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The Problem With Anti Jiu-Jitsu

May 18, 2021

As exciting as the Pan No-Gi Championship was, some matches and divisions were marred by the ugliness of what we call anti jiu-jitsu.

This is not just stalling by another name. It goes much, much deeper than that.

Basic anti jiu-jitsu has all the hall marks of stalling; interlacing of the fingers, keeping the hips back and refusing to engage; burying the head in the chest and not attempting to pass the guard, or constantly kicking out of guards and running away (aka, "resetting").

Anti jiu-jitsu is stalling combined with a destructive mentality that needs to disappear from the sport. It is a mentality where athletes think they can win without doing jiu-jitsu. What does a match with no jiu-jitsu look like? It may be slow and boring or it could be chippy and mean-spirited – anti jiu-jitsu is when no techniques are effectively applied. They dance around the mat or push their opponents out of bounds. They will jump on head or body locks and think it is just as valid a control position as passing the guard. They will trip their opponent to the mat but not complete a takedown and hold them there.

And competitors have become so used to this that they think tactics like these are now enough to earn a decision in terrible 0-0 matches where no effective jiu-jitsu is displayed.

It's not a problem of the rules – sure, lots of changes could be made to address stalling or fleeing the mat. It's a cultural problem.

A culture where winning by DQ is celebrated. A culture where a 0-0 win is considered just as valid as submitting your opponent. A culture where coaches cheer an athlete through a series of half-completed, non-scoring attacks in an attempt to influence the judges. A culture where athletes feel entitled to media coverage, but did nothing to earn it.

No rule change can address this. The problem needs to be addressed by coaches, who should train their competitors to fight forward and seek to decisively win by submission. It needs to be addressed by the competitors themselves, who should never be satisfied with a lackluster win and always seek to finish their matches with a submission or a dominant lead on the scoreboard.

We saw it happen in almost every division, but particularly in the black and brown belt divisions. There were many competitors who fought forward and looked to either score or submit their opponents. Unfortunately, there were many who did not.

There is no future for this ugly version of grappling. As quickly as jiu-jitsu is evolving, certain athletes are devolving their competition strategies and undoing the hard work of many who aim to grow and refine this beautiful art. Gold medals won with anti jiu-jitsu are worthless. Gold medals won through effective application of real grappling skill are what counts, and what people should aspire to.