Whether you are new to BJJ or a long time jiu-jitero or jiu-jitera, you have certainly heard of the IBJJF.

When it comes to traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the IBJFF is the premier organization for hosting most of the tournaments that earn competitors the most respect and clout in the world of BJJ.

Additionally, the IBJJF hosts many local and regional tournaments.

Competing in IBJJF is similar to many other tournament formats, however there are a few IBJJF-specific things you should think about when getting ready to compete.

This article breaks down everything you need to know about competing in your first IBJJF tournament.

Let’s dive in!

What Is The IBJJF?

The IBJJF stands for the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation. The IBJFF is a private, for-profit organization that has dominated the BJJ tournament scene up until quite recently, when other promotions and rulesets such as ADCC and EBI began to take prominence.

The IBJJF is big on rules and competing successfully in IBJJF requires you to understand these rules as well as the scoring system in order to give you an advantage over your opponent.

Overall, the IBJJF has set the standards for traditional, points-based jiu jitsu competition.

Until quite recently, most points-based rule systems relied on the IBJJF ruleset.

Prepping For Your First IBJJF Competition


IBJJF Celebration

I’m going to make two assumptions before diving in to the specific tips for preparing.

The first assumption is that you are trying to win.

While you may not aspire to be the next black belt world champion, you signed up to do as well as you can against the opponents, not just to step on the mat for the experience.

The second assumption is that you are training at least three days per week.

If you are serious about competing, you should be training three days minimum, and ideally more than that. This is a universal in BJJ competition and is not specific to IBJJF.

Assuming your goal is to perform as well as possible to win within the IBJFF ruleset, the following tips can help you prepare to put on your best performance possible during your first IBJJF tournament.

1. Learn The IBJJF Ruleset

The IBJJF ruleset is among the strictest in BJJ, especially so at the lower levels of competition. The rules vary with belt level and revolve primarily around which submissions are legal or illegal at each belt.

Some of the key standout rules across all levels in IBJJF Gi are:

  • No reaping or heel hooks in Gi at any level
  • No slams
  • No suplex takedown techniques landing with the opponent’s head on the ground

The following applies to purple belts and below in Gi and No Gi:

  • No heel hooks or any of the techniques banned at black belt
  • No toe holds
  • No knee bars
  • No calf slicer
  • No bicep slicer

At the white belt level, the following techniques are prohibited in addition to the above techniques:

  • No compression locks squeezing the torso with legs while opponent in your closed guard
  • No wrist locks
  • No single leg takedown while the attacking athlete has their head outside the opponent’s body

Note that as of 2021, heel hooks and reaping are legal at brown and black belt No Gi.

As you can see, most of the leglock game does not exist in IBJJF at the lower levels. Although this would have been normal a decade ago, these days, many mainstream tournaments are allowing most, if not all leg locks at the blue belt level.

Additionally, many no gi tournaments do not really distinguish between belt levels, particularly as competitors become more advanced, and so you can expect purples and even blue belts in the same bracket as black belts – but not in IBJJF.

It’s key that you understand which techniques and positions are illegal in IBJJF to avoid an immediate disqualification loss.

2. Focus On The IBJJF Point System

IBJJF Point System

Although the goal of BJJ is submitting your opponent, it is unrealistic to expect that you will crush the bracket and submit every opponent.

For winning IBJJF consistently, you must learn the IBJJF point system.

The system is straightforward in most cases. Points are awarded for position advancement if you can hold the position for three seconds.

The positional points breakdown is as follows:

  • Takedown or sweep with control in top position – 2 points
  • Knee-on-belly – 2 points
  • Passing guard and stabilizing a top control – 3 points
  • Mount, back mount, back control – 4 points

Before you commit to a submission attempt, it's worth trying to rack up some position points. This allows you to take risks when attacking submissions. If you lose the position and your opponent recovers a good position, they are now better able to score on you.

This is less of an issue if you are already up on points, as your opponent must now run out the clock trying to catch up or submit you.

This situation gives you the advantage of patience and timing, although you’ll be dealing with a desperate and aggressive opponent.

On a similar note, you must know when a position receives a score and when it doesn’t.

For example, if you rack up points passing your opponent’s guard and your opponent recovers some form of guard, you can now score those points again if you pass again.

The implication of this can be counter-intuitive. Although escaping from bottom position displays superior BJJ than being stuck under control, it opens you up to get scored on all over again.

Consider the following situation:

You are up on points 6-5 with a minute left but your opponent is in top side control. In this case, you might consider not fully trying to escape but instead defend against further positional advances. After all, if they passed your guard once, they could probably do it again.

You cannot afford that if you want to win in this scenario, so perhaps consider not escaping to deny your opponent the scoring opportunity.

Knowing the ins-and-outs of the points system gives you a major advantage in IBJJF tournaments independent of specific skill level.

3. Know About Advantages and Penalties

Advantages and penalties are a sort of secondary points system. In the event of a tie, the advantage and penalties accrued during the match will decide the victor.

Advantages are typically awarded for aggression and other forms of minor control or attempts at techniques that may fail but keep the action going.

You do not need to fully score points to get advantages.

Penalties are given out for lack of activity on behalf of one or more competitors, or for minor fouls.

For example, if you have top control but are not trying to advance position for more than 30 seconds, you will probably get a penalty.

Furthermore, fouls such as grabbing the fingers can earn you a penalty. Note that too many minor fouls will result in disqualification loss.

Finally, Do not under any circumstance talk to the referee. This will get you an immediate penalty every time.

Similarly, major fouls such as banned submission attempts will cause immediate disqualification.

Understanding the advantage and penalty system in IBJJF can be the difference between hitting the podium and going home empty handed, especially when the skill levels of you and your opponent are closely matched.

Note that advantages and penalties are not considered if one competitor is ahead on points at the end of the match.


4. Be On Weight Ahead of Time

Many IBJJF tournaments have you weigh in right before competing. This is not enough time to recover from any real weight cut and expect a good performance.

Your best bet is to sign up for a weight class that you already walk around at.

At most, you can eat lightly the day before if you need to drop a pound or two.

However, planning to cut more than a couple pounds is not recommended when the weigh-ins are immediately before competing.

5. Focus On Cardio

Coming into the match with good cardio and knowing how to pace yourself is key to winning the bracket in IBJJF. Often, you must win 3 to 6 matches with relatively little time in between to reach the podium.

If you blow your whole gas tank in the first match, even if you win, you are setting yourself to gas out in the later matches.

Avoid this by focusing on your cardio and learning how to pace yourself. Find an intensity you can sustain for 5 or more minutes for multiple rounds, interspersed with more explosive scrambles.

Even the most conditioned athlete must learn to pace themself, especially if they want to win a stacked bracket.

Prepping For IBJJF: The Bottom Line

If you compete enough in BJJ, you will inevitably do an IBJJF tournament.

While you should follow the advice in this article to maximize your shot at hitting that coveted podium, do not forget the most important aspect of competing in BJJ as a recreational athlete:

Have fun and embrace the growth!

November 19, 2021