BJJ points system – A fair system or a flawed concept?

The points system used in the majority of BJJ competitions (everything other than submission-only) has been a debating topic for many practitioners over the years and continues to be a hotly-debated one. Often a source of much controversy in the BJJ world.

Let’s take a little journey together. Exploring the positives and negatives that are associated with the BJJ points system (in that order). Buckle up, class is in session.

  • 0 Laying the foundation

    If you haven’t competed before, you’d be forgiven for not knowing how the points system works. Below you will find a simple list of what positions/actions earn you points in a standard BJJ competition. Just like any sport, the intention is to score more points than your opponent.

    The Point System

    4 points – Rear mount (taking the back) / Mount
    3 points – Passing the guard
    2 points – Sweep (from guard) / Takedown / Knee-on-belly

  • 1 Time-efficient

    Pitting two BJJ practitioners against one another to decide which one is better has one glaring problem, time. BJJ competitions are often tournament-based, ranging in duration between a single day to a few. The points system allows for a judgement to be made in a relatively short period of time regarding who is the better practitioner. Perfect? No. Necessary? Maybe.

  • 2 Develops combat mindset

    Control is an essential part of combat. The person in control has many more options available to them regarding attack and defence compared to their adversary. So in a sense, the points system is an excellent way to prime practitioners to seek out better positions. This will aid them not only in competition but if they find themselves in a ‘real-world’ combat scenario too.

    A simple but clear example of this would be moving from full guard to side guard. As a skilled practitioner, not only will you have the tools to do this but you’ll automatically be making decisions to advance position. Knowledge gained through trying to maximise points in competition may be the deciding factor that allows you to neutralize a situation before things get dangerous.

  • 3 Not an accurate simulation

    You wouldn’t be blamed for going point hunting in a competition, in actual fact, it is often encouraged. Especially when your opponent is likely to beat you unless you play a very careful human chess match. As a sport there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, however, it does run the risk of conditioning unrealistic expectations.

    Having your opponent in your full guard may be earning them no points, while giving you time to decide your next attack, however in a real fight, you’ll be setting yourself up to get pummeled into oblivion.

  • 4 Playing the system

    Many would argue that playing the point system is the right way to approach a tournament. However, this style of approach isn’t necessarily indicating who has a more effective grasp of the discipline overall. If you’re approaching BJJ from the perspective of a sport, it makes complete sense. But, if you’re looking to find out who is genuinely more capable of handling themselves in a combat situation, the results may be misleading.

  • 5 Leaving it to the judges

    In cases where neither opponent does quite enough, a decision is made by the judges. This obviously opens up the opportunity for human error to take place regarding deciding who was the ‘better’ practitioner. Generally speaking, the right call is made. However, not always.

  • 6 False sense of superiority

    Being able to gain points with ease is a good indicator of someone’s skill, but if BJJ is supposed to be a ‘fight simulation’ it realistically is far less important than the ability to submit and finish the fight. If you cannot injure the person to the point of inability to continue,  the opponent will remain dangerous, and soon as you get up to try and leave the scene the opponent may follow with full consciousness and use of their limbs, attacking you once again.

    The positive about the points system is that all points are meaningless once a submission has been successfully applied. A person can be losing the entire match but after 5 minutes get caught in a submission and lose. Very much like a self defence situation.

    In this instance we tip our hat toward the points system, allowing fights to be finished in less than 10 minutes giving a clear winner in a tournament scenario.

  • 7 Does the system need an overhaul

    No point system is perfect, the one used in scoring BJJ competitions is no different. Some argue that the current system is simply not adequate enough to determine who is the most well-equipped martial artist. Generally speaking, those that hold this point of view tend to lean towards submission-only events that are slowly but surely starting to grow in number.

  • 8 Conclusion

    Competition plays a significant role in BJJ. Although far from perfect, the current points system does a relatively good job of highlighting who the better competitor is. For the discipline to continue to grow at the speed that it has been, efficiency is essential and the points system allows for BJJ tournaments to be time-efficient.

    Those that feel that standard competitions are too sport-based and don’t necessarily indicate who the better martial artist is are also catered to in the ever-evolving BJJ world with the opportunity to compete in submission only events.