Disclaimer: The words in this article are focused on BJJ competition rules, no consideration to the self-defence/MMA aspects of the game are in question here. The writer advocates in matters of MMA, to ALWAYS FIGHT FOR TOP CONTROL. And the best self-defence is awareness. When in doubt, just RUN!
STALLING is any strategy that includes but not only: not engaging with your opponent, slowing down the match (when in advantage or even to avoid being submitted), sabotage tactics, and the list goes on, with the main goal of using time as one’s ally. And let’s be honest, it is part of any sport, and fight would be no exception to it. Either we like it or not, it is only natural that the fighter winning will try to slow down or stall the match. The rules must be used to prevent this, so stalling must be done with by the rules, that must discourage it severely. In Judo and Olympic Wrestling, penalties force grapplers to continuously move or they get disqualified, yet stalling happens, but its damage is reduced.
In BJJ this was never enforced, as far as I remember from the first competitions I watched in Rio (We are talking 1989/1990 here). As a consequence, over the years, many different tactics were developed and perfected that allowed to stall a match. This is not a new thing in itself at all. It just changed clothes. In the past, one would stall in stand-up, or even from closed guard, and remain unpunished, and this certainly improved a lot. The referees nowadays apply well faster the rules in most situations, and as a consequence you do not see anymore that much stalling from side control (although is still fairly common in half guard).
Still, much has to be done in some positions that remain unchecked, notoriously the butt sitting stalling that is happening a lot after double guard pull-ups. Because the problem is not the double guard pull, but the stalling that we see a lot after that.
If both pull guard and one moves up or around quick enough, there is nothing wrong there. The problem arises when both fighters sit back, change hooks and grips, but do not move forward for half of the match, entangled in a 50/50 guard or simply sitting back. This turns the match in a boring exchange of hooks and grips with no real action from either grappler and is against the principle of moving forward in control positions that makes BJJ such a great art.
Many have raised their voices against this aspect of the BJJ, so I am not the only one that thinks that this must stop now, for the benefit of the sport. No, I am not against any technique, but common sense must prevail. We must allow evolution and favour it, but do prevent the new stalling tactics as much as the old ones.
A quick solution is possible, and it involves two things. Recognising that stalling must be punished in those situations, enforcing the same stalling rules used elsewhere when dealing with two fighters sitting back. Second is to revive the old rules we had before: When both pulled guard, the first to move to top scored 2 points, while now only one advantage is given. If we revert to the old rule, we will minimise this a lot, guaranteed.
The judgment criteria must take into account the recent changes in the sport tactics, not preventing them from happening but reacting firmly to any new form of stalling. By understanding that, in every position, if techniques and tactics are slowing down the pace, punishment must come as a severe warning and if it continues, one or both get disqualified.
Many will come against this third suggestion of me, but restarting from stand up should be applied in stalling situations old or new, as doing this resets the match and give fighters a second chance from scratch before sending them to the shower 😉
So my view is that double guard pull is a valid strategy like all others, and itself is not the problem or even a new thing. The problem is that it is being used as a stalling tactic and we see grapplers keeping that “spider fight” for most of the match.
In a match with 2 fighters that perfected their guards and prefer to always play bottom, but move dynamically, chances are one will prevail and soon transition to a submission or a better position, and we will see a beautiful match. If the opposite happens, and both fighters or one of them is only trying to stall, the referee must stop the match, advert and score negative points (not advantages) and if that persists, disqualification. It must be done so often to the point we minimise this behaviour that is detrimental to the evolution of the sport, but is doomed to happen more and more if nothing is done about it.
And then we will have a beautiful new Jiu-Jitsu that allows for evolution and encourages the use of both old and new school techniques, but does discourage stalling behaviour, recognising it everywhere it happens.
I am strongly opposed to the advantage scoring in BJJ, but that is a topic for a future post. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook page (links on your right), and if you feel like it, comment below your view on this.