A Question of Rules


Over lunch I ran into a friend who does judo elsewhere in town. I talked to him about my foot-sweep conundrum. His response was simple: randori isn’t about the IJF rules. I shouldn’t even bother doing foot-sweeps on the guys who play in a wrestling stance, I should just breakdown the stance (out-wrestle them). If I’m going to focus so much on what grips/subs/throws are legal I should have a partner who’s caring just as much and doesn’t play in a way that would result in penalties. Also, I can just do them with the people who fight upright. This means favoring the super high ranking individuals and those who don’t compete for awhile. Oh well.

On one hand it makes a tremendous amount of sense – they would get penalized for defensive posture anyway. On the other hand it makes little sense – if I’m not playing judo at judo, where am I playing it? I guess it’s the same with BJJ – should I not do leg-locks because they’re not allowed at blue, or should I do them because I love them and they work? Is it wrong to do a toe-hold even though I won’t be allowed to in competition until purple?

There are two judo tournaments I’d like to do in the spring, and one BJJ tournament I wish my schedule would allow (but alas, no). I need to get clearance to do any tournaments due to a complicated situation, but with a little luck I’ll at least get to do one. My stance on tournaments is straight-forward: test where I’m at right now. I’m not doing them to win. Medals are nice and there’s a sense of satisfaction from a win, but really, I’m not accruing the wins to do Nationals anyway (though Tanner is…). For judo this means when I’m competing in beginner/novice I try to earnestly play judo with my opponents and see where I’m at relative to the other green belts playing judo, but when I play advanced I straight up wrestle to compare my grappling to judo black belts. I guess that’s only going to work until I get brown. Then everything just becomes grappling.

So this all brings up a much bigger question: is it right to game the rules?

Given a partner who assumes a wrestling stance, all you need to do is keep-up continuous attack for 5 seconds for them to not get any chance to do anything other than defend. The combination of inaction and stance constitutes defensive posture. Rinse and repeat 3 more times for four minor penalties (which adds up to one disqualification). This is about as proper as forcing the action to a “danger zone” when you’re losing on the ground. Side note – even if you’re being pinned, if you can get to the danger zone without getting out, the pin is considered “broken” and you’ll be stood up.

Leg grabs – there are ways around the no-leg grab rules. They’re essentially written so that leg grabs aren’t forbidden all together, but they’re near impossible to do legally. There are a lot of ways to force a wrestler to grab a leg, or to force the wrestling stance to put you in a position where it is legal to shoot on them.

If I don’t believe in pulling guard. It’s essentially an artifact of gaming the BJJ rules*. Why should I game judo rules against a wrestler?

*- So to clarify on this, two things:

  1. As discussed in The Magnificent Scufflers (read it if you haven’t) there are two types of wrestling – upright and ground. Judo’s rules are “modern” in that it allows wins for both pins and clean throws. BJJ is neither in that pinning and throwing net points, but not wins. If we consider rules which allow wins by points or throws, pulling guard becomes an instant loss in either case. It’s why wrestlers don’t come in with a guard game.
  2. In BJJ the guard is considered advantageous. In almost every other form of grappling it’s viewed as a disadvantageous position. It’s not somewhere you want to have to be necessarily. BJJ has spent the last hundred years or so perfecting fighting off their back. The rules have been adapted to allow for this, while everyone else has explicitly adapted to forbid it.
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