When Sports Strategies Diverge From A Fight

There is a debate in the BJJ world between the “old school” jiu-jitsu practitioners who started training BJJ for the purpose of being able to win real fights, and the modern sports competitors.

The imagination of the entire martial arts world was captured when 176-pound Royce Gracie submitted all opponents when he won his earliest UFC matches. The reason that so many took notice was because it was real evidence that someone could defeat larger opponents in a real fight (let’s not debate here that MMA is not a “real fight”).

Since those early days, the various sports grappling competitions have evolved and the strategies and techniques have evolved right along with the various rule sets. It follows quite naturally that competitors will devise the best strategies within any specific rule set to win. The goal is the gold medal and prize money for the winners, and whichever strategy is most successful will emerge.

The problem for many is when the sports competitors start to employ strategies that would obviously be dangerous in a real fight. Some traditional martial arts – Tae Kwon Do and Judo, for instance – have been heavily criticized for departing from their original spirit, which was about winning a real fight. We see some examples in modern sports grappling.

In the exciting submission-only tournament, EBI 9, we saw a strategy in a match that would cause Carlson Gracie Sr. (undefeated in Brazilian vale tudo for 23 years) to go white in the face. Competitor Jacen Flynn elected to not waste his energy stand-up wrestling against opponent. Several times during the match he simply laid down in a prone position and invited his opponent to take the top position. Flynn is a highly-skilled grappler and extremely difficult to submit, but clearly this strategy would not be advisable in a any real fight or MMA bout!



The question becomes: At what point are the sports rules dictating strategies that are departing too far from the original martial art’s spirit and teaching bad habits that would get you pulverized in a real fight?

Interestingly, Eddie Bravo is planning to introduce slaps to “keep things real” and discourage situations like the one above.

Take the two video examples below. These strategies have been successfully employed by sports competitors, but would obviously have no place in a fight where punching was a factor.

Question: If you were trying to convince your non-training friends to try BJJ because “it works in a real fight” how would you explain these two videos from tournament matches?

Donkey Guard DQ

Double Guard Pull

At what point are sports strategies diverging too much from the reality aspect of a fight? Should BJJ guys even worry about this and just practice how they enjoy?

Read also on Jiu-Jitsu Times: “I’m Not Getting Any Better!”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here