Getting to Know The Rules – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & The IBJJF

Tournament season is upon us once more and I figured this was as good a time as any to review the rules for competition under the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federations (IBJJF) platform.  I chose the IBJJF rule set simply because it is considered standard in the sport and we are starting to see more and more tournaments at the national, regional, and local levels adopting the rule set without modification.  So chances are you will run across this rule set in competition.

imageIt is critical to have a thorough understanding of the rules and what is allowed at certain levels.  In a tournament setting assuming actually only makes an ass out of you!  And nothing screams douche waffle louder then someone arguing a call with a ref when that someone is simply wrong because he/she did not understand a rule or how points are distributed.  Not to mention the element of surprise when your opponent does not know the rules inside and out; I won the 09 No Gi Worlds with a wrist lock and my opponent screaming emphatically it was illegal.  The ref did not even know and had to check!  But I knew and waited patiently for the right call.  Quite simply you can push the limits more with a solid understanding of rules.

I am going to highlight some of the major rules, as you can click here and check out the complete IBJJF rule set for competition.  I plan on attending some referee courses in the near future as well.  Again to understand the rules and flow of competition better, but also for the possibility of working tournaments in the future to help offset the cost of competition!

The Ref:

Position and function of the Referee Central: The referee central is to remain in the area of combat. Directing the combat determines the results, certifyng the correct decisions in registering placement.The referee central to give the first ahlete on the mat a green and yellow belt for identification and keep him on the right side, in case the athletes’ kimonos are the same colors. The other athlete must remain on the left side, and after the compliments, the referee will start the fight by saying “COMBATE“! The throwing techniques of the competitors, by order of the central referee, will be noted on the scoreboard or on the official score papers by the scorekeeper with only the corresponding points. In case of a draw in points and advantages the scorekeeper will raise the two flags together simultaneously. Then, the central referee will análize who was the fighter with the better preformance-in accordance with the rules which award the victory to the fighter determined to be most agressive in pursuing the victory durring the fight. There will be no draws in any case. The central referee will decide who is the winner and his decision is absolute. The central referee will oversee that everything is correct; for example: the ring, equipment, Gis, hygiene, officials, etc. before starting the fight.The referee must certify that neither the public, photographers or anyone else is in any posiction that could interfere with, risk or harm the competitors.


The score bord have this points4 points – mount, back grab3 points – passing the guard2 points – take downs, sweeps and knee on the belly-1, -2…  – penalties1, 2, 3… – advantages


back grab

Passing    the guard Take downs
____________Knee on the belly



The referee looks first for the points after for the advantages and last thing to do is lock for the penalties. This is the order that you can use for interpreting the scoreboard, if after this cases the fight continus a drow the referee will judge how is the winner.
Being a ref is tough!  It is not a job I envy but it is necessary.  Bad calls happen and as a competitor you need to be prepared for them.  Losing your cool and acting like an ape makes you look foolish and is not sportsmen like at all.  Quite simply if you wish to remain in control never relinquish that control to anyone else including the refs.  Finish your opponent with a submission and their is no question, no debate.  Submission is truth!
 4-) POINTS:
The competition through its nature makes the athletes use their technical abilities attempting to finish or neutralize their opponents. The point is the superior technique displayed durring the match by putting the positions and negative points on the adversary.
 The athlete cannot have score new points when he is in a position where he recieved points previously, changes position intentionally and returns to the same position.
Example: For knee on the belly and switching sides, there will be no new
points awarded.
The fight can be an ascending condition for technique, looking to dominate the adversary, working to finish the opponent.
No points will be marked for the athlete who is attaining a position while in a submission. Points will only be awarded after the submission is
completely defended.
Example: When one athlete is mounted on his opponent but is in a guitine the points of the mount will be awarded only when the submission is defended.
The order of the referee
The positions sought technically and which are presented with importance in terms of strategy of the fighter and the finishing technique. If there is no finish the positions established will be translated into points to determine the winner.
Positioning: (Ordered by the referee)Positions are achieved through proper technique,. If there is no submission at the end of a match, the athlete gains victory by scoring more position points than his opponent.

A-) TAKE DOWNS: Any kind of knocking down the opponent or being taken down on his back side, 2 points. If the athlete is thrown to the ground and does not land on his back, the thrower must pin him to the ground in the same position for at least 3 seconds to gain the points of the take down.
Observation 1: the take down that lands outside of the fighting area and on to the security area will be valid as long as the athlete that applied it stood with both feet in the fighting area while making the take down.
Observation 2: If the athlete has one of his knees on the ground and is taken down, whoever applied the take down will be awarded 2 points as long as he has both his feet on the ground. If the athlete has both his knees on the ground and is knocked down the standing athlete will have to pass to his side and maintain this position to receive an advantage.
Observation 3: When the athlete attempts the double leg and the opponent sits on the floor and executes a sweep, the athlete who attempted the takedown will not receive points, but the one who executed the sweep will.
Observation 4: When a competitor throws his opponent and ends up in a bottomposition the competitor throwing will receive 2 points and the opponent on top will receive an advantage. If the competitor executing the throw lands in his opponents guard and is swept, both will receive 2 points.

