Why The IBJJF Frustrates Me (And What We Can Do About It)

1.          Unfair Rule System – I am not saying I disagree with specific rules that the IBJJF employs, that’s the next point. For this on...

1.        Unfair Rule System – I am not saying I disagree with specific rules that the IBJJF employs, that’s the next point. For this one, I am just stating that they do not evenly enforce the rules they do use. I could show you video of numerous examples where an athlete wasn’t awarded any points for things such as passes to full mount or where other athletes were clearly violating the rules (knee reaping being an obvious one) and nothing happened. This isn’t even taking into account the unfair application of things like advantages, takedowns, or running out of bounds to avoid a takedown. It’s so inconsistent that it almost makes me wonder if that’s intentional for some reason.

What’s to be done though? Eliminate ref’s decisions and advantages. Try to eliminate the refs as much as possible from 'deciding' who wins. Create a system where an athlete can file a grievance against the IBJJF, and if validated, some sort of action should be taken. Problematically, we could never go back and fix the match and it isn’t the other athletes fault. But flying across the world and paying 130 dollars to compete and hotel expenses etc etc just to have your chance at fair competition taken by a poor ref… I feel they should be liable for that. If they were the ones with monetary incentive to enforce good reffing, it would happen. As it is, bad refs only effect our lives.

2.      Arbitrary Rule System – I used to think that BJJ was a martial art that was supposed to be useful in actual application in a fight. The IBJJF is trying to convince me otherwise, however. Points are supposed to signify your progression into positions where things such as striking come into play, and/or the opponent has less tools (to include submissions and strikes) to use against you. So how is it that a guard pull is better than being taken down? It encourages you to just give up top position in an effort to save points, at the cost of position - which is why takedowns are given points. How is it that someone can jump guard and be on bottom for 9 minutes, sweep their opponent and be on top in the guard for 30 seconds, and win by 2 points? In most any real life situation, spending that much more time on bottom would not be considered advantageous. But strangely, its encouraging people to do exactly that. Spend any time at a high level IBJJF tournament, and you will see a lot of matches won by an advantage from a ‘near sweep’, but the guy was on bottom for 10 minutes straight. So if being on bottom isn’t bad, then why give points to the change of position that puts you on bottom… or EVEN WORSE, give an advantage for something that almost could have put you on bottom?

But what can we do? Well, I would point out that Fight to Win tournaments do not use advantages in their bracketed formats, and that the EBI has probably some of the most definitive overtime rules of a submission only format. The ADCC rules differ substantially point wise from the IBJJF and score takedowns differently (as well as sweeps) depending on if you end in the guard of not. You also lose a point for jumping guard. That’s important, because in the finals points don’t start until halfway through the round, but negative points start immediately. All of these are good and I think the Fight to Win Pro has an amazing idea. Use your local tournaments to build up your best crop of grapplers, then have them face each other on a submission only single match for money. Have your best competitors get to showcase their skills in multi settings for you, and help give back to them for the work they do training to get to that point. The fact the rule set differs between the two Fight to Win tournament settings forces their top athletes to train to win and not just game the ‘system’.

3.      Cost – I am going to make this one short because everyone hates spending money but every business likes making it. HOWEVER, tournaments like the NABJJF system allow their black belts to compete for free if they are members of the organization. The Fight to Win goes even further and PAYS their athletes who bring them viewers and fans. Weird concept. In an effort to be fair, you could do the IBJJF Pro, but three things kind of bother me about it. Why would your world championships not pay money, but a random pro tournament does? Why have different weight classes, if not to just reduce the amount you pay out? And if you are going to have athletes qualify, then why charge them to enter? I have that same gripe about black belt worlds, actually. If I have to have a certain number of points or be a returning world champion, why are you taking more of my money? Do the thousands of white through brown belts not generate enough revenue? Or what about the other tournaments in the IBJJF I had to pay for to qualify for this one? Why is the female division only an open class and only for 1500 dollars? If you were the 1st place black belt male in this pro tournament the IBJJF has, you’d make 4,00. Which is hardly being a pro in most sports and would probably barely cover your cost to compete in the tournaments to qualify for and to compete in this tournament, with travel and registration costs. Especially if you tried to fly to and do the Sao Paulo Pro. I guess you could do the New York Pro and the Atlanta pro this year, travel all over the USA, pay 250+ dollars in registration fees and IBJJF memberships, on top of your travel and food for a chance to make 8k. Or you could try to be a world champion and make nothing…

But, now what? Well, I guess spend your time (and money) where it’s most appropriate.  I know that I personally am much more supportive (and by extension my team is) with the F2W pro and local tournaments, as well as the NABJJF, because I feel they are doing more to grow the sport. It’s getting to the point now where high level competitors can find other high level competitors at a variety of tournaments, and some tournaments like the ADCC are probably even more prestigious than the IBJJF in some circles. If we stop supporting these actions by the IBJJF and hold them accountable for being an impartial governing body which is trying to promote the sport, then it’s possible that we all win. As long as people are lining up to be treated poorly the IBJJF will continue its practices.

4.      I wasn’t going to include this, but this is a bit of a sub note that I think is very important. Why would the IBJJF close registration to a tournament 10 days early, as in the case of the New York Open. When world level black belts are being turned away from competition, or divisions have 2 people in them (Adult Male Purple Rooster I am looking at you), how is that full capacity? I’m sure for those divisions with a few competitors it would have been nice to get more out of your buy in. 

I guess also, in the end, its up to you to decide how you want to train, how and where to compete (if at all), and what you value. As long as you are staying true to what you feel is right and whats fun for you as well as what gives you the results you train for, then use that to make you decisions. I'm sure some of you disagree with my points and I would love to hear all about it in the comments.

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  1. Agree with the guard pull comments, but I pulled guard on a couple occasions at Pans and used the very same technique to score. The rule set also encourages stalling. If people put you in a position such as 69 position or side control they often will not attempt to advance, which creates openings needed to improve position or score for the person on bottom. I have been laid upon a number of times.

    1. I don't think it would be fair to get upset with people who are winning within the rule set. It is, as of now, a better idea to jump guard then sweep then to go for takedowns. Much safer and likely to lead to a victory in Gi IBJJF rules. However I am concerned on what that promotes as a future for the 'martial art'. We have to consider that, sadly, rules do shape training. Especially at the highest level. This year at Pans I coached next to someone, whom I shall not name but is a very respected BJJ competitor and school owner, who encouraged his athlete to stall for the last 2 minutes of the white belt match. That's a third of the match. But, it got them the victory.



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