A recent thread prompted me to post a topic I've been sitting on for a while. I have been giving a lot of thought to the problems that currently affect BJJ and submission grappling tournaments, especially those caused by their rules. I personally think the current rules for most tournaments are pretty good, but it seems all suffer from the same problems to some degree, such as:
I'm not really worried about the legal or illegal submissions; I'm more interested in the point system, the round format, the elimination of competitors and the brackets, the reffing, etc.
- fighters stalling when ahead on points
- getting the takedown and stalling for points
- playing for points (not going for submissions)
- single elimination so first round losers are screwed
- biased referees
- inattentive/incompetent referees
- the subjectiveness of the advantage point
The widely agreed upon viewpoints on the current rulesets are that a positional point system is necessary to determine a winner unless you removed time limits and made submissions the only means of victory. Due to the difficulties of running a no time limit tournament and the need to determine a winner when no one is submitted, most tournaments use a positional point system in some way. Even the IGJJF, which prides itself on not being a "point" tournament, has 30 minute times limits and a "first to 12 points wins" rule.
I was in Oregon recently and while visiting Straight Blast Gym Beaverton I kept hearing guys tell me about how they were training for the "sub league". I didn't have a chance to check out the upcoming tournament, but I did check out the rules, and I was really impressed. From the Sport Submission Wrestling / Submission League website:
Ways to win:Full rules here.
Submission (physical and verbal), Referees Stoppage (medical or rule infringement), Corner stops fight.
1 x 4min round per bout
The league runs using a pool format - competitors will face every competitor in his/her pool. There are no points awarded within a match ... points are only awarded based on the outcome of a match: 3 points for a win (submission), 1 point for a draw (1 point goes to each competitor), and 0 for a loss. At the end of the competition the "per match average points" are tallied for each competitor and entered into the season table. The top 3 best events will be calculated for each competitor at the end of the season, thereby determining the season championship pools. The 6-12 competitor* with the highest scores will meet in the Championship in June.
As you can see, they have removed the positional point system and replaced it with one that awards a competitor for winning by submission and nothing else, eliminating most of the benefits of stalling or "playing for points". They have also removed all referee interaction beyond ensuring the safety of the fighters, thus removing the potential for bias or misjudgment. And they have done all of this without turning to impractical no-time limit matches. From their site:
Benefits of the Submission League format:More on why they created the Sub League:
1. Athletes get lots of opportunity to compete (3 - 6 matches an event)
2. There is less drama/controversy because there is minimal judging during a match - either an athlete get a submission, gets submitted, or itís a draw. Points donít count within a match.
3. The "league" concept encourages the submission wrestling community to train and compete over a longer period of time ó promoting a higher, more consistent quality of submission wrestling all the way around.
4. The format allows an event to move quickly. We have piloted three events so far, running 85 - 125 competitors per event through their pools (each athlete getting 3 - 7 fights) in under 4 hours each time ... which, compared to any tournament standard, is quick.
The concerns I've heard about these rules are that the removal of the positional point system would encourage sloppiness or "hail mary" submission attempts; that it encourages stalling by the worse fighter, since drawing for 1 point is better than losing; that it would take too long to match up every fighter in a large event; that 4 minute rounds are too short; and that it would make team tactics more beneficial (e.g. teammates giving one fighter easy wins).
Our motivation behind starting the Sport Association of Grappling Athletes (SAGA), Submission League, and www.sportsubmissionwrestling.com
is to help promote the growth of submission grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and western wrestling throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The idea behind the Submission League is to develop a competition which will showcase submission wrestling at its best. We want to move away from point scoring and create an environment where submissions are everything.
This format doesnít favor the takedown specialist or the control wrestler or the positional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor. Instead, it plays to the athlete that can complete submissions against an uncooperative opponent in a defined amount of time. We are working to create a consistent venue for good, healthy, and positive competition.
We compete in a pool format, where you wrestle all the competitors in your group. This format, as opposed to brackets, where the number of competitors are cut in half each round, allows for more guaranteed matches for each athlete. We also have a clear point system, where there are no points in a match -- simply submission or draw. This system really allows the virtues of competition to shine.
We are hopeful that when people experienced the Submission League structure, they will be pleased with its emphasis on participation and itís quick format. It should be a lot of grappling for everyone.
I have my own thoughts on these issues, but at the moment I am just interested in seeing how these rules would work in bigger events and how well the intentions of removing stalling and other rule-related problems would play out on a larger scale. I am just happy to see that someone has taken a fresh look at the issue and come up with an original ruleset that encourages action.