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Rules of BJJ Competitions in the UK: Know the Game


Taylor Saipe |

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in the UK over the last decade. With its intricate techniques and strategic gameplay, it's no wonder that many martial arts enthusiasts are flocking to learn this art.

But, like any sport, BJJ has its own set of rules and regulations that competitors need to be aware of. In this article, we'll delve into the 'Rules of BJJ in the UK', ensuring you're well-prepared for your next competition.

The Belt System

BJJ has a unique belt system that signifies a practitioner's skill level. Starting from white belts and progressing to blue, purple, brown, and finally, the coveted black belt. Each belt level has its own set of rules, especially when it comes to competitions.

Quote from the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation:"The belt is more than just a symbol of rank. It represents hours of hard work, dedication, and a deep understanding of the art."

White Belts: Often beginners, they're still learning the ropes. Certain techniques like heel hooks and neck cranks are typically prohibited at this level.

Blue Belts: With a better understanding of the game, blue belts can employ a wider range of techniques. However, they still need to be wary of some advanced moves.

Purple Belts: At the purple belt level, competitors have a deep understanding of BJJ rules in the UK. They can execute advanced moves but with certain restrictions.

Brown and Black Belts: The epitome of skill in BJJ. Competitors at this level have a comprehensive understanding of the game and are allowed to use almost all techniques, including the controversial heel hook.

BJJ grapple

Scoring and Advantage Points

Understanding how to score points is crucial in BJJ competitions. Moves like 'knee on belly', 'side control', and 'pass the guard' can earn competitors valuable points. But it's not just about scoring; it's about strategy. Knowing when to go for a move or when to defend can be the difference between victory and defeat.

For instance, the 'knee on belly' position can earn you points, but it's also a strategic position, allowing you to control your opponent and set up submissions. Check out our collection of BJJ Gis to ensure you have the right gear for training these techniques.


UK BJJ Rule Violations and Their Penalties

In the United Kingdom, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is governed by a specific set of rules to ensure fair play and the safety of its participants. These rules outline acceptable techniques and actions during a match.

Violations of these rules can lead to penalties, which can range from point deductions to disqualification. Some common rule violations include:

Illegal Grips:

  • Violation: Grabbing inside the sleeves or pants, or grabbing the fingers or toes.
  • Penalty: First offense results in a warning. Subsequent offenses may lead to point deductions or disqualification.


  • Violation: Delivering punches, kicks, elbows, or any form of striking to an opponent.
  • Penalty: Immediate disqualification.


  • Violation: Lifting and forcefully dropping an opponent to escape a submission.
  • Penalty: Immediate disqualification.

Spinal Locks without Choke:

  • Violation: Applying pressure on the spine without an accompanying choke.
  • Penalty: Immediate disqualification.

Heel Hooks:

  • Violation: Applying a heel hook, which is a leg lock affecting the opponent's heel and potentially damaging the knee.
  • Penalty: Immediate disqualification in most traditional BJJ tournaments, though some no-gi competitions may allow it.

Knee Reaping:

  • Violation: Positioning the leg across the body of the opponent in a manner that puts undue pressure on the opponent's knee.
  • Penalty: Point deduction or disqualification, depending on the severity.


  • Violation: Intentionally avoiding engaging the opponent or preventing action in a match.
  • Penalty: Warnings followed by point deductions for continued stalling.

Disrespectful Conduct:

  • Violation: Displaying unsportsmanlike behavior, including verbal abuse or gestures.
  • Penalty: Point deduction or immediate disqualification, based on the referee's discretion.

Uniform Violations:

  • Violation: Wearing a gi that doesn't meet the required standards in terms of size, cleanliness, or condition.
  • Penalty: The competitor may be given a chance to change the gi. Failure to comply can result in disqualification.

Fleeing the Mat:

  • Violation: Intentionally stepping out of the competition area to avoid a submission or any form of engagement.
  • Penalty: Point deduction or disqualification, based on the severity and frequency.

Please note that these are general rules and penalties, and specific tournaments or organizations in the UK might have variations or additional rules. It's always essential to refer to the rulebook of the specific event or organization.

