Monday, April 16, 2012

A modest proposal to the IBJJF.

Over the past couple of weeks, like most BJJ folks, I have been looking at the competition footage from this years Pan Ams. The technical level has been great, but one thing stuck out to me, and I can't over look it any longer. I have seen only ONE match at the black belt level where the competitors actually attempted to take each other down. In every other contest one or both athletes attempted to pull guard. In some instances the fighters would jockey for position, basically arguing over who would take the top position. Sometimes the player who was in top position would actively flee the other player's guard in order to get a second chance to pull guard. I have a real problem with this. I understand that the guard is fundamental in differentiating our art from others, but BJJ is about being a fighter, and more often than not pulling guard is a bad idea in a fight. Similarly if the bottom position is such a wonderful thing, why award points for a sweep? Most of all, shouldn't a world champion have incentive to be able to execute against an opponent standing, and from inside the guard as well as off their back?
I humbly propose some rule changes to give the advantage to the more complete fighter:
  1. Matches will be divided up into three periods. (white belts: 2 minutes each, blue/purple: 3,2,2, brown/black: 3 minutes each)
  2. The start of the second period the referee will flip a coin and award the choice of position to the player indicated by the toss.
  3. The available choices are: neutral-both players start on the feet, defer-player defers choice to the start of the third period, bottom or top.
  4. The player in the bottom position will be on his back in the center of the mat with the opposing top player in his closed guard. The bottom player must have both hands behind his head before the match will restart. The top player will be on his knees, with his palms on the torso of the bottom player above the line of the belt, but below the point where the sleeves attach to the jacket. The heels of his hands must touch.
  5. Players moving before the referee's whistle starts the action will be given a caution for first offense, an advantage awarded for second offense, and a point for third offense and subsequent offenses. After 4 offenses the player may be disqualified at the referee's discretion.
  6. The start of the third period the positional choice goes to the player who did not choose the start of the second period.
  7. If a fighter sits to guard from the neutral position, his opponent will be awarded 1 point.
  8. Players may be awarded an advantage if the referee feels they are fleeing their opponents guard and making no attempt to pass.

There you have it. Fighters are rewarded for controlling a stand-up fight. Fighters are forced to be able to fight from the bottom AND the top. Players can still choose to sit to guard, but there is a penalty to do so. Similarly wrestlers/judokas would not be able to get the takedown, and then "ride out" the rest of the match without being able to answer the riddle of their opponent's guard. That said, I don't think these rules will ever take effect. They are too severe of a change. I know that a lot of top level players would complain, loudly.. which is too bad. I think that being a jiu-jitsu player means that you are competent on the feet, on your back, or passing. I work very hard at making sure my game is complete, and perhaps I'm being an idealist, but I want all three to continue to be relevant in sport BJJ. I fear that if things continue the way they are that stand-up and even top game will become more and more of an afterthought for sport players at least.


*I would hope that this needn't be said, but I in no way think that I am at the level of world class black belts, nor do I mean to imply that I am somehow more noble because competition has little effect on how my game has evolved. I am a solid, if unspectacular new brown belt, and an old guy at that. As a fan I want the most complete fighter to be rewarded. I want athletes to have an incentive to fight on the feet, and I want passing to evolve along with the guard game. More importantly I want BJJ as a sport to continue to value all three.

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