50-50 Rule Change

Image from Stephan Kesting youtube video "BJJ World Champion Leandro Lo: How to Pass 50/50 guard"

Image from Stephan Kesting youtube video “BJJ World Champion Leandro Lo: How to Pass 50/50 guard”

Article written and collaborated by Cristiano Del Giacco, Thiago Braga, Vicente Cavalcanti, Kate Wilson, Lachlan Giles, Ben Hodgkinson, Thiago Stefanutti. Author images obtained from athletes Facebook pages.


 

“This disgusts me and makes me want to sleep when I watch these matches WTF. I’d rather lose than win fighting like this!!” These are the words from multiple Abu Dhabi and IBJJF world champion Rodolfo Vieira sourced from BJJ Eastern Europe from his original post on his Facebook page. Rodolfo was voicing his disgust about the use of the 50/50 guard in competition. He was not the only fighter to have a less than favourable view on the position. I found another quote from Xande Ribeiro also on the BJJ Eastern Europe webpage stating, “It looks like two idiots on a seesaw”. Though extremely witty these are some pretty strong words of disapproval for the position. I have my own swaying opinion regarding the 50-50 guard, which I base primarily on my frustration and curiosity with the position. Reading high-level black belts voicing their opinions, like Rodolfo and Xande, sparked my interest further. I set out to find, if I could, an opposing opinion to this apparent unpopular 50/50 guard consensus. Ryan Hall, a black belt well known for his use of the position in nogi and submission grappling tournaments, had this to say in his own website blog:

“In my mind, the 50/50 is no different than Roleta’s inverted guard or Gordo’s half guard. Both men revolutionized the positions associated with them not through closed-mindedness but rather through analysis, practice, and re-analysis that resulted in innovation.”

Ryan’s comment invites us to interpret the 50/50 position as an inevitable evolution of the game that should be welcomed and treated with respect not like an unhygienic Geordie Shore cast member.

Ryan’s statement seems less emotionally charged compared to Rodolfo’s and Xande’s. To be fair, the quote taken from Xande may have been mere a segment in a longer section of speech of which we have not been privy to it’s context. Rodolfo’s quote originated from his Facebook page, and honestly who hasn’t posted something on Facebook that they may have blown out of proportion as a result of the emotional state at the time? None the less there are at least two camps in relation to the 50/50 guard; those who like it and those who hate it. But is there a third camp? Is there another stance situated in the grey area? Is the 50/50 a greasy, manky, stomach turning Geordie Shore housemate? Is it something that should be taught in order to further evolve? Or is it unnecessary like performing CPR on a Geordie Shore cast member? I contacted a few of Australia’s best competitors and coaches to gain an insight into their thoughts on the salacious guard position.

HWR

What is your stance on the 50/50 guard? Do you believe it is a hindrance to the progress of the match and spectator excitement? Or do you believe it’s a natural evolution of the guard game that needs to be learned and addressed in order to be a complete BJJ fighter?

Thiago Braga

I don’t believe the 50/50 guard is a hindrance to the progress of jiu Jitsu at all. I started trading jiu Jitsu in 1998, so I believe I have learned the so called “old school” Jiu Jitsu in my early years of training. Therefore, I was lucky to see the evolution of jiu Jitsu in many different technical aspects and I notice that unfortunately some people tend to reject new things very often before trying to understand them.

Vicente Cavalcanti

Yes, I believe it is the natural evolution of the guard when it used to progress the game. If you want to be a compete fighter you definitely should learn it.

Kate Wilson

I think the 50/50 guard is a natural evolution of the game. Guards continue to get more and more technical. I don’t mind watching matches where the 50/50 is used – the technical aspect is interesting to me.
The position should be studied by anyone serious about competing in Jiu Jitsu, even if only from a defensive aspect. Otherwise it’s easy to get caught!

Lachlan Giles

11425299_10206460934259970_1866947812_o

50/50 is just another position. It can be boring to watch if one person is trying to stall from there. Just like closed guard, side control, half guard, or any position can be boring if one of the competitors is not trying to improve their position. If you do not learn the 50/50 guard, at least to have some options on where to go from there, then you are severely limiting your jiu jitsu.

