One of the most exciting things you can do as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner is to compete in a tournament. Whether you train with a gi, without a gi, or both, there are competitions that you can enroll in throughout the country and world.
Before you sign up to compete, it would be best for you to understand the rules of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. There is no universal ruleset to follow as typically promotions will decide what is allowed and not allowed for their athletes.
However, in this post, I’ll cover the ruleset for gi and No-Gi competition specifically following the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) as many promotions mirror it. The organization is looked at as the gold standard for BJJ competition, so understanding its rulebook is critical for those who are serious about taking their Jiu-Jitsu journey to the next level.
BJJ Gi & No-Gi Competition Rules
Here I’ll break down some of the most important parts of BJJ competition rules with a specific focus on gi competition. Most of the No-Gi rules mirror the gi rules for Jiu-Jitsu competition under the IBJJF, so keep that in mind as you read through this post. Of course, the biggest difference between gi and No-Gi is the actual uniform you’ll wear when you face off in a tournament.
The Referee Has Authority Over the Match
Every match will have a referee who will enforce the competition ruleset. Referees are viewed as the authority of the match, and their decision ultimately dictates the outcome of the contest. Their word is “incontestable,” as per the IBJJF rulebook.
The only time a referee’s decision can be overturned is if there was a miscalculation of the points, or if there was an illegal move made by the winner that the referee didn’t notice. Further, if a competitor was disqualified for a legal move, the referee’s call can be reversed.
There may be up to three referees for a match, with one being a part of the action while two sit in opposing corners.
It’s up to the referee or referees to be fully engaged with the contest, and they will start and stop the match as needed. It’d be best for you to understand the different handle signals referees will use during the competition. For example, referees will beckon the two BJJ athletes to the middle of the mat to start the bout. Also, referees may rely on verbal commands to communicate with the competitors.
There Are Several Ways for a Match to End
To win a match against another BJJ enthusiast, you’ll need to understand the different ways to get your hand raised by the referee. I’ll break down the eight different ways below:
If you want to put a stamp on a match-up, one of the best ways for you to get the victory is by submitting your opponent. From a joint lock to a blood choke, causing your opponent to tap their hand twice against themselves, on the ground or on you will render you the victor.
Someone who has been forced to submit can also tap their foot twice, or verbally call it quits.
Something that can be even more dominant than a submission victory is earning a stoppage.
At any point during the match, if a competitor cannot continue, the referee will step in. Reasons for being unable to compete can range from a cramp to being injured by a legal move. Further, if someone suffers a cut that impedes their ability to compete, and the doctor has tried to stop the bleeding twice, the bout can be called off. Also, if you vomit or “lose control” of your bodily functions, the bout will be over and your opponent will win.
This means of victory is very straightforward. If a referee disqualifies a competitor for an illegal act, their opponent will win. Fouls are rated differently, with the most egregious ones leading to instant disqualification whereas more common ones can warrant a penalty.
Loss of Consciousness
You will get your hand raised by the referee if you are able to put your opponent to sleep with a legal move. For example, if you cinch in a rear-naked choke and your adversary loses consciousness instead of tapping out, the referee will step in and declare you the victor.
If your battle reaches the end of regulation time, then the winner will be determined by who earned the most points. During the match, if you are able to secure mount, back control or back mount, you’ll receive four points per position. Three points are awarded for a guard pass and two points are given for a takedown, achieving knee on belly and successful sweeping.
If the points have been calculated and it’s a draw, then advantages will be taken into account to determine the winner. An advantage point is awarded when a combatant nearly earns a position that would render them a point, but they are unable to maintain control long enough. There are other ways to earn advantage points, including by nearly submitting your opponent.
So, if there’s a draw, whoever has the most advantage points will be crowned the winner.
If the total points and advantage points have been tallied and you’re still sitting at a draw, then penalty points will be looked at. Penalty points are given to a BJJ player who commits a foul.
In this case, whoever has the least number of penalty points wins.
If there is a draw after all of the points, advantages and penalties have been calculated, then the three referees will subjectively choose the winner.
The last way a winner can be determined is through a random pick. If a final match ends because both athletes are accidentally hurt and are unable to continue, and the score was tied up to that point, then one of the two competitors will be randomly chosen as the victor.
As a BJJ practitioner, you already know that there are several things you can’t do when rolling with another player. And that, of course, is the same when you’re competing in a bracket.
Fouls can happen at any time during, before or after the match, and the two main categories someone must abide by are disciplinary penalties and technical penalties.
Disciplinary penalties range from using profanity or making inappropriate gestures at your opponent to pulling hair and striking your opponent’s groin. Technical penalties are broken down into three subcategories: lack of combativeness, serious penalties and severe penalties.
