BJJ Submission Only or the Points Jiu-Jitsu Game?
This is a question that every competitor and person training Jiu-Jitsu eventually asks themselves. Often, it comes from the love of submissions, or after experiencing a loss because of aggressively chasing the submission. I personally am someone who likes to have their cake, and eat it too. I can play the points game, but I also love to roll for the submission.
You have to ask yourself, what kind of grappler do I want to be?
- Do I want to be a BJJ world champion; that is amazing at winning within the rules?
- Do I want to be known as a killer submission artist, that loses in competition because of the risks I take?
- Do I want to be both, and take a longer amount of time because I’m not specializing?
- Do I want to learn BJJ simply for MMA, and not concern myself with techniques that aren’t ideal for self defense like pulling guard?
The seemingly simple question requires much more depth and self-awareness to answer. To answer this question for myself, I did some self-introspection.
My Jiu-Jitsu Is Not About Winning
I grew up wrestling my whole life. The one thing I always despised about wrestling was the constant stalling, and lack of risks taken in matches. I lost several matches in my career due to over aggressiveness, and lack of respect for “playing it safe.” When I got into Jiu-Jitsu, I was inspired by people who went for the kill like Sakuraba, Marcelo Garcia, and BJ Penn. All these warriors are legendary finishers, and risk takers in their art.
The way Sakuraba would seamlessly give up position, or take huge risks, and have it work out for him, ignited my love for the submission game. I decided that I was more concerned with entertainment, and expressing myself; more than winning a match by stalling out. Many times, this has cost me matches, but has always entertained myself and viewers.
Let me emphasize: If you decide to focus only on submissions, be prepared to lose matches by points and even submissions.
Yes, your game will be more dynamic and exciting, but you will miss out on some important aspects on position.
The sacrifice of the submission game: beyond winning and losing matches
Focusing on submissions instead of positions won’t allow you to fully understand how to hold position and get into it. You simply will get into the habit of rolling into bad positions and giving up dominant positions.
As someone who did come from wrestling, I also understand position very well. This understanding about position is hugely helpful in a Jiu-Jitsu points game tournament. I know I can take most people down, hold them down, and eventually pass. Those are good habits to have.
Whether you are doing sub-only, points, or fighting MMA, knowing how to take someone down, and impose your game on them will get you the win more often than not. Focusing on position is something that cannot be stressed enough. It translates from No-Gi, Gi, MMA, and to a self defense situation. It’s better to practice good habits that cross all areas of grappling, than to forget the bad ones you’ve learned.
Having It Both Ways
There is always the options of being good at both. I do believe the question is not submission game versus the points game, but how do I mix the two styles. I believe the best is to be good at both. Enjoy learning the submission game, giving up good position, taking risks, and trying new things. However, also spend time immersing yourself into focusing on holding good position, and transitioning safely to a better position; where you would get more points at a tournament. It’s difficult to do both, but if you want to be a complete grappler it is necessary to practice each of them.
In the end, I believe in trying to spend time immersing yourself in both styles. Focus for a few months on holding position. Then, when that gets tiring, spend months on flowing and taking risks to get the submission. To be a well rounded grappler is very important. When you can't beat somebody on points in a match, get aggressive, and go for submissions. Vice versa, when you find yourself grappling a dangerous submission specialist, use your positional skills to get into dominant positions and hold them there to stall out their submission game.