Winning by Points vs. Winning by Submissions

Ideally I want to make every single opponent tap, preferably verbally and preferably in spectacular fashion.  I love hitting submissions from inferior positions (bottom mount, bottom side control, back mount etc…) and I love no time limit, all subs legal, submission only matches.

That said, outside of these rather specific parameters, most competition in jiu-jitsu is based on rather strict and restrictive rule sets.

Usually the objective of competitors in jiu-jitsu is to score points and, if a submission presents itself, to go ahead and go for it.  People that constantly hunt submissions often lose when time limits, points, and restrictions on submissions come into play, and often the arguably better jiujiteiro loses.

For this reason, most rule sets favor the more cautious, conservative practitioner.  This is not to say that submission artists can’t make a place for themselves, but if you take a look at the competition records of the top 10 or 20 active competitors, the majority of their wins come from points.  Is this good for the art?

One of the main driving principles of jiu-jitsu is efficiency, and both in competition as well as in an actual fight (MMA or street) the most efficient way to dispatch an opponent and end the situation without using strikes is by submission.  However, if an opponent is equal or better, the act of attaining the submission may be more wasteful than using one’s weight and positioning to pin them.

Worse yet, sometimes in the act of acquiring the submission, a practitioner will not only waste energy, but their opponent will be able to use the submission attempt to initiate an improvement of their own position.  Think about guard submissions: if your opponent is able to negate your attacks, they may then be able to pass your guard and get to side control. On the other hand, if you simply held the guard, they may be less likely to be able to accomplish this.

When competing, sometimes you have to make tough choices.  Do you want to win or do you want to feel like you’ve given it your all.  Winning by scoring points and then securing the position sucks for anyone who cares about the submission, but sometimes it is better than the alternative of exposing your weaknesses and then potentially losing.

Ultimately, it’s your decision.  What kind of jiu-jitsu practitioner do you want to be?  Would you rather lose trying to submit your opponent, or win on an advantage?  I personally am the latter, but if a win is really important to me (for example it’s the finals match of a big tournament, or there’s cash on the line) I’m playing conservative unless the other guy gives me a clear opening.


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