The art of sandbagging
Apparently sandbagging is a common practice in BJJ & grappling tournaments.
When I was a whitebelt I entered three tournaments I lost in every one.
I think itís fair to say I didnít like losing (who does) but I accepted that the other guys were just better than me on the day. I asked the guys how long they had been training. I was a bit surprised by the answers I got.
My first Gi competition which I entered with four months experience (too early really but I wanted to test my stuff) I lost against a guy with about eighteen months training plus a Ďbití of Olympic wrestling training, no biggie he beat me fair & square.
One guy who I fought in the Novice No-Gi (which was meant to be less than one yearís experience) had been training for over eighteen months, but he Ďhadnít got his blue belt yetí so his instructor told him to enter the novice section instead of the intermediates. Oh well he still beat me so he was better than me, such is life.
My second Gi competition I had been training for 9 months & was really looking forward to it. I lost (recurring theme) against the guy who went on to win. This guy had been training for about a year BJJ & had done about eighteen months (itís always the same amount of time) sub wrestling. Again fair enough, he was more skilled than me & deserved to win.
I didnít compete in 2005 injuries, time constraints etc.
I was looking up competitions on the internet as you do for this year & noticed the name of the last guy who had beaten me he was now also a blue belt & was doing ok winning competitions at blue belt level, fair play well done to him I thought.
I then discovered that he had been training in JJJ since 1990 & was a Fourth Dan Black Belt & instructor. This did piss me off quite a bit, but then I thought what does 14 years of JJJ equate to in BJJ? I donít know? So maybe heís not really a cheating git & I was just being precious!
Iím doing Judo as well as BJJ now & Iím probably going to be entering competitions, Iím not 100% on the entry requirements but Iím pretty sure that if Iím a white in Judo then my blue in BJJ doesnít count for anything & I enter the white belt category, does that mean Iím sandbagging?
Well thatís been my limited experience of sandbagging; I donít really like it & donít see the point doesnít make it much of a competition. Beware white belts bearing flying triangles!
What are your experiences & views on sandbagging?
Does it even occur in striking arts MMA or is it just called a bad match up?
Seeing as there are way more belts in Judo, I think you should at least go for yellow or orange belt category.
Unless his actual throwing skills are typical BJJ, that is, incredibly sucky. He's still murder everyone in newaza though.
Sandbagging is what happens when tounaments become more about the instructor/school than the students competing. It is pathetic that a BJJ coach would let his ego get in the way of his and other students developement.
I have a lot of thoughts on the issue.
I have been on the receiving end of sandbagging before. Sure, it sucks. But you have to take a moral stand at some point. I've called people out for it before and probably will do it in the future.
The saddest thing I can say is that my old instructor encouraged it. His reasoning? Everybody does it.
That is weak.
I've told the story here more than once where I simply refused to compete at the blue belt level anymore. It was not challenging and I was unmotivated to train for competitions if there was no challenge. I think my last blue belt competition I clock choked the guy in like 1 minute after a 7-0 score or something crazy like that.
My instructor would not promote me to purple. I know why. He wanted me winning at blue, and knew the learning curve of stepping into purple was going to be rough. I told him flat out I wouldn't be competiting for him anymore at blue. I went and bought myself a purple belt and stepped up a division. I didn't do it behind my instructors back or anything. He grudgingly watched me lose my first purple belt competition 2-0 to a staller. I still wore my blue belt in class and waited for my promotion. But I was very clear - I could hang at purple I didn't get smoked - but I would not compete at a lower skill level again.
My old instructor had entered quite a few guys in divisions they probably shouldnt have been in. At GQ he did it with a few guys and it pissed me off. But as a student this wasn't really my place to say anything. I could govern my own actions, but if other students were not interested in challenging themselves and would rather pick up a win that is fine. And considering the sheer number of people who were sandbagging those divisions it could almost be excused.
NOW I WILL TALK ABOUT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE.
This is the side you may not know about. Last year at NAGA West I drew Chris Brennan as my first fight no-gi. I entered the advanced division. I lost.
Now here is the problem. Novice/Beginner often have large spreads in terms of years experience. Advanced in most tournaments has the largest spread however. For example, in most tournaments 3+ years is advanced. Only...you get to face guys like Yoshida Barrett (black belt) at GQ. Or Chris Brennan (black belt) at NAGA. I have shitty luck like that. But as a blue/purple belt I should be matched with these guys? Uggghh. They are professionals. I am damn amateur. I know lots of guys who are 3 year blue belts. And yet they get thrown into the advanced divisions and chewed up by black belts or professional fighters.
