The Point System in BJJ

Posted on Posted in Jiujitsu Talk

I just spent four hours at a rules seminar.

How else would you rather spend a Saturday, right? We can practice and learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, that’s a lifetime study in itself. But how do we keep track of who’s winning in real time? The points are easy enough to get after some practice, but things can still get complicated very quickly. I had trouble understanding my own matches until I was a purple belt. My best explanation for beginners is to be on top when you can, pass guard, and get the submission. We have a few different formats available, and submission only sounds like a good option for beginners at first. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend competing in different formats. But if you don’t like something because you don’t understand it, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. So, what are the points and why do they matter?

Points keep the game well rounded.

Jiu Jitsu is about the submission. But you can get the submission from anywhere, theoretically. Going directly to guard is one of the quickest paths to available finishes. Passing guard, maintaining a dominant position, and finally submitting can be a long process. Placing more value on the top position gives an incentive to take the longer path. If you made steps on the way to the submission but run out of time, the points will be in your favor. Students of the point game spend a significant amount of time just focusing on passing. Working against strong guard passers makes the game better for a variety of reasons. Without a strong intent to pass, guard would be feared like mount or back control. Unlike these dominant positions, guard is a crossroads that can lead either player to any position very quickly.

There are six ways to score points.

Every meaningful exchange has a result.

Have you ever tried to explain a match to someone who doesn’t train? Labeling each exchange and assigning points to it makes it slightly easier. Personally, I don’t recommend doing this often. We have a player’s sport, not a spectator sport. IBJJF matches take this to another level by assigning advantages to close calls. Their idea is to document the match in as much detail as possible. Referee decisions are as rare this way.

Let’s be serious about the ‘real fight’ arguments.

Competition actually does help us to develop decision making skills in the face of an adrenaline dump. However, we are not fighting MMA for a reason. Personally, I want a tremendous amount of money to get hit in the face after 30 years old. But I love to compete. If you are concerned with fighting, you can follow the point system and survive. Mount and back control bring the highest points, and are arguably the best places to be in a fight. Keep in mind, most real fights are between people who don’t train. A competitive purple belt can handle almost anyone who doesn’t train, regardless of the competition he chooses. Striking can change things, depending on the individual. But again, we don’t need a second type of MMA. A safer route to add more realism could be adding a wall to competition.

Are referees biased?

Yes, they are human. But nobody wants to be the guy who messed up a match. Having reffed before, I can clearly say that purposely changing the outcome would be more than I could handle. Which one is blue, and which one is white? Every second, someone is close to a submission. Both parties are constantly on the edge of a different transition that could yield points. Wait, that was an illegal grip. How close are we to the edge of the mat? Did those points go on the board? Wow! That was cool! I’ve never seen that before! Oops! I need to give points for that. The guy yelling at me on the sideline is clearly wrong. Ok, you get the idea. Go easy on the ref, they don’t want to be the center of the show. Sub only matches are just as difficult. You have long spans of passive watching, followed by carefully timed intervention.

This is the ref’s way of saying that he has no friends.

Go to lots of different tournaments.

Always prepare for what you want. Regardless of if it’s MMA, an IBJJF world championship, or simple self defense. Take the time to see what each format has to offer. Each one can bring you a new outlook.