Point Tournaments vs Submission Only

In the Jiu Jitsu community today there has been a substantial increase in submission only tournaments.  Some people believe that submission only tournaments/events bring more entertainment value to the Jiu Jitsu world, and some tournaments such as EBI are trying to make Jiu Jitsu appeal to mainstream MMA fans.  Submission only is definitely accelerating the growth of the sport, many submission only tournaments and events such as EBI, Fight to Win, and some of the other organizations are paying bjj athletes and giving them a way to make a living.  Here at The Jiu Jitsu, we are extremely happy with where bjj is at today and where it’s going in the future.  Offering the top level athlete’s money to compete is imperative for our sports future, it creates a more professional environment.  That being said, we think the essence of Jiu Jitsu is rooted in self-defense and that bjj seems to be losing those roots.


What do we mean by losing its roots?  Well a lot of people were initially attracted to the idea of sub-only tournaments because they believed that point tournaments provoked stalling and did not simulate real combat. Apparently people were becoming “butt scooters” that didn’t know self-defense and didn’t attack the submission.  This was one of the reasons submission only tournaments became the way they did, but the question we ask at The Jiu Jitsu is what style of tournaments is more conducive for keeping the roots of Jiu Jitsu and promoting self-defense.  What are the differences between these tournaments and which helps competitors grow more?

Submission only puts the most emphasis on the submission; in the majority of the sub-only events there are no points, so they do not emphasize the importance of position, sweeps, and takedowns. The name of the game is to submit your opponent in a certain amount of time.  EBI has a 10 minute time frame and your single goal is to get the submission, if you have your guard passed, there is no consequence, and if you are swept it is okay, granted, EBI has great overtime rules that are about control.  Sub-only is amazing for the entertainment value of Jiu Jitsu, it seems to accelerate the pace of the match and make it more spectator friendly.  Also, for the most part, there are no rules like with IBJJF tournaments so the spectator doesn’t require previous knowledge of bjj for viewing comprehension.  The majority of mainstream MMA fans don’t understand the bjj point system, but they can recognize a submission, therefore, EBI and other sub-only events are easier for people who may not otherwise be familiar with bjj to watch. They are a great way for competitors to focus on attacking the submission.

 Stephan Kesting demonstrating a pinning position for self-defense.

The downfall of Sub-only events is the lack of emphasis on position, sweeps, pinning, and base.  Since you are not penalized for getting swept, having your guard passed, or getting taken down, you may be stunting certain aspects of you bjj as a competitor and student.  In a self-defense situation or street altercation it is important to understand submissions, but it’s even more important to be able to take your opponent down, pass their guard, and pin them so you can implement control.  Submission is great but in a self-defense predicament you need to be able to control your opponent and maintain strong position.  We are not saying that ANY sub only competitors would not be able to do so; we are simply stating that the ruleset for many of these tournaments doesn’t emphasize the importance of being able to do takedowns, sweeps, pins, and guard passes. There is no reward for doing so.


In IBJJF or other point tournaments, they don’t put as much pressure on the competitor to submit and they put more emphasis on sweeps, guard passes, pins and takedowns.  This type of event can be more boring and requires spectators to have prior knowledge of bjj to be able to properly understand the match and enjoy it.  The point system doesn’t encourage competitors to accelerate the pace and go for the finish so people have started to criticize them.  Position, sweeps, takedowns, and base are extremely important elements of Jiu Jitsu and are all fundamental characteristics of a good bjj fighter.  They are important for self-defense and a well-rounded athlete.  That being said, we cannot discredit the importance of submissions and being able to capitalize on a submission.

All in all, both event styles, point tournaments and submission only have something great to offer the audience, student and competitor.  It is personal preference what people prefer; we don’t think one is better than the other.  We do believe point tournaments are more conducive to encouraging principles that are vital to self-defense but there is something to be said about pulling guard and advantage points.  Both rule-sets have issues but they are both great for the sport.  Submission only is great for creating a high paced match, and developing precision timing on catching submissions.  Both are fun and will help you grow as a student and competitor in different ways, pick your poison and compete!