B-) PASSING THE GUARD: Is when the athlete that is above his adversary or in between his legs, moves to his opponent’s side, establishing a perpendicular or longitudinal position over his adversary’s trunk, dominating him and leaving him no space to move or to escape the position—if even is on his side or back. 3 points NOTE: if the athlete that is underneath avoids the move by getting to his knees or standing up, the initiative will not be awarded 3 points but will be awarded an advantage.

C-) KNEE ON THE BELLY: When the athlete on top puts his knee on his adversary’s stomach, holding his collar or sleeve and belt with his other leg towards his adversary’s head: 2 POINTS
OBS: if the athlete that is underneath does not allow his adversary to put his knee down onto his belly and if the one on top does not establish the position completely, it will not be awarded 2 points but an advantage.

D-) THE MOUNT: is when the athlete sits on his opponent’s torso; the opponent can be lying on his stomach, side or back. The one mounted can be on top of one of his opponent’s arms, but never on both. It will also be considered a mount if he has one knee and one foot on the ground, 4 POINTS.
OBS: no points will be awarded if his feet or knees are on his opponent’s leg. Also if an athlete applies a triangle while in the guard and in so doing lands mounted on his opponent, it will be considered a sweep, not a mount. (See the Guard)
E-) THE BACK GRAB: Is when the athlete grabs his adversary’s back, taking hold of his neck and wrapping his legs around his opponent’s waist, with his heels leaning on the inner side of his opponent’s thighs, not allowing him to leave the position.4 POINTS. NOTE: the points will not be awarded if both heels are not properly positioned on the inner part of the adversary’s thighs.Also be considerea back if the athlete has the leg over one arm of the will opponent but never over grab both arms, in this case no points will be awarded.
F-) THE SWEEP: is when the athlete that is underneath has his opponent in his guard(in between his legs ) or the half guard (having one of his adversary’s legs between his) and is able to get on top of his adversary by inverting his position. 2 POINTS
Observation 1: it will not be considered a sweep if the move does not begin from inside the guard or half guard.
Observation 2: When the athlete sweeping advances his position to the back of his opponent during the attempted sweep, he is awarded 2 points.
Observation 3: If starting in a guard position, an athlete attempts a sweep and both athletes return to their feet and the competitor attempting the sweep executes a takedown remaining on top, he will be awarded 2 points.
 Are penalties given to the athlete after committing a third offence .i.e. avoiding engaging, staling or not seeking ways to finalize the fight.
Stalling: In case the athlete make the classic nstalling on the crosside or North South position without seeking ways to submit
Holding the opponent, standing up, or any position designed to stall. Noticing this the referee will request that 20 seconds be marked and say  “LUTE”, making the gesture. At the end of the 20 seconds if the athlete hasn’t changed his position or shown visible signs of engagement, the referee say again “LUTE” and make the same gesture, penalising the atlhete and giving an advantage for the other, if he continues stalling the referee will stop the fight saying “PAROU”, and he will penalise  the same, giving 2 points for the other, and both athletes will return to their feet at neutral positions. With the possibility of disqualification on the next offence
It is considered an advantage when the athlete attempts but does not complete any of the fundamental moves of the fight; i.e. sweep, take down, submission etc.;
• Advantages through takedowns: When there is a visible loss of balance in which the adversary nearly completes the takedown. A visible loss of balance durring an attempted throw will also result in an advantage.
• During closed guard (when the athlete on the bottom has his legs wrapped around his opponent’s waist):
A-) The one on top will earn the advantage by being on the offensive, trying to dominate his adversary’s guard (pass the guard). For the referee to consider it an advantage, the athlete that is on top must come close to passing the guard, forcing his adversary to exert energy to regain position e.g. half guard, almost immobilizing, etc.
B-) The one underneath will earn the advantage if he almost sweeps his opponent, putting him in a dangerous position, as well as when he attempts a lock that forces his opponent to defend. NOTE: for the sweep attempt to be considered worthy of an advantage the athlete underneath must open his legs.
When there is a tie situation on the scoreboard, it is up to the referee to decide if he will award an advantage, using the following judgments:
 •Advantages will be awarded during standing fights or on the ground if the athlete attempts a technique with more aggressiveness and initiative, trying takedowns , other finalizing moves during the fight. Or showing that he dominate the fight most of the time by putting the opponent on the defensive
• Advantages through takedowns: When there is a visible loss of balance in which the adversary nearly completes the takedown. A visible loss of balance durring an attempted throw will also result in an advantage.
•Advantages will be awarded during ground fighting if the athlete attempts a technique and puts his adversary on the defensive.

