by: The Geeza
You could spend a good deal of time watching BJJ and never see a match that ends in disqualification. The reason is simple. Out of every 1,000 BJJ matches, in less than 10 a player is disqualified. Further, you have probably never read an explanation of why a referee disqualified a player. In this email there are links to 3 matches that end in disqualification and an explanation of why the referee (me) did it.

There are 4 lessons that I want you take away from this email.

1. Your reputation precedes you.
2. Take any comments the referee makes seriously.
3. Do not follow your base instincts.
4. Grapple in silence.

Lesson #1 – your reputation precedes you
Your reputation is what people think about you and it is held in different constituencies. You have a reputation with people in your belt rank, people below your belt rank and people above your belt rank. You have a reputation with people in your weight class, people above your weight class and people below your weight class. You have a reputation with all your training partners. You have a reputation with your coaches. You have a reputation with grappling fans and a reputation with the general public (including the people helping out at tournaments). Finally, you have a reputation with referees.

The best time to give coaching advice is as soon as someone steps off the mat. The tide going out on all that adrenalin makes their brain highly receptive to ideas and feedback. So if I am a referee, I make a point of giving people detailed observations straight after their match to help them become better grapplers. I learned to do this from a referee at the Pan American games who made a big impression on me. When I give coaching advice to a grappler after a match and they tell me that they do not care what I think, nor care what other people think about what they have just done, I know that I will have to keep a close eye on that player if I have to referee a match of theirs in future and I tell them as much. Remember this - your reputation precedes you.

Lesson #2 - Take any comments the referee makes seriously.
As a referee, I expect not to have to talk to the players during a match. But if a referee does talk, it is really important that players understand that referee comments must be taken seriously. Dean Thompson vs Cipriano Madayag; this was an important match; it was the finals of the super-heavyweight no-gi division. At 18 seconds (on the video), I warned Dean about eye gouging as he had his right hand fingers over the left eye of Cipriano; not in itself dangerous, but inappropriate and carrying the potential to be dangerous. At around 42 seconds Dean’s right hand comes into contact with Cipriano’s right eye socket and I give a further verbal warning and take a point away (once I feel that Cipriano is temporarily safe). Dean is verbally abusive at 46 seconds and some referees would have disqualified at that point. Watch the match to see the final outcome. Remember this - take any comments the referee makes seriously.

Lesson #3 - do not follow your base instincts
There are two kinds of submission – a tap from pain and a tap from panic. Chokes are almost always panic taps. A choke well done does not hurt; it simply cuts the blood off to your brain. An instinctual adrenalin fuelled response is immediately initiated as the oxygen available for your brain decreases and your body does a kind of fight or flight last second scramble. Experienced grapplers just tap when they know they are about to go out. Less experienced grapplers can go nuts and eye gouge, bitch slap or slam. If an opponent has a good choke on you, there is no escape and you are about to go out, there is only one course of action; tap. So remember this - do not follow your base instincts.

Frederic Martinoli vs Burt Sunico; this too was an important match; it was the finals of the absolute intermediate no-gi division.

Lesson #4 – Grapple in Silence
I feel it is really important for players to firmly believe that the referee will step in and stop the fight if they are in danger of being injured. When I referee, each time a new player steps onto the mat I always say the same thing (in the second round I just get the players to shake hands). This is what I say:

Do your best to win the match.
And I will do my best to make sure you do not get injured.
Listen to my instructions carefully.
Follow my instructions.
If I say – stop don’t move; then stop and don’t move.
Fight in the middle.
Shake hands.

After they hear that, it should be crystal clear that I will stop a match if injury seems likely or possible.

This third match was also an important match; it was the finals of the masters division. Mark (white Kimono) attempts an arm bar on Wilson. If you listen carefully at 2.20 you can hear Wilson make a yelp/Aaargh noise and the arm bar attempt ends. I immediately step in and tell the players to stop fighting. The match is over. Mark released the arm bar at the moment Wilson yelped. Wilson yelped because he was using that extra bit of power to free his arm that comes with vocalising. But from a referee standpoint we have to look after the safety of the fighters and when a submission is being attempted, a yelp is equivalent to a submission. Mark was a good sportsman about the incident and offered to just keep going. But a referee decision is final. So remember this – grapple in silence.

As an aside, there were 3 totally different reactions from each of the disqualified players and I leave it to you to guess which one did what.

Reaction #1: His coach later sent me an email saying the DQed player was now totally cool about the DQ as he did not know the rules at the time of the match.

Reaction #2: He was immediately remorseful and asked me to help him analyse what went wrong by sending him the video.

Reaction #3: He consistently denied any and all wrongdoing and later sent me an email saying he thought I was a prick.

And here is a resend – just in case you missed it.

Do you think the referees should allow matches like these to continue?

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