| bjj resources

 BJJ FAQ  Academy

This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

10 January 2011

Article - US Grappling and the Beginnings of Submission Only

Article #22, by guest writer Chrissy Linzy

A few years ago, US Grappling decided to run a true Submission Only Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. We talked about everything that might go wrong. We talked about how to handle the people who would tell us it couldn’t be done. We talked about a hundred reasons not to do it, and at the end of the day, we all decided that we wanted to bring pure jiu jitsu tournaments back. So, we set out to solve the problems on paper before holding our first event.

First, how were we going to ensure that the event didn’t last forever? Should we have some time limit on matches? Should we have a mercy rule, with points to fall back on? Once we determined we didn’t want a time limit or any points at all, we had to discuss stalling. Finally, we weren’t going to have any stalling penalties, since there was really no advantage to stalling for either competitor. We handled this by limiting the number of competitors at the event. We wanted to be sure that our referees and our staff could handle the demand of focusing on one match that could potentially last for an hour, or more.

Second, how were we going to schedule the divisions? Without knowing how long matches would last, it’s really hard to have an accurate schedule for the day; something we have always tried to do for our competitors. We started with a liberal use of ‘tentative’ and did a lot of analysis of the preregistered competitors.

Next, we knew that in order to combat the naysayers, we’d need a lot of data after the event so that we’d know how long matches really lasted, on average. We modified the brackets so that there would be a spot for the length and submission for each match, and trained the referees and table workers on how to complete these extra fields.

Finally, we were ready to go. We made our brackets, took a deep breath, and kicked off the day. One of the very first matches of the day lasted nearly ninety minutes. We realized the two grapplers in this match were both in several other divisions. We started to worry about holding things up. Then, other divisions started to finish. Fast. Matches were ending in two minutes. Entire divisions were finishing in fifteen minutes of total match time. This was working!

At the end of the day (which wrapped up before 5 PM), we had collected data on nearly 200 matches, and our average match length was just over six minutes. We were well within the normal tournament timelines, even with that first match lasting so long. It turns out that for every outlier like that one, there are a few dozen matches that end in less than two minutes, and it all averages out quite nicely. Oh, and the two grapplers that competed for ninety minutes both went on to compete in some (but not all) of the other divisions that they entered.

The thing that we hear over and over again from competitors that try the submission only format is how the event just feels different. There’s no pressure to score points in the next 30 seconds. No one is yelling at the referees for points or advantages. Everyone is there to see whose jiu jitsu will prevail.

US Grappling plans to run around 10 Submission Only events in 2011. You can see where they'll be at

Chrissy Linzy has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 5 years, and is one of the owners of US Grappling, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling tournament circuit that travels across most of the United States for events. She (rarely) blogs at

< Previous Article ::: Next Article >


  1. Congratulations on a wonderful idea that went on well. I would love to be given the chance to particpiate in such a tournament. Too bad there aren't any in some parts of the world.

  2. I recently competed in a submission only tournament in South Africa, it had slightly different structure but worked very well.

    It was a round robin tournament with a pool of up to 8 competitors. Each match had a 10 minute limit. You received points how quickly you submit your opponent. i.e if you submit him is 1 minute you get 9 points and if you submit him is 9 minute you get 1. if you lose in 1 minute you get -1 points and if you submit him is 9 minute you get -9. This makes it beneficial for both fighters to finish the fight quickly.

    The 2 with the highest points at the end compete for gold and silver and 3-4 compete for bronze these matches have no time limits.

  3. @Marius - Thanks!! Maybe one day, Sub Only will cover the globe. We can only hope!!

    @Jacobus - I think that's the fourth format for sub only that I've heard of, after ours. I like that you all got a lot of matches by using the round robin format.

  4. I would love to try out one of these tournaments. Sounds like an entirely different experience.