Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Keenan / Paulo Double DQ

Keenan and Paulo is unfortuntely the match that everyone is talking about after the Abu Dhabi World Pro.  All because one referee decided to take a stand and enforce his interpretation of the rules and of how our sport should be played.  In principle, I agree with what this referee did (and so did the crowd based on their reaction).  However, I don't agree with how the overall situation was handled.

The Good

  • Sport Jiu Jitsu matches like this look ridiculous to anyone who is not deep into the competition game.  Taking and maintaining a "top" position should be a primary goal of the sport and actively encouraged by the rules.  Issuing penalties for "passivity" is a potential solution to the problem.
  • Hopefully this situation will help start the conversation about how to handle "stalemate" positions in the sport.  If BJJ has any aspirations as a spectator or Olympic sport, it needs to at a minimum be entertaining to its practitioners.

The Bad

  • I think the referee took the rules into his own hands.  There is a clear precedent in other events held under IBJJF rules that boring double guard pulls are legal.  This is like vigilante justice.
  • I firmly believe that the IBJJF is wrong in it's policy of not stopping a match to issue a penalty.  I think the penalties came too fast, and stopping the match so that each competitor could acknowledge the situation would have helped prevent the DQ.  They stop to tie belts, but not for penalties...
  • Keenan and Paulo were not only disqualified from the match, they also lost out on medals and prize money.  These guys are professional competitors who flew halfway across the world to compete, I would expect the tournament organizers to be equally professional and at least award both of them second place.
I would like to to see the IBJJF add some sort of "stalemate" rule specifically targeting the 50/50 position and the double guard pull.  If neither player is willing or able to come to a top position, then the match could be stopped and restarted on the feet.  If the referee feels that one or both players were stalling or overly passive, penalties could be issued before the match is restarted.  The rule could also set an arbitrary time limit  before a stalemate is called like 30 seconds or a minute depending on match length.

There are other, more drastic options like changing point structures or penalizing guard pulls, but I think the stalemate option is needed regardless.  Even MMA, which is one of the purest expressions of unarmed combat, has a stalemate rule that allows a referee to restart a match standing.

It's pretty clear that something has to change.