.  Some of these are accepted as commonplace like ADCC or IBJJF rules while others are more obscure (for example, competitions that have short submission-only rounds followed by ref’s decisions.)  Should our wonderful sport decide and agree upon a single rule set?  Or are there merits to having many?

There are two ways to look at the sport of grappling.  One way is to assess it as a cohesive singular entity, one for which there is a singular goal of popularity.  Popularity translates to more potential money for athletes.  It also means being featured in the Olympics.  However, popularity also can translate to politics, watering down, and ultimately devaluation.

The other way to look at the sport of grappling is as a large diverse entity.  Think of grappling as being akin to “cards”.  There is an a huge variety of rule sets by which people can play with playing cards.  Some of these rule sets are more popular than others.  You don’t see people making their livings off of “go fish” but black-jack and poker can be extremely lucrative.

Diversity of rule sets can lead to specialization.  These past few years, the jiu-jitsu community has seen a rise in invitational events, each event having its own unique flavor, gimmickry, and in some cases rule sets.  The EBI rule set has become the most popular, but Fight To Win Pro is rapidly catching up with their nearly weekly shows in front of sold out crowds.

Do we want a unified rule set?  Unified rules will bring about a higher level of professionalism.  The sport will be far more marketable because viewers will be able to understand what’s going on 100% of the time.  It may even increase the earning potential of athletes throughout the sport.

There may not be a simple, correct answer to this question.

Another potential pitfall within this sport is commercialization.  Organizations are set up to run competitions with the intention of making money, and a pretty important aspect of making money is differentiation and diversification.  By this I mean: if two organizations are putting on tournaments, and both offer well run events and decent prizes, a big X-factor will be the rule sets under which they operate.

What rule sets do you prefer?  Do you think that the sport of grappling should adopt a single, universal rule set?  Or do you think that having different tournaments cater to different preferences is good for the growth of jiu-jitsu?


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