What Sports Jiu-Jitsu Competitions Are Keeping It Real?

Sport jiu-jitsu has multiple different rule sets. Each set spawns its own strategy, where competitors seek the best path to victory under the rules of that particular competition.

The side effect of sports rule sets is that some of the strategies that are successful in bringing home a medal are getting away from the real fighting spirit of the original martial art. Most combat sports have to deal with this problem to some degree. The Olympic sport of judo has seen many significant rule changes over the years — e.g., defensive gripping and passivity, and prohibiting legs grabs — to try to protect the spirit of the art, the aesthetic, and to make the matches more viewer friendly. Sport Tae Kwon Do prohibits punches to the face and displays competitors “fighting” with their arms down at their sides. The list goes on and on.

Old school jiu-jitsu guys decry many of the rules of IBJJF matches as encouraging strategies and positions that would get you beaten up in a fight where strikes are allowed. Berimbolo and inverted guard may rack up points in a sports match and give an edge over your opponent, but are not realistic for a real fight.

What is a real fight? This could be debated endlessly by the self-defense with weapons and multiple atttackers camps, but for the purposes of this article I will define it as a one-on-one fight where strikes are allowed.

Removing the points doesn’t solve the problem of unrealistic strategies either. The submission-only format of EBI has competitors using a greater number of leg locks than IBJJF competition and has spawned fantastic new innovations in leg locking systems. Great for the art.

But like any other competition, intelligent competitors will exploit the rules to find the most expedient route to victory under those specific rules. Takedowns become meaningless in submission only competition. Even a casual fan of MMA understands the importance of the top position in a real fight. Simultaneous guard pulling and pummeling for inside leg position are prominent in many matches.

Two fighters sitting on their butts trying to heel hook each other is not the most convincing image to present to your friends who know nothing about jiu-jitsu. You try to convince them that jiu-jitsu is the best martial art for real fighting and then they see two guys in spandex playing footsies looking for an ashi garami? Not the most credible argument!

Jiu-jitsu aficionados can appeciate the effectiveness and technical side of these leg lock battles, but frankly, to most spectators it is a cure for insomnia.

Bravo continues to innovate and tinker with the rules to attempt to focus the strategy to submissions on the ground with the threat of a strikes to keep the ground positions more realistic to what can be used in a real fight.

The video is the first Combat Jiu-jitsu Worlds and in my opinion more exciting than the more established submission rules EBI. Some of the most popular sports BJJ positions were suddenly far less attractive when the slaps started raining down. And the audience would erupt when the sound of a slap echoed through the venue.

Interesting that leg locks which are the predominant submission in EBI are far rarer in CJJ. Seems the exposure to head strikes reduces the effectiveness of the leg lock game. Would heel hook assassin Eddie Cummings be able to carry his dominance over to CJJ? An interesting question for BJJ fans.

What do Jiu-Jitsu Times readers think of the CJJ? Exciting expression of jiu-jitsu or silly slap fighting?

What rule changes would you suggest?


  1. I’d like to see the old Rickson Budo Challenge ruleset adopted. -1pt for guard pulls and points for legit submission attempts. As well as pts for dominate positions. Maybe even lower time limits. Force a sprint to create action. If we are talking about JJ for entertainment.


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