Clothing and Gear

When competing, it's essential to have the right gear. From the Gi, which is the traditional uniform worn in BJJ, to rash guards that protect against mat burns, having the right equipment can make a significant difference.

Men's BJJ Gi: Specifically designed for men, these Gis are tailored to provide maximum comfort and flexibility. Explore our range of men's BJJ Gi for the perfect fit.

Women's BJJ Gi: Tailored for women, these Gis ensure a snug fit without compromising on mobility. Check out our collection of women's BJJ Gi for a variety of designs.

Kids BJJ Gi: For the young champions, it's crucial to have a Gi that fits well and allows for growth. Our kids BJJ Gi collection offers a range of sizes to suit all young practitioners.

BJJ Rash Guards: Essential for no-gi training and competitions, rash guards protect the skin and provide a smooth surface that makes it harder for opponents to grip. Dive into our BJJ rash guards collection to find the perfect one for you.

Venus Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ Mouthguard Protection

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), gum shields (also known as mouthguards) are not universally required, but they are highly recommended. Here's why:

  1. Protection from Accidental Strikes: Even though BJJ is primarily a grappling art, accidental strikes can and do happen. A stray knee, elbow, or even a head can make contact with your face, and a mouthguard can help protect your teeth and gums from injury.
  2. Prevention of Biting: In the heat of a roll or sparring session, it's possible to accidentally bite down, either due to pressure or reflex. A mouthguard can prevent you from biting your own tongue or the inside of your cheeks.
  3. Reduction of Impact: A good mouthguard can help distribute the force of a blow, reducing the risk of concussions or other injuries.
  4. Protection During Takedowns: Takedowns are a part of BJJ, especially in no-gi settings. A bad fall or an unexpected takedown can lead to accidental impacts to the face.

While many BJJ schools do not mandate the use of mouthguards, many practitioners choose to wear them as a precaution. If you're considering starting BJJ or are already practicing, it's a good idea to consult with your instructor or coach about their recommendations regarding protective gear.

The Intricacies of BJJ Rules in the UK

As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues to grow in the UK, understanding the nuances of competition rules becomes even more paramount. The IBJJF rules serve as a foundation, but there are specific guidelines tailored for the UK scene.

Prohibited Techniques Across Belt Levels

While BJJ is known for its vast array of techniques, not all are permitted in competitions, especially for lower belt levels.

Heel Hooks: A submission that targets the opponent's ankle. While effective, it's also dangerous, especially for beginners. This technique is typically reserved for brown and black belts.

Neck Cranks: As the name suggests, this move puts immense pressure on the neck. Due to its potential risk, it's often prohibited in many competitions.

Knee Reaping: This involves positioning your leg across the opponent's body in a way that can twist their knee. Given the potential for injury, it's a move that's closely regulated.

Advantage Points and Their Significance

In BJJ competitions, it's not just about submissions. Advantage points play a crucial role in determining the winner, especially in closely contested matches.

These points are awarded for almost successful techniques or for putting the opponent in a compromising position. It's a way to reward a competitor's efforts, even if they don't secure a full point.

Expert Tip: "Advantage points can be a game-changer. They reflect a competitor's aggression and can tilt the match in their favour, especially in the absence of clear points."

BJJ tournament

The Role of Referees

Referees play a pivotal role in BJJ competitions. They ensure the safety of the competitors, enforce the rules and regulations, and award points. Their decisions are based on a deep understanding of the sport and the specific rules of the competition.

Preparing for the Mat: Final Steps to BJJ Mastery in the UK

As we round off our deep dive into the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions in the UK, it's essential to focus on the final preparations. Whether you're a seasoned black belt or just starting with your white belt journey, understanding the intricacies of the game is crucial. But beyond the rules of BJJ, there's a mental and physical preparation aspect that can't be ignored.

Mental Preparation: Beyond the Physical

BJJ is as much a mental game as it is physical. The ability to read your opponent, anticipate moves, and strategize on the fly is what separates the good from the great.

BJJ Pro Tip: "In the heat of the match, it's not just about what you know, but how you think. Adaptability is the key."

