What’s The Meaning Of Sandbagging In Jiu-Jitsu

Sandbagging is a term used to describe a form of deception practiced by those in a position to take advantage of pieces of missing information, and certain materials available that conceal the true nature of a thing –a term that is most likely derived from -and a term that originates from -the act of concealing a weapon (in this case, a lump of sand) within a bag, sack, sock, or piece of cloth. In this latter instance, the weapon is disguised as something else, in spite of the fact that it still functions as a dangerous weapon.

But how does this apply to BJJ? In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, like any other martial art, a fighter’s level is identifiable as a result of a strict color-coded belt system — the wearing of a white belt marks beginner, while the wearing of a black belt marks an expert. All other colors are lodged between black and white, and move upwards progressively. This system is also the basis used to determine which fighters are matched up with which fighters; a strict tradition which ensures that everybody has a fair shot of winning. Can you imagine watching a black belt face up against a white belt? This system is how everything is kept fair.

Of course, some BJJ schools just want to win, and in this case, they will sandbag the opposition by listing specific fighters under inappropriate categories. Thus, the fighter competes at a level which is not suited to his ability. Which automatically means he has a greater shot of winning; an act that is not just unfair, but also dangerous.

This term is applied to all sports and games, but is more acceptable in some games than in others. For instance, in poker, sandbagging shows its face as bluffing –that is, pretending you have a better hand than you really do. In this case, sandbagging is part of the game; it is expected. In all forms of martial arts, including BJJ, it is unacceptable, and as frowned upon as any other form of cheating — from gouging the eyes, to hitting below the waist in boxing.

It can also apply in other cases. It does not need to be in the form of a black-belt fighter fighting in say, the brown belt category or so on. If a black belt in Judo decides to start BJJ, and hasn’t had any training, technically he would be considered a white belt. But of course, it would be unfair, given his extensive experience in martial arts, to put him up against a complete beginner with no prior experience in any martial art whatsoever. This is another type of what is commonly referred to as sandbagging in BJJ.


  1. Sandbagging in poker is bluffing? I word possibly re-tweak this and say sandbagging in poker is a professional playing at an Amatuer table and stealing there money. Look up "donkeys" poker terminology. Good read though

  2. Agreed, I and almost every other practitioner I've ever met basically defines sandbagging as "misrepresenting your skill level to have an unfair advantage" , It happens in gi where belts should help define your skill level but in my experience it's been in gi-less where it's most prevalent because of the ambiguity of division names like "Novice" & "Intermediate", leading some guys to stay in lower skill divisions because they haven't medaled or are not taking into account their other experience (collegiate wrestling, Black Belt in Judo).

  3. My daughter competed in intermediate once… she’s been competing in the expert divisions for over a year and a half – I agree with Rocky above me, takes the whole “sandbagging” right out of it, especially for those under 16.

  4. Sandbagging really should have it’s name changed to douche bagging. I had a guy tell me that “it’s the not the time you have trained bjj that counts (6months, 6years etc) but the actual hours of mat time added up, so he was able to compete in the 6 months and under category because if you added up all the hours he spent on the mat hour by hour he was under 6months of total mat time. This guy has been actually going to BJJ classes on the regular for 4+years. The really funny part, he still lost to a legit beginner, karma was a ***** that day.


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