Smart Thinking or Poor Sportsmanship?
Legend has it that while backstage at UFC 1, Rorion Gracie was explaining the tournament format to the fighters one last time. Someone asked him if they were permitted to bite each other. Rorion spread his arms magnanimously and said, “Gentlemen! We’re not animals.”
In jiu-jitsu, things like eye gouging are expressly illegal. However, there are a range if techniques and tactics that fall into a grey zone. Not against the rules, but not likely to make you friends on the mats. Some of these are clear in the gym. Others we’re still arguing about.
Often it comes down to one question: how do you want to win? If the stakes are high, then maybe the ends justify the means. But most times, it’s just not worth it. Remember, your reputation is as valuable as your “gym record”, but it’s also far harder to repair when damaged.
Lots of us have had an over eager opponent try and push our head, our body, or control our neck during stand-up. Referees have been known to give out warnings when competitors seem to be just slapping their opponents under the guise of these. Jake Shields famously caught the ire of the BJJ community by doing it to AJ Azagram.
Grabbing a fist full of fingers is a great way to control someone. But grabbing individual fingers will get you some raised eyebrows. It’s illegal in competitions, but getting away with it is not uncommon when officials cannot see the hands.
Grabbing the Throat
By now, we know that choking someone unconscious with your hands around their throat is very unlikely. Nonetheless, having a person stiff-arm your throat can slow you down and be uncomfortable. You run the risk of getting an armbar for your troubles, with maybe some extra hip-pressure. It’s not cool, and usually not effective anyways.
However, in defense of grabbing the throat, it doesn’t feel any less comfortable than getting guillotined, collar choked, or framed with a forearm. Let’s be honest, we’re attacking each other’s necks all the time. What makes the throat grab more offensive than anything else?
Covering the Mouth
Something that is effective is covering the mouth. BJ Penn put it to use against Joe Stevenson in the UFC. In BJJ, it’s considered rude in some gyms. A less blatant tactic is using your gi or chest to cover the mouth, instead of just using your hand.
People do it because it’s terribly uncomfortable, forcing you to breath in hot air that’s mostly your own carbon monoxide. You may not suffocate, but you’ll definitely take risks to escape the position.
Is it okay to do? Generally, you won’t make a ton of friends if you’re “the mouth cover guy.” Tread lightly.
I’m not sure what to call this. Using your knuckle joints to force your way under someone’s neck for a choke. When I studied Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, we called this boshi-ken. It’s a particularly nasty way to insert your hand into someone’s neck when they are “chin down”
(video above is a great alternative to knuckling in)
I’ve used this move and had it used on me. My personal experience is that it can be effective, but so can many other techniques from the back. What makes this tactic different is that it might dial up the intensity of the roll (most of these moves will).
As a guy who is about 125lbs. I don’t look forward to a big dude shoving his knuckle into my neck, so I tend to avoid this.
Okay, this is kinda a rare one, but I’ve see it in the wild. People who grind your face with their unshaven cheek. I don’t know if this is technically effective, or just so creepy it works.
You get used to being really close to people in jiu jitsu. Closer than would ever be allowed in another setting. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and cheek to cheek is where the buck stops for me.
Do unto others. . .
Dick move or fair game? It all comes down to the golden rule. Are you okay if the same thing is done to you? As a smaller guy, I’m aware of the fact that these moves are a nuisance when I do them to others, but can be soul-stealing when they are done to me.
For that reason, I tend to steer clear of anything that will trigger extra aggressiveness in my opponents.
But that’s just me. What do you think? What are “dick moves” in BJJ?
Having some sneaky moves is great, but the more solid technique you have, the less you’ll need it! YouJiuJitsu has some great technique articles, like this one on sitting half guard.