In Jiu-Jitsu Competition The Rules Define The Game

Jiu-Jitsu Math

I compete more than the average jiu-jitsu practitioner.  Many of the competitions that I do are small, local events, featuring rules compiled by the gyms that put them on.  Through doing these events I learn a lot about myself and about the average jiujiteiro/grappler.  I’ve also learned a lot about competing.

Rules define the game, and can sometimes favor people with strengths in specific areas.  For example: if your cardio and defense is on point, sub only may be the best game for you.  If you are a strong wrestler or judoka, rules that favor the standing grappler will give you a natural advantage.

I’ve seen rule sets that penalize the guard pull, and I’ve seen rules that force the standing grappler to engage the puller.  If slams are allowed, guard players will be at a natural disadvantage.  Similarly, in MMA, guard players are at a natural disadvantage, and most MMA grapplers would greatly prefer to be on top (though if their opponent is a better striker than grappler, they probably prefer to be on the ground regardless of position, think Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem.)

If you know the rules of the tournament before entering it, and those rules are enforced across the board, you must never blame an opponent for taking advantage of those rules to beat you.  It may annoy you, it may not be what you would personally do, but if a specific strategy leads to an opponent’s hand being raised, that strategy was successful and yours was not.

Rule sets expose weaknesses.  If you don’t like a specific rule set, there’s a good chance that is because it doesn’t favor your strengths.

My coach always uses card games as an analogy for grappling competition.  If you are used to the rules of poker and decide to enter a blackjack game, and lose, it’s not the dealer’s fault.  You can’t get mad at the dealer or the other players, if you are not successful.

That said, a win by bluffing in poker is still a win.  At the end of the day, the winner gets the prize, regardless of how he or she won.

I would personally prefer to win all my matches by submission, but if a rule set favors the submission artist – for example NAGA rules where submission attempts result in points – I’ll throw up as many submission attempts as possible to rack up points, even ones that are not done in earnest.  Does that make me a bad grappler?  No! It makes me a good player of NAGA rules.

The rules define the game.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here