Sunday, August 5, 2012

Risky Business

I was recently asked to look at a situation that took place at a US Grappling event involving a kneebar sweep.  The tricky thing is that under the rules for purple belts, kneebars are clearly banned.

But what about a kneebar sweep?

I can't find anyone who knows how to handle this situation under IBJJF rules and I had to ask the head referee for US Grappling how this scenario should be handled because it is such a rare occurrence.

Basically, US Grappling's rules for kneebar sweeps are:
  • Using a kneebar pressure to cause your opponent to sit to the mat for a sweep is allowed.
  • Once he or she is on the mat, you must let go of the pressure.
  • If at any point during this sequence, your opponent taps, you will be disqualified regardless of whether he or she is sitting or standing. 
This makes the kneebar sweep an extremely risky technique to attempt as a purple belt (and below) because sometimes you'll get the 2 points but other times you'll get hit with the DQ.

The match, which demonstrates the kneebar sweep and conveniently takes place under US Grappling rules, is below.  The sequence I want to focus on begins at 1:50.

Blue is playing Reverse de la Riva on White who is standing up.  Blue inverts and initiates a kneebar sweep pressuring White to fall to fall to his butt.  At this point Blue hasn't done anything strictly against the rules, but he is walking a fine line.  As a referee, I would've probably warned Blue to "Be careful about the kneebar" to remind him of the illegal technique.

The problem in this scenario arises once the competitors hit the ground and Blue does not relieve the pressure.  From the angle of the video, it doesn't look like he is trying to finish a kneebar.  Maybe he is pressuring the leg so he can stand up or pass?  However, his intent doesn't matter because White alerts the ref to the technique and the match is briefly stopped.  If White would have tapped instead of notifying the referee, Blue would be disqualified.

US Grappling is more lenient than the IBJJF regarding disqualifying competitors for accidental rules violations.  If the ref notices the illegal technique, as long as the ref believes the infraction to be accidental, the competitor will be forced to give up the illegal hold and the match will continue. Any advancement in position gained from the illegal move will be undone. For example, if you sweep your opponent while reaping his knee, the match will be restarted with you on the bottom.

This all goes out the window if your opponent taps, cries out in pain (verbal submission), or the referee believes the actions to be intentional or malicious. In any of those cases, it's an immediate DQ.

The bottom line is that attempting techniques in the gray area of the rules is going to come with some level of risk.  If you've done the cost-benefit analysis and you think it's worthwhile to attempt a borderline illegal technique, you must also accept the chance you will be disqualified.