Tonight’s sparring featured a match that perfectly captured a debate that has been taking place within the jiu jitsu world. The match was me against a bigger and stronger opponent, who was able to pass my guard several times, with much effort on his part. This would have earned him points in an IBJJF match, and would have been enough for him to win, had nothing else happened. As the match wore on, he got very tired, allowing me to recover closed guard. When you get tired, you often get sloppy and careless, which is what happened in this case. He left his arm dangling to the side, which allowed me to trap it and submit him with a kimura armlock. So, here’s the dilemma in a nutshell. He would have won on points, but I submitted him in the end. The boxing equivalent would have been when a boxer takes a beating for 15 rounds, but then turns the tables and knocks out his exhausted opponent in the 15th round (not that I took a beating). The rationale behind the points system is that if you can achieve dominant positions, you are much more likely to win in a fight, since you are in a better position to punch or submit your opponent. On the other hand, just because you achieve a dominant position, it doesn’t automatically guarantee victory, since a skilled jiu jitsu practitioner is often able to defend strikes and submissions, and then escape. Since it usually takes far more energy to attack than to defend, it is possible for the person in the inferior position to bide his time, and wait for his opponent to exhaust before turning the tables and achieving victory. This latter option was Helio Gracie’s preferred strategy against larger opponents. Which one is more valid? I don’t really know. Both have merits. By deliberately using a “rope a dope” strategy, rather than fighting the guard pass more vigorously, you could be putting yourself in unnecessary danger. On the other hand, if the guy is bigger and stronger, you could easily exhaust yourself trying to prevent the guard pass, in which case, he will eventually pass your guard anyway, but now, you’re the one who is too exhausted to continue to defend against strikes and submissions. I tend to concede Helio Gracie’s point, which is that, if you’re smaller and weaker, your only choice may be to accept inferior positions, while you wait for your opponent to exhaust. I doubt Helio Gracie would have won too many IBJJF tournaments using this strategy. Then again, I doubt Helio Gracie would have ever agreed to fight under those rules.

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