The Rules Rundown Part 2 – The Other Guys
by Josh Sequeira
In this three part series entitled ‘The Rules Rundown’, we discuss the competition rules in use at BJJ and grappling tournaments today, and how the evolution of BJJ is leading to different perspectives on what rules enable good, positive jiu jitsu. Following last week’s edition about the IBJJF (available at http://grapplersplanet.com/the-ibjjfrules-rundown-part-1/), this week we will examine other points based BJJ and grappling tournaments and their rules.
The general consensus in the BJJ community is that the rules set established by the IBJJF are the most prestigious and internationally recognized. However, as grappling and BJJ have evolved, plenty of other promotions, organizations, and sanctioning bodies have pushed to bring fresh and creative ideas to the sport BJJ and grappling world.
The Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) is a highly regarded organization and competition for elite grapplers. The ADCC’s major event, their World Championships, takes place every two years with spots in the tournament’s various brackets going to previous medalists, winners of the continental trials held to draw from pools of competitors all over the world, and to high level competitors who the ADCC deems worthy of invites. Although the large majority of qualifiers and invites come from BJJ backgrounds, unlike the IBJJF, ADCC competition is not strictly limited to BJJ, but all grappling arts (wrestling, sambo, etc.). The ADCC also has a slightly different take on rules in grappling (see http://www.adcombat.com/adcc-rules-and-regulations for more info). For the first half of their matches (5 mins in qualifying rounds and 10 mins in the finals), points are disregarded, with the exception of negative points. These are given to fighters who do not engage, or who purposely pull guard, something commonly seen in IBJJF matches, sometimes with both fighters pulling guard at the same time and fighting on their rears. In addition to these rules, the points awarded for certain positions, such as the mount, differ from the points system the IBJJF utilizes. Unlike the IBJJF, because the ADCC welcomes fighters of all grappling backgrounds, competitors are not divided into belt divisions with different time limits. Instead, the ADCC has different time regulations for their National Championships, Continental Trials, and World Championships.
Federation Internationale des Luttes Associees, more commonly known as FILA rewards points for positions instead of progression (see http://www.fila-official.com/images/FILA/reglements/grappling/International_Grappling_Regulations.pdf for more info). Where the IBJJF would reward points to a competitor for passing the guard to side control, FILA rewards points for the position of side control. FILA also has a similar philosophy to ADCC in regards to the act of pulling guard. If a fighter pulls guard with a clear attempt at a submission (ie. armbar or triangle), they are not be penalized. However, if they pull guard with no clear intent of attempting a submission, their opponent is rewarded a single point. Grappler’s Quest and the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) also have rules which differ from the IBJJF and all these organizations seem to have success and draw plenty of competitors at all of their events.
Is the success of all these promotions just a result of a need for constant competition within the grappling and BJJ community, or possibly a result of the refreshing change they supply to the community in relation to the IBJJF? Also, does reducing guard pulling help grappling? Five Grappling, another major organization hosting its inaugural event at the end of June is planning to reward two points to the first competitor to come up and hold position for three seconds in the event of the dreaded double guard pull scenario. Five Grappling is also eliminating advantage scoring, used by many organizations to reward near submissions, near positional advances, and near takedowns. Ideally this will elimination of advantages, up the tempo, and push competitors to pursue definitive positional advantages and finishes.
Another very important question to ask amidst all this anti-guard pulling is the question of grip fighting and takedown battles. Is it any better to watch two competitors grip fighting, pummeling and battling for takedowns than it is to watch two competitors ‘butt-scooting’ and engaging in various guard play? If we make grappling, especially sport BJJ, focus too much on standup fighting, there is a strong chance that there will be difficulty differentiating this from Wrestling, or furthermore, Judo in the eyes of the general public. Finally, what about the discussion of points in general? Refereeing in points based tournaments is a very hot topic today, especially in regards to the discussion of missed calls, ghost calls, and downright bad refereeing in the IBJJF. The majority of the time however, if we take the conspiracy theories out of the discussion, we can assume that referees are only doing their best to officiate, contribute to the sport, and be impartial, awarding points, advantages, etc to the best of their ability.
The issue isn’t necessarily the referees, but the fact that judging what meets the requirements for being awarded points and advantages is incredibly subjective and difficult at times, and whenever there is a human element involved, there are bound to be errors in judgment here and there, just based on human nature. We might just be better off making the lives of referees easier, focusing on what truly matters, and eliminating points scoring all together…
In this article I pose a number of questions that hopefully spark your interest and get you thinking about the status quo. In next week’s edition of The Rules Rundown, we will discuss one of the hottest topics in grappling and sport BJJ today – The Submission Only debate. Be sure to check Grapplers Planet next Monday for the conclusion to the series!