IBJJF Legal Submissions and Techniques

Ever wonder what positions and submissions are legal for you belt level in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Ever wonder what the etiquette is for using them in training? Wonder no more! Here’s a brief outline of the banned techniques and a note on how we use them at Kyuzo.

First, here’s a list of IBJJF’s techniques that are considered illegal:


Most of them are common sense, but let’s go through them quickly.


…the principal theory is that the spine or trachea cannot be attacked or manipulated. This means that the guillotine choke is banned, as is the Ezekiel choke as these involve forearm pressure on the neck. This is fairly obvious but less obvious for example is the rule where the head cannot be pulled down inside the triangle choke. There are also no footlocks or leg attacks of any kind allowed for children. The Omoplata shoulder lock (using the legs) is also banned, presumably due to the lack of control involved.


…all age categories are considered equal, but the belt level is what matters. You’ll notice that the straight footlock is legal for all belts, but once you get to brown belt the other leg locks come into play.

So all is pretty self explanatory, but how to use them in training? And isn’t it a bit strange that you must wait 6 or 8 years before being able to apply a toe hold or a knee bar for example?

Well, yes and no. Let’s state for the record here that the below is the rule for Kyuzo and may not necessarily be applicable to anywhere else you train.

We break our training into two categories- Gi Training (in the kimono) and Nogi Training (shorts and tees)

In Gi Training…

…you must only use the legal submissions allowed for the highest belt in the roll. What that means s that whoever the highest belt is in a pair, you operate to that ruleset. To do otherwise retards the progress of the highest belt and can create bad habits. So if I am a blue belt, I may wrist lock even white belts and they may wrist lock me. I may also attack the legs for kneebar or toe hold of a brown or black belt if I’m rolling with them. However unless otherwise stated by your coach, you may not use any of the totally illegal techniques while training in the gi.

If you are training with a person of the same grade, you should only use the techniques for that grade, unless otherwise stated.

In NoGi training…

…belts do not apply. This is because in NoGi we are training not just for IBJJF competition, but also for Amateur and Professional MMA, ADCC or Submission Wrestling competitions, and other tournaments and formats where IBJJF rules are not in play. This is not always the case as occasionally we may be training for an IBJJF NoGi tournament and need to conform to those rules, however in most cases this applies.

This means that many of the totally illegal techniques in IBJJF rules may be practiced in Nogi. However some are totally banned, and some may be applied with “Catch and Release” rules. A note that in NOGI training, “reaping” is allowed under control.

Once again these are Kyuzo Rules and may not be applicable to your school. You’ll note that some seem innocuous but we ban them on the basis that they don’t add anything to training and the risk/reward equation is low for development.


Never to be performed in sparring under any circumstances

  • Scissors Takedown
  • Takedowns that spike or land your opponent on head/neck, including when your opponent has the outside single
  • Pulling your opponent backward from the turtle position (explained in detail in class)
  • Jumping to closed guard
  • All spinal locks (see below for “Twister variation”)
  • Digital manipulation (fingers and toe grabs)


Definition of catch and release- catch and release implies making the position, but not necessarily waiting on the tap. In most submissions, the responsibility is one the person on the receiving end to tap in time. In these positions, we allow the submission to be applied with care but there is a DUAL RESPONSIBILITY meaning the person applying the position is prepared to release the hold if he feels his opponent is in danger of injury. This may happen if the opponent is unable to tap in time or at all, or if the opponent is for some reason unaware that the submission is close.  You may perform these techniques on those in the advanced class only.

  • Heel Hook- inside and outside
  • Twister Lock
  • Kneebar
  • Toe Hold
  • Bicep/Calf crushers

These submissions are carefully monitored and must be applied with due care. An injured training partner is one less training partner, and anyone seen to be irresponsible or reckless with these or indeed any moves will be removed from training. We have done so in the past!

As a general rule at Kyuzo our philosophy is this-

We Teach Jiu Jitsu, Not Rules.

That means that while certain positions might be banned or illegal in competitions, we also value their effectiveness in MMA or self defence scenarios. Remember that rules can change quickly with a meeting of referees, so it’s important to be prepared and ready to adapt.

One final note is to remember that even though something may be banned, of you’re training properly in the system of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu then you should have the ability to adapt to that technique once the rules change or you’re competing under new rules. Training in an environment where you can never touch your opponent’s legs will do you little good when sudden;y all bets are off and leg attacks are allowed!


We hope this is helpful and remember you can ask in the gym any time for an explanation.

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