Physical Conditioning: Stamina Meets Technique

While BJJ techniques are the foundation, stamina and endurance determine how effectively you can deploy them, especially in longer matches. Regular conditioning, combined with specific drills like 'pass the guard' or 'side control', ensures you're match-ready.

International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: The Global Stage

For those looking to compete beyond the UK, understanding the nuances of international Brazilian jiu jitsu is vital. The rules might vary slightly, and the competition can be fiercer. Being part of organizations like the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation can offer insights and open doors to global competitions.

In Conclusion: Know the Game, Play it Well

BJJ competitions in the UK are more than just matches; they're a testament to skill, strategy, and spirit. Whether you're competing at a local level or eyeing the international stage, understanding the 'Rules of BJJ in the UK' is your first step. Train hard, play fair, and may the best fighter win.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about BJJ in the UK

What moves are illegal at White Belt BJJ?

At the white belt level in BJJ, several moves are considered illegal primarily for safety reasons. These include but are not limited to: heel hooks, knee bars, neck cranks, spine locks, and slamming an opponent. The focus at this level is to ensure that practitioners learn the basics without risking severe injury.

Is 40 too late to start BJJ?

Absolutely not! Many individuals start BJJ in their 40s and even later. While younger practitioners might have a physical advantage, older beginners often bring patience, wisdom, and a different perspective to their training, which can be beneficial.

What is bad etiquette for BJJ?

Bad etiquette in BJJ includes not respecting tap-outs, being overly aggressive, not keeping your gi and yourself clean, talking while the instructor is teaching, and not being mindful of your partner's safety. Respect and humility are core tenets of BJJ, and not adhering to them is considered poor etiquette.

Why can't you wear a cup in BJJ?

Wearing a cup can be dangerous in BJJ as it can dig into your opponent during certain moves, potentially causing injury. Additionally, it can give the wearer an unfair advantage in certain positions, like arm bars.

What can't you do in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

In BJJ, certain techniques are prohibited, especially at lower belt levels, to ensure safety. These include certain leg locks, spine locks, strikes, and slams. The rules can vary depending on the competition and its governing body.

How many times a week should I start BJJ training?

For beginners, training 2-3 times a week is a good start. This allows for adequate recovery while still getting consistent practice. As you progress and your body adapts, you can increase the frequency.

What are the main differences between Gi and No Gi BJJ?

The primary difference is the attire. In Gi BJJ, practitioners wear a traditional gi, while in No Gi, they wear shorts and a rash guard. This difference in attire changes the techniques and strategies used, as the gi allows for more grip-based techniques.

Can you throw punches in BJJ?

No, BJJ is a grappling martial art, and striking is not allowed in traditional BJJ sparring or competitions.

Are heel hooks allowed in BJJ competitions in the UK?

Heel hooks are generally not allowed in lower belt levels due to the risk of injury. However, some competitions might allow them at higher belt levels or in specific no-gi divisions.

What is the difference between IBJJF rules and UK-specific BJJ rules?

While the IBJJF rules serve as a foundation for many BJJ competitions worldwide, UK-specific BJJ rules might have variations, especially concerning allowed techniques, weight classes, and competition format.

Are there specific rules for gi and no-gi competitions in the UK?

Yes, gi and no-gi competitions have different rules, primarily concerning attire and allowable grips. No-gi competitions won't allow grips on clothing, for instance, as there's no gi to grab.

Are there any banned techniques in UK BJJ tournaments?

Banned techniques vary based on the competition and its governing body. However, certain moves, especially those targeting the spine, neck, or joints in a dangerous manner, are typically prohibited.

How do weight classes work in BJJ competitions in the UK?

Weight classes aim to ensure competitors face opponents of a similar size. The exact weight limits can vary based on the competition, but they typically range from rooster weight to ultra-heavyweight, with several classes in between.

What are the rules regarding uniform or gi inspections before a match?

Before a match, gis are often inspected to ensure they meet competition standards. This includes checking the material, length, cleanliness, and fit. A gi that's too thick, too long, or torn might be deemed unsuitable for competition.