OCTOBER 9, 2020 – Earlier today, jiu-jitsu news site BJJ Eastern Europe released a report that alluded to the inclusion of heel-hooks and knee-reaping to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) ruleset. The news came after Australian based, official IBJJF referee, Thiago Stefanutti, who is a 3rd-degree black belt and closely tied to athletes such as Lachlan and Livia Giles and the Absolute MMA Academy, referenced this new addition to the ruleset, at a team Facebook forum. According to BJJEE Stefanutti wrote:
“In 2021 heel-hoks will be allowed to brown and black belts on IBJJF NoGi Comps. This isn’t on the media yet but it is confirmed. For those who eventually didn’t compete IBJJF comps because of it, better find a new excuse. IBJJF is showing they are listening to the community and in my opinion, should be allowed in the gi as well. Good news team!” (source)
BJJ Heroes has since discussed the matter with 2 other well known and high-ranking IBJJF referees, who asked to remain anonymous. Both did mention that the addition of heel-hooks and the allowance for knee-reaping is currently being discussed, but is not yet set in stone. They were also unable to verify if, in case the new directives go through, they would indeed come in time to be added to the 2021 calendar.
The banning of heel-hooks by the IBJJF, the sport’s most recognized governing body, has been an intensely debated issue among the jiu-jitsu community for a number of years, and is, arguably, the main reason behind the rise of the submission-only sub-culture – a group formed mainly by jiu-jitsu players working outside of the sport’s limiting rules.
Many athletes from BJJ and other grappling backgrounds have been applying pressure for the inclusion of this effective submission in the standard BJJ curriculum, and many schools have unilaterally decided to include the maneuver in their syllabus since heel-hook prone competitors rose to the top of our sport’s stardom while fighting in alternative circuits to the IBJJF.
WHY ARE THE HEEL-HOOK AND LEG REAPING BANNED IN THE FIRST PLACE?
It is worth keeping in mind that both these maneuvers were allowed at one point in our sport. In fact, leg reaping was still allowed up until the early 2000s. As jiu-jitsu grew outside a small circuit of academies in the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro, more guidelines were added by the IBJJF (then called CBJJ) to improve the safety of all competitors. Both the heel-hook and leg-reaping, according to the IBJJF’s legislators, are high-risk positions for catastrophic injuries and therefore, they were removed.
As the debate continues, and although the inclusion of these two positions is not yet a reality, things are looking very positive for fans of the leg-locking game, particularly in the no-gi circuit. There are rumors that the IBJJF has met with all of the main BJJ team leaders who agreed to go ahead with the rule-change. If this news becomes a reality, this will be the biggest change to the IBJJF ruleset since the organization was created, back in 1994 (as CBJJ).