That makes a lot of guys with the 3+ years step down into intermediate to even have a chance. And once a few REAL intermediates with 1 year of experience get creamed by the guys who should have been in advanced they step down into the beginner. You see how it works? **** rolls downhill.
The other problem is that the advanced divisions can often be completely devoid of competitors. If you want to get a lot of fights in then enter lower divisions. And who wants to pay $60 for 1 fight and an 8 hour drive?
For example, at NAGA West there was nobody in my gi division. NOBODY! They all went for the lower divisions or went home. I was sitting there alone. Now granted I didn't expect a whole bunch of middleweight purple belts - but heck, I expected someone! So one of the referees offered to fight me. I took it of course just to get a match in. But I had to actually step up 2 weight brackets to fight the guy. I lost on points to a guy with much more experience and a lot more weight.
So that is another problem. A lack of competitors at the high end. Either flood or drought at times.
When I went to the United Gracie last year I won my division. How? By fighting ONE GUY. Sort of a hollow victory there.
Last edited by Yrkoon9; 3/15/2006 12:10pm at .
This is why a lot of people detest sport applications of MA. I walked away from my first TKD tourney that my master sponsored with a bronze medal. The problem is I got a by on the first round and had my ass kicked in the "semifinals." My master was able to boast that he had "X" amount of students who won medals.
BJJ relies pretty heavily on competition for rank advancement, doesn't it? (I learned mine through the Army's combatives program.) So Johnny Bag O'Donuts wants to advance in rank, and his instructor wants to keep him, so he rigs the competition for him to win so he can move up. I'm not slamming BJJ, I love it in fact. But that is a shady practice.
Thanks for the replies it's interesting to see others point of view, have we got any
sandbaggers who can give a reason why they do 'it'?
Ykroon - You're unluckier than me! I can see you're point re the NAGA comp. Maybe they should have novice,intermediate, advanced & professional?
Raynor - Isn't the varsity & jv thing the same as have differing belt levels?
I think I'll grade in Judo before I enter a competition.
The solution, at least for interdisciplinary no-belt competitions like NAGA, might be to implement a uniform performance-based rating or handicapping system that would allow organizers to sort competitors by objective criteria rather than by competitor's whim. Governing bodies in many two-player sports and games use such systems (most based on the ELO system originated in international chess) to assign accurate performance strengths to competitors. It'd take a good deal of logistical work and organizational will, but if NAGA, for example, did that, within a few years they'd have a solid data pool and a reputation as a sandbag-resistant competition.
I fought Beginner until I got my blue, which took more than a year. The local "grappling" organization is run by crooks and the tournaments are administrated poorly. "Beginner" can mean anything from 12 to 18 months, so I didn't really care.
Funny story: At the tournament where I fought up a division I lost my only match to a white belt who later admitted he had been doing Judo and wrestling since he was a kid. Then, earlier this year, I saw him in a three-year old photo on our school's wall, losing to someone who is now a purple belt. I think he even had the same number of stripes.
I will tell a story about me sandbagging.
Back in 93ish I did an exhibition kickboxing match. That was the technical term for it. It wasn't really an amateur fight because those were completely different. It was done at an event called the "No Rules Competition" sponsored by The Dojo. Basically it was an interdiscipline competition. Grappling events, striking events, and weapon events.
There were two divisions for kickboxing. Beginner and advanced. Well, I already had a few amateur fights under my belt so I didn't want to do the beginner. But nobody entered the advanced division in my weight! So I actually wandered around the event trying to talk people into fighting me so I could get the sweet as trophy. LOL!
Okay so one guy bites on the offer. It is basically a guarantee of second place. And he was already signed up for the beginner division. I think he was TKD or something. I feel bad about it now but I beat the **** out of him and humiliated him. I mean I didn't pummel him unconscious or anything but I kicked him out of the ring once. Punched him until he turned away and then kept punching him. And finally at the end of the fight he was so frustrated that he charged me and I dropped a front kick on him that caught him midstep and dropped him on his ass. He fell with his arm behind him and it got kinda twisted up. So he got a little hurt there.
Anways there I was fighting a beginner so I could score a trophy.
Poor guy was taken out of action for the beginner division. Took his 2nd place and went home. Funny story was that a friend of a friend sorta deal knew him and heard his version of what happened. It was even sadder than mine. He said he got forced into a different division against a pro with a bazillion years of experience and the guy tried to kill him. Not exactly how I remember it, but in HIS MIND HE GOT SANDBAGGED.