Understanding advantages and points is crucial to the game.  I have heard many people poo-poo points and their importance, but remember we are playing a game where their needs to be a winner and loser determined by some outcome if submission is not achieved.  I think playing to points is a bit of a bitch move, always go for the submission never stall.  But in the heat of a scramble the scrappier of the two will be awarded points and will be determined the winner.  
Also ensure when training for a tournament to hold your position for at least 3 seconds.  Getting into this habit will pay dividends when the adrenaline is flowing and you are trying to get points for knee on belly!  
As far as advantages go… all I can say is be aggressive!  The go getter will stick in the ref’s mind more so then the sit and wait fighter.  The more you try, the more you will be rewarded.
• In all catagories the central referee has the athority to stop a match when either of the competitors is in danger of serious bodily harm as a result of a submission and award the victory to competitor applying the submission.
• Cervical locks or neck cranks are not allowed in any category except for chokes in the juveniles or adult divisions in all belts.
• Athletes under 18 (Juveniles) are only allowed to compete in the open class if they are middle weight or heavier.
• Wrestling shoes or any type of shoes, head gear, shirts under the gi (except for girls) and any kind of protectors that can alter the outcome of the match in any way are not allowed in competition.
• In childrens divisions between 4-15years, when a competitor is executing a triangle and the opponent stands up it is the referees obligation to stand in a position to protect both athletes, specifically to reduce the risk of cervical damage.

CERVICAL(only without chokes)

CERVICAL LOCK(only without chokes)

I am not going to rant and rave.  The argument for and against leg attacks in BJJ has been beaten like a dead horse in dead horse gulch!  Keep this in mind when training leg attacks though… it has been my limited experience and observation that the overwhelming majority of injuries that occur when leg attacks are performed were due to the defender trying to frantically roll and get out instead of realizing they were caught and simply tapping!  The IBJJF could not penalize something like ego so the art suffers where we cannot perform certain leg attacks because knuckleheads over the years refuse to tap.  Heel hooks do not destroy knees, the ego does!

Notice wrist locks are NOT on the list!!!!!!


Seriously… if I, or anyone, needs to address this… then you are a disgusting pig who should not be allowed out of your trough!  My tolerance for filthy people has overflowed!  Just no excuse for it on any mat in any situation!

A. Constructed of cotton or similar material and in good condition. The material may not be excessivly thick or hard to the point where it will obstruct the opponent.
B. Colours may be black, white or blue, no combined colors (white kimono with blue pants, etc.)
C. The jacket is to be of suficient length down to the thighs, sleeves must reach the wrist with arms extended in front of the body. The sleeve should follow the oficial measures according to CBJJ, and IBJJF.From the shoulder to the wrist.
D. Belt width 4-5cm, with colour corresponding to rank tied around the waist with a double knot , tight enough to secure the kimono closed.
E. Athletes are not permitted to compete with torn kimonos, sleeves or pants that are not of propper length or with t-shirts underneath the kimono (except in the female divisions).
F. Is not allowed to use paint kimonos, except for the teams.

More so then anything I have seen, kimono regulations kill competitors!  I understand some of it, but I think many of the regulations are bullshit blatant attempts to make competitors go to the vendors at the tourney and pay for a brand new gi!  Make sure you take at least two gis.  Make sure their are NO tears or holes.  Make sure the patches are not too close to the leg cuff.  Make sure the colors match for the pants and the kimono.  And if you have questions ask BEFORE you are in the bullpen.  Nothing worse then getting checked RIGHT before you head onto the mat only to get turned away.  It fucks with you mentally and throws a loop in your physical preparation.  

Knowing the rules will help.  For instance our gi sleeves often shrink a bit from washing.  You have to reach your arms in front of your body and ensure the sleeves touch the wrist.  Just shrug back your shoulders a bit and this will give you an extra couple of inches!  


imageThese are the bulk of the rules that are important in my opinion.  Study up fighters, it is your  responsibility alone to know and understand the rules for which you are competing under.  Also keep in mind that in IBJJF settings you are weighed right as you go on the mat to compete.  Cutting weight is discouraged as it is not healthy nor does it give a true representation of the art.  Remember Helio was 120#’s soaking wet!  Focus on leverage and skill, less on brute strength and power.  Not only will you improve, but the sport as a whole will better!