Ben Hodgkinson

I think BJJ is always going to struggle to be a popular spectator sport, it’s just that the amount of knowledge required to understand what is happening is quite a lot. In comparison to other martial arts/sports like judo or wrestling: all you need to know is the guy who ends up on the ground loses, or MMA: the guy who got punched the least wins! – easy to understand, and anyone can enjoy it. I think that’s the main reason BJJ isn’t ever going to be a massive spectator sport (plus it looks super gay). As for 50/50 hindering the progress of a match, I think it absolutely can be used as an effective position to stall from, but so can closed guard, or any other guard really. In my opinion: lack of combativeness is caused by the player, not the position.

Thiago Stefanutti

My Stance about the guard 50/50 is positive. It’s a hard position to progress in the match when both fighters play the guard well. I think the fighter who has a good arsenal of submissions from the 50/50 guard can make the match entertaining and it never will be boring. But at the same time watching two fighters sweeping each other for the whole match without progress into other situations is very boring, but overall I think it is positive.

HWR

Do you actively study the 50/50 position? i.e to implement it in your game or do you look to learn more about it to eliminate the possibility of your opponent seeking to initiate it

11426633_10206460929339847_1902353305_nThiago Braga

Actually last week 50/50 guard was the position of the week and we had many techniques to work from. From the 50 you can attack the back, arm bar, several foot locks, leg locks, sweeps and for those that don’t like it there are several ways to open and pass. So in my opinion is definitely a valid and strong position.

Vicente Cavalcanti

As a coach I try to learn a little bit of everything so I can teach my students. As a fighter I don’t like to play 50/50 and I try to avoid it, but it sometimes happens during the fight and we have to know how to deal with it.

Kate Wilson

Both. I practice attacks and sweeps from there so I am aware of the possibilities. I also practice it defensively – avoiding the position, passing 50/50 guard or using it when you have to defend the guard pass.

Lachlan Giles

I train a lot of 50/50. Entries in to 50/50 as well as how to get out of it. It is easily one of the best positions to get a sweep from so I will take any opportunity I can to enter 50/50 from the bottom position. Conversely, when I am on top I will work very hard not to get in to 50/50 and also on how to untangle the legs. My opinion is that its not hard to get out of 50/50, but to be good at getting out you have to train it. On a side note I see a lot of people getting injured in competition from the 50/50 because they don’t know what it is. Hint, trying to pressure pass when on top of 50/50 is a great way to tear your LCL. It should be the coaches’ responsibility to make their competitors aware of the guard and how to approach it.

11418675_10206460925419749_707868148_nBen Hodgkinson

I do now, it hasn’t been one of my best positions in the past, but lately I have been trying to work a lot from there and now I love the position. I think every single person who wants to compete actively in BJJ needs to have a strong 50/50 guard. If you watch the black belts at the worlds, it’s one position that is in a huge amount of matches, particularly in the lighter weight classes. Even if you hate the position (which is retarded), you should practice it. If for nothing else then so when someone is trying to use it to stall on you then you know what to do.

Thiago Stefanutti

Yes I do but I don’t make it an obsession, I have couple counters and attacks from that guard but I don’t think it has to be part of my A game

HWR

What effect, if any, do you believe the new IBJJF rules regarding the elimination of advantage points given to sweeps initiated within the 50/50?

Thiago Braga

I’m not against or in favour of it. I believe Jiu Jitsu competitors are intelligent and strategic, so we play with what’s given to us. If the rule allows them to score advantages repetitively from the same position they will but if that’s not an option I don’t think it will be a problem to anyone.

Vicente Cavalcanti

I actually love the update to the rules. I think it will be so much better for the people who watch the matches… its so boring to watch two guys fighting in the 50/50 for 10 minutes.

Kate Wilson

I think the rule change is a positive one and will eliminate some of the stalling the position can create. But I think it will have only a minor effect. Competitors will adapt as always, and it is already less common to win this way then when we first saw the position.

Ben Hodgkinson

So the rule is if I am on bottom in 50/50, the guy is on top, I put him on his butt, don’t consolidate the sweep, he gets back up, I no longer get an advantage. Is that correct? If so I think the rule is ok, the only thing it changes is the guy on bottom can’t sit there and rack up advantages by pretending to sweep but never actually trying to get on top or advance his position.

Thiago Stefanutti

I think it was a great change because some fighters would get this guard, make one advantage from a sweep initiated within the 50/50 and win the fight using that advantage. When two fighters keep their arses on the ground for 10 minutes looking for an advantage it makes the fight technically very poor and especially poor entertainment for the public. Congrats to the IBJJF in this case, it is a big gain for the sport.

