Marcos Avellan WordsOfWisdom “I don’t grapple for points, I train self defense…”

Master Marcos Avellan Medals

Master Marcos Avellan Medals

I hate this statement and I’ll tell you why.

Recently there was a big “submission only” tournament with
many big name grapplers.  The rules were simple… no
points, if it goes the distance, it is a draw.  You have
twenty minutes to tap out your opponent.

One of the grapplers in the tournament trains in an
advertised “self defense oriented” style of jiujitsu and
doesn’t compete much.  He went up against a multiple time
“points” world champion.  The match ended in a draw – nobody
got the tap.

Now… I didn’t see the match… but apparently the points
champ secured a ridiculous amount of guard passes, mounts,
etc.  With only a few minutes left, the self defense guy
tried some offense of his own and didn’t get the tap.

Then on facebook and on the forums, all the self defense
guy’s fans were posting how they didn’t care about the guard
passes because they train for self defense… and I quote
one poster: “That match and the whole evening showed us that
points don’t mean s**t…”

What do I think?

I think that training with points in mind is a super
valuable tool for self defense.   What?  But points is
“sport” training, right?

Jiujitsu and all forms of martial arts originated as forms
of combat.  However, we cannot train everyday with full
blown strikes to the head, so we create safer “games” to
train under to help simulate combat.  Every martial art has
their own form of “sparring”.  Kickboxing uses big gloves,
head gear, and bans certain strikes (no head butts, no groin
shots, etc.).  Tae Kwon Do allows kicks to the head but no
punches to the head.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu allows takedowns
and submission holds but no strikes.  What do all three of
these sets of rules have in common?  That they are all
designed to produce better martial artists that are more
capable of defending themselves in actual combat.

So why did the whole BJJ points system come about?  To help
guide the grapplers to grappling in a combative style.  For
instance, if we were grappling and you were to mount me, in
a real fight, you could land much more devastating strikes.
To help me understand the importance of NOT getting mounted,
we award points to my opponent, so now I’m “losing” the
match.  That is why mount is worth four points – versus
three points for side control.   The mount is a more
devastating position than side control in a real fight…
and back mount with the hooks is worth four points as well
because in a real fight, the top person can land devastating
downward elbow strikes to the back of the skull (visit this
link to see Murilo Bustamante demonstrate this versus Chris
Haseman in a bareknuckle no rules fight in 1996:

In other words, if I beat you in a grappling session by a
score of 12 to 0, it means that I was able to put myself
multiple times into advantageous positions that may have
allowed me to inflict serious damage on you.  The “points”
are a tool to make sure you are keeping the fundamental
positioning in mind throughout your roll.

What about submissions?  Yes, submissions are important
because they end fights – but to think that grappling is
ONLY about submissions is disregarding the whole self
defense aspect of grappling training.  The ONLY thing
“submission only” events prove is who is better at executing
submissions… not who is a better fighter or who is more
capable of defending themselves in a real combat scenario.
It would be like doing a free throw contest to determine who
is the best basketball player… free throws are only a part
of basketball.

Are points the end of all things?  No.  If you do not train
how to finish with strikes from the mount, side control,
etc., then you may be developing false confidence in your
positioning abilities.  For instance, think of all the MMA
fights you have seen where a grappler will take down his
opponent, pass his guard, mount him, and do NOTHING… then
later get reversed and lose!  I’ve seen it way too much.

However, if you grapple with complete disregard for “points”
because you are practicing for “self defense”, then I
recommend you put on gloves and play the same game and see
how applicable it is to give up mount or side control to go
for a low percentage funky submission.

If you don’t like keeping guard or grappling for position
and just like going for submissions – THAT IS FINE.
However, you are practicing for a submission game – not for
real combat.  If you are ok with that, that is fine,
submission grappling “submission only” style is a sport…
but don’t call what you are doing “self defense”.

Is the point system a perfect way to train for violence? No.
Many people abuse the loop holes and lose the spirit of
what it is about. Is the point system a much better way to
prepare for combat than no points? 100% most definitely. I’m
not impressed with someone getting mounted twenty times,
doing nothing for 20 minutes, and then pulling off an armbar
victory at the very end. That would NOT fly on the street.
But that sort of victory would impress a lot of “self
defense” practitioners… probably because they have never
been in a fight and cannot appreciate the mega importance of
advanced positioning.

Yes, I’m ranting at this point… it’s just that nothing
annoys me more than people that lack jiujitsu skill trying to
justify their inability to keep guard or stay on top and
write it off as, “yeah, but I’m practicing self defense,
sure I got mounted twenty times, but did he tap me? NOPE!!!
That’s because I practice self defense!”  I’ve had such a
guy grapple me once in training… and when I passed his
guard, Mr. Self Defense immediately LOCKED his hands
together to prevent me from going for a submission (keep in
mind I haven’t even touched his wrists yet).  This is
supposed to be self defense?  He later told me I was a good
“sport” grappler but needed to work on my ability to finish
– and I quickly replied, “When you had your hands locked, I
would have dropped elbows and knees on your head and
finished just fine…”  That is why at our academy, you’re
not allowed to lock your hands together when you get guard
passed or mounted.  You can pull your hand out of a
submission, but you can’t lock your hands from bottom mount
and look at your opponent with that, “make your move”
look… you could get your teeth punched out in a real fight
– and the point of martial arts is for “martial” combat.
Competitions create a sporting atmosphere for us to practice
our techniques and somewhat simulate real combat to help
better prepare us for the real thing.

Like I said, if you don’t care about self defense or combat
– disregard my entire email.  But if you do care about self
defense and combat – then keep your guard, secure proper
positioning, and don’t lock your freakin’ hands together in
bad positions – work out of bad positions! 🙂

Marcos Avellan

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