Notes From A Submission-Only Competition

Photo by: Kitt Canaria

I watched an interclub competition in my city between three of the biggest BJJ clubs. The competition was submission-only rules, 8-minute matches, and in the gi. The legal submissions were as in IBJJF. In other words, no heel hooks or toe holds.

There were a handful of white belt matches, but most of the matches were blue belt match-ups. There were a few purple belt matches. They were all in a single-fight format.

With no points to consider, the competitors theoretically didn’t need to play as conservatively, which gave viewers a chance to see more submission attempts. The most significant difference was that takedowns were taken out of the equation. Many of the matches had at least one competitor who wanted to pull guard as quickly as possible.

I am always interested in how different the matches are in a competition setting than between training partners in the academy. Everything is much tighter. No one wants to risk losing a hard won position.

The basic techniques were king. I have no doubt that many of the colored belts posessed an arsenal of flashy sweeps and submissions, but they were nowhere to be found in the matches.

Closed guard to triangle and attempts at cross collar chokes were by far the most common attacks from the bottom. I saw one blue belt attempt the berimbolo, but it was promptly countered.

There was a 30 percent submission rate with the remaining matches going to the judges’ decision. If memory serves me, this is slightly higher than the finish rate in most IBJJF points based scoring competitions.

The top game accounted for all of the submissions. There were many submission attempts from the bottom, but it wasn’t until competitors swept to top or passed that submissions were successful.

The kimura and sliding collar choke from the back were the most successful submissions.

Due to the rule set, few leg locks were attempted and zero submissions were close. I’m sure that if the rules allowed reaping and heel hooks, this would have been very different!

Physical conditioning was a significant factor. Many matches would be even until the 50% time mark, when fatigue would slow one of the competitors noticeably.

Grips! The intensity of trying to hold collar and sleeve grips is a huge difference under the competition lights. I think many of the competitors’ fingers were burning with lactic acid after a few minutes of their matches. I am sure that many resolved to do some grip strengthening following the event.

The strength of the submission-only format seems to be that it more closely reflects the spirit of the rolls that we enjoy in our academy. A focus on gaining dominant position leading to submission as opposed to the frequently boring playing points and advantage strategy that we see in many points-based competitions.

Which do you prefer? Submission only or points based rule sets?


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