HWR

It seems people either favour the guard or hate it. If you had the chance would you implement your own rules regarding the 50/50 to provide for more excitement? What would they be?

Thiago Braga

I believe the 50 is just fine with the current rules and we should just let the sport evolve as it has been for so many years. I think the most beautiful thing about jiu Jitsu is that it keeps changing so we will never be bored of training. For those lazy instructors its constant evolution might be a problem because it makes them out of date. Years ago there were discussions about the berimbolo, now the 50/50 and I believe very soon we will have discussions about the Keenan’s worm guard…but that’s Jiu Jitsu.

Vicente Cavalcanti

If I had the chance to change the rules about 50/50 hmmm good question… I don’t know hey haha maybe I would make a limit time for it. Like someone has to sweep or do something in 30sec or restart standing… I don’t know I have to think about it.

11414513_10206460927099791_1434843887_nKate Wilson

I think the current rules are fine. I don’t think the position needs to be banned or anything – I remember when athletes first started using the position there were calls for it to be banned, but you hardly hear people say that anymore. It’s part of the sport now! Even if people don’t like it they should learn it.

Lachlan Giles

The rules are fine as they are, I would not change them. I agree that you should not get an advantage for almost sweeping from 50/50. Heel hooks would probably turn it into one of the most exciting positions to watch.

Ben Hodgkinson

Add heel hooks and reaping. This changes the entire 50/50 position COMPLETELY. It massively increases the chances of seeing a submission (which should be the aim of BJJ), and it makes the whole position a far more dangerous place to just chill in and try to wait out the clock. If I was going to stall, I’d want to do it somewhere I feel safe and in control… Not that I’d ever stall.

11289557_10206460924699731_1879982960_nThiago Stefanutti

The rules are already made to prevent the bad use of the 50/50 guard. The referee should penalise the fighter who doesn’t progress or don’t show any commitment to progress on the match. It is already written in the IBJJF book. Though, I think that little change about the awarding of advantages will change the way people will be using the 50/50 guard.

So there you have it. What ever the varied positions and perspectives held by members of the Jiu Jitsu community on the current stance of the art there appears to be one general consensus. Jiu Jitsu is an ever-evolving art, constantly growing in technique and approach adapting and evolving into further sub cultures and styles. Feel free to agree or disagree with the comments and thoughts within this article, as it’s main purpose was to create discussion amongst the community and enable us as the community with some insight from some of its members.

To finish we will leave you with some final thoughts from Ben Hodgkinson and Thiago Stefanutti in the hope of spurning some further thought of your own and the development of your game.

Ben Hodgkinson

Only extra comment isn’t specifically about 50/50 it’s just about BJJ and the rules in general. I feel like the more rules we bring in, the more limitations we put on what athletes can do in a match. I think no matter what there will always be a way to play to the rules and find loopholes to win matches on a technicality. Boring fighters will always be boring fighters no matter what rules you use, you can’t change the entire nature of someone’s game with a penalty or a time limit. In the same way guys who are aggressive and hunt the finish will always continue to do so, however sometimes the rules can have an effect on how they can attack and exciting fighters are often forced to “play the game” in order to win. Just pick one set of rules and let the competitors work it out. #savejiujitsu Also I think there should only be black belts at the highest levels of competition. No coloured belts at worlds etc. but that’s a conversation for another time.

Cheers for reading.

Hodge

Thiago Stefanutti

It’s not about the style of guard, it’s about the fighter.

Cristiano Del Giacco

The position should be nurtured and not abandoned in the wilderness in the cold like the Geordie Shore cast should have been long ago.

Works cited

“Rodolfo Vieira: ‘I’d Rather Lose Than Win by Using That Sh*tty 50/50 Guard’” BJJ Eastern Europe n.p. 15 March 2015. Web. 30 April 2015. http://www.bjjee.com/featured/rodolfo-vieira-id-rather-lose-than-win-by-using-that-shtty-5050-guard

“The 50/50 Controversy” 50/50 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu n.p. 9 May 2015. Web. 40 April 2015 http://5050bjj.com/archives/947

Article written and collaborated by Cristiano Del Giacco, Thiago Braga, Vicente Cavalcanti, Kate Wilson, Lachlan Giles, Ben Hodgkinson, Thiago Stefanutti. Author images obtained from athletes Facebook pages.

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