Lack of combativeness is when one or both competitors stall the match. If someone is defending a choke or position, that is not considered stalling. As given away in the names, serious penalties aren’t as egregious as severe penalties. For serious penalties, you can be called out for doing things like not listening to the referee and fleeing the mat area to avoid your opponent. Some examples of severe penalties include oiling your body to make yourself more slippery, covering someone’s nose or face with your hands or suplexing your opponent.
You’ll receive penalties for every foul committed and called out by the referee, and in some cases, you’ll be disqualified, depending on the severity of the foul.
Some technical fouls are only illegal for certain age brackets and belt levels as well. For example, children ages four to 12 competing in BJJ cannot pull off submission techniques that cause their opponent’s legs to stretch apart. Wrist locks are only legal for blue and purple belt Adult to Master 7 divisions, and up.
But, there are some illegal moves that cannot be done in any division. Some examples of those are taking someone down a suplex, bending their fingers backward, grabbing your opponent by the belt and throwing them on their head to avoid a single leg, slamming someone, and cinching in a spinal lock without a choke.
There are certain requirements that your gi will need to fulfill to be competition ready. First, it needs to be tailored utilizing cotton or cotton-like fabric, and it must be thin enough that your opponent can adequately grip it. The Gi must also be “fashioned from woven fabric” if you are to compete in the senior, master, adult and juvenile divisions.
Your gi must be either black, white or royal blue, and you can mix and match colors for your top and bottoms. Your belt must be four to five centimeters wide, wrapped around your waist twice, double knotted in a way that will keep your gi top closed and hanging 20 to 30 centimeters from your waist.
There are a few things to note when it comes to a competitor’s hygiene. First, they need to ensure that their toenails and fingernails are cut, and if they have long hair, it needs to be tied up in a way that won’t affect their opponent negatively.
If you recently dyed your hair and it leaks onto your opponent’s gi, that is an instant disqualification, according to the IBJJF rulebook. Further, your skin will be checked after your weigh-in for any sort of condition, injury or ailment that could be contagious. And if the tournament medic finds that it is, you cannot compete.
No-Gi Uniform Requirements
IBJJF also has strict rules for the uniform No-Gi competitors can wear. For a top, athletes must wear a rash guard that is “skin-tight,” covering your full torso down to your waistband, and not running past your elbow. Rash guards must be black, white, or black and white, and at least 10 percent of the shirt must be the color of the belt level you have achieved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And if you want a rash guard that is fully colored as your belt rank, that’s okay too.
Both men and women can choose between wearing shorts and compression shorts, but they must ensure the article of clothing has no zippers, buttons and pockets. They must be long enough to go halfway down the thigh, but not past the knee.
Weighing-In for Gi & No-Gi Competition
Something very important to note is that you must weigh in while wearing your gi, which will make you a few pounds heavier. Weight is checked before your first match, and if you weigh over the limit, you will be immediately disqualified from the competition. Some other organizations will just bump you up a weight class, but not the IBJJF.
It’s up to each individual to ensure they are on weight and they typically cannot switch weight classes if they are heavier than what they signed up for.
If you’re competing in a No-Gi tournament, then these rules will apply to you as well. Instead of the gi, you’ll take part in a weigh-in and compete while wearing your rashguard and shorts.
Remember, you only get one shot at weighing in, so make sure you are the appropriate weight before hopping onto the official scale.
There are several divisions to be slotted into, depending on your age and belt ranking. Whether you’re participating with or without a gi, there are the following divisions: juvenile girls (16 and below), juvenile boys (16 and below), female adult and master, and male adult and master.
Gi weight classes are heavier than No-Gi weight classes. For example, a juvenile boy who is competing with a gi in the rooster division can weigh up to 118 pounds, whereas a No-Gi rooster competitor is limited to 114 pounds. There is some nuance in the differences between divisional weight classes, specifically some don’t have an ultra heavyweight class.
Here is an example of how a division looks in terms of weight class:
Adult & Master Men’s Gi
Rooster: 57.5 kg or 126.8 lbs
Light Feather: 64 kg or 141.1 lbs
Feather: 70 kg or 154.3 lbs
Light: 76 kg or 167.6 lbs
Middle: 82.3 kg or 181.4 lbs
Medium Heavy: 88.3 kg or 194.7 lbs
Heavy: 94.3 kg or 207.9 lbs
Super Heavy: 100.5 kg or 221.6 lbs
Ultra Heavy: No limit
Open Class: Any weight
Typically the same weight division for No-Gi competition has a lighter maximum weight of around 2.5 kgs.
Recommended: Best Women’s Rashguards
Of course, this is not a complete guide for all the rules pertaining to the IBJJF’s gi and No-Gi competition. Also, other organizations may have their own rule set that is different from the IBJJF. But because of its prowess in the BJJ community, understanding the IBJJF’s rulebook is critical for those who are planning to compete in Jiu-Jitsu. I recommend heading over to the IBJJF’s official website, downloading their comprehensive rulebook and going through it in its entirety before your first competition.