The most important rules to learn in BJJ competition

When signing up for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament, you need to consider many things. You not only have to fit the weight category and be in good shape to succeed but also master some sharp techniques. At the very least, you will have to be sharper than everyone else competing in the tournament.

Men sparring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Other than preparing yourself with the right BJJ techniques, you will also have to understand the rules of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If you don’t fully understand these, then you may get disqualified or penalized for the smallest illegal moves. What makes it even worse is the fact that the rules of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu haven’t been standardized internationally. This means that an illegal move somewhere may actually be legal somewhere else.

The good news, however, is that major associations tend to publish their rules of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so that competitors can read them before hitting the mats. If you are planning on competing in one of these events, then you will, most definitely, find these following Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rules useful:

1. No Slamming Your Opponent

If you are a huge fan of Alexander Karelin, then you would love to lift your opponent from the ground and then slam then back down like a meteor – right? Well, we don’t mean to disappoint but, according to the IBJJF Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rules, this is an illegal move. 

So, if you do find yourself stuck in a triangle or an armbar, you will have to get out without reminding people of the Ricardo Arona vs. ‘Rampage’ Jackson matchup. This also means no DDTs and spiking people on their heads. 

2. Guard Counts vs. Pulling Guards Count as Sweeps 

It goes without a doubt that passing your challenger’s guard can be problematic at times. If your opponent uses their guard when you’re trying to pull them into yours, then they will get 2 points – this is according to the IBJJF Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rules

Even if you manage to get a foot lock as you fall back and if they counter by getting on top, then your opponent will have gotten 2 points. This means that you should be the first person to get to guard or even better – be the first to mount your opponent. 

3. No Talking to the Referee 

There used to be a time when fighters were allowed to argue with referees during a match but now the IBJJF Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rule set penalizes unnecessary communications with the ref. This is why you should stop yourself from voicing your opinions to match referees and let your skills do all the sweet-talking. 

4. Don’t Stall Unless You’re On Top 

Once you think you have scored a considerable number of points, it might be quite tempting to ‘Floyd Mayweather’ around while the clock counts down. If, however, you are part of a tournament that abides by the IBJJF Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rules, then you will actually lose points for stalling. 

There are even instances where fighters’ penalties were accumulated towards a disqualification. You will only be allowed to cruise when you’ve managed to mount your opponent or are on your back. You should try to catch your breath when you’re on top of your opponent because there isn’t much more you can do anyway.

5. Time Limits to Tie Your Belt

If your belt falls off during your fight, you should just keep fighting. As per the IBJJF rules, you shouldn’t ask the referee what needs to be done. You shouldn’t even stop to put the belt back on. Even if your referee does ask you to put your belt on, you shouldn’t expect a breather. You will have 20 seconds to do so and any longer will mean a penalty. Keep in mind, defend yourself at all times, don't let a loose belt distract you, let the ref make the call to fix it or move it away.


6. Challengers Can’t Leave the Mat to Escape Submissions

Just a couple of years ago, Abraham Marte found himself caught by a triangle in the World Championships. Marte tried to break the submission move by picking up his opponent and walking off the mats. As a result, he was disqualified almost immediately. 

If, however, you stepped off the mats accidentally while trying to escape a submission hold, then that is a completely different story. When this happens, your opponent will have received 2 points and the match will restart in the initial position. 


7. Sweeps Only Involve Your Legs

If your opponent mounts you and you roll them off with a bridge during a fight, then you’re in the clear. Even though this is the case, you wouldn’t receive any points for your maneuver. In order to get points, you should be able to begin with a half guard or a full guard. If this isn’t the case, then turnovers will be counted as reversals and not sweeps. 

8. Countering Sweeps Doesn’t Count As a Throw

During tournaments, if you need to stand up to complete sweeps, your opponent may manage to throw your back down. As long as you fall with your guard up, you wouldn’t have conceded any points and it wouldn’t matter how dramatic the fall was. Points are only awarded for improvements in positioning and making opponents go back to a position isn’t worth anything.

9. Every Throw Won’t Be Legal

Some throws you may have seen work great in judo, MMA or wrestling may not be legal according to the rules of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which ever governing body you are competing uner. Some of these throws include the Kani Basami or the ‘flying scissor throw’ – as it is more commonly known.

If you think you need to learn some more, you can go ahead and visit our website to find out everything you need to know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, fitness diets, and so much more.

John Porter

John is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt and founder of Livermore Supply Co. When not training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, John enjoys learning languages, traveling to the warm parts of the world, and photography. Outside of Livermore Supply Co., John has a career in the technology field.

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