Are There Any Illegal Moves In BJJ? [Explained]

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a dynamic and intricate martial art that emphasizes ground fighting and submission techniques. While BJJ is known for its effectiveness and practicality, it’s essential to understand the rules and regulations, such as the IBJJF rules, to ensure a safe and fair environment for practitioners and a good understanding of BJJ rules and points in competitions.

One of the critical aspects of BJJ is knowing what moves are legal and what moves are considered illegal. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of illegal moves in BJJ, exploring various techniques and their legality.

So, let’s roll!

What Are Illegal Moves in BJJ?

In BJJ, certain moves are prohibited due to their potential to cause serious injury or their inherently dangerous nature.

These illegal moves are strictly forbidden in competitions and training, aiming to maintain a sportive and respectful atmosphere while safeguarding the participants’ well-being.

While the vast majority of BJJ techniques are legal, some common examples of illegal moves include:

  1. Groin Strikes: Striking or attacking the groin area is strictly prohibited, as it can lead to severe injury and is considered unsportsmanlike conduct.
  2. Biting and Eye Gouging: These actions are entirely off-limits, as they pose significant risks to the safety of the fighters.
  3. Hair Pulling and Fish Hooking: Pulling an opponent’s hair or inserting fingers into their nose, mouth, or ears is not allowed.
  4. Small Joint Manipulation: Intentionally targeting and bending more than four fingers or toes in a way that may cause injury is illegal.
  5. Spine Cranks: Applying excessive pressure on an opponent’s spine can result in serious damage and is thus considered illegal.
  6. Striking Techniques: Punching, kicking, and any other striking techniques are not permitted in traditional BJJ.
  7. Soccer Kicks and Stomps: These aggressive moves are forbidden in BJJ due to their potential for causing severe harm.

Remember, the list of illegal moves is not exhaustive, and it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the complete set of rules to avoid any unintentional violations.

IBJJF moves: Illegal and legal

ibjjf slam rules
IBJJF rule book screenshot

Are Knee Bars Legal in Gi?

Knee bars are a popular submission technique in BJJ that can put significant pressure on an opponent’s knee joint, potentially leading to injury.

The legality of knee bars in BJJ depends on whether you are training in the gi or no-gi style.

Knee Bars in No-Gi BJJ

In no-gi BJJ, knee bars are generally allowed for practitioners of higher BJJ belt levels. For instance, knee bars in IBJJF are allowed for brown and black belts starting with the adult age category in no gi style.

However, it’s crucial to apply the technique safely and responsibly, as excessive force can lead to serious injury.

Knee Bars in Gi BJJ

In gi BJJ, the rules regarding knee bars can vary depending on the organization and competition.

Some tournaments and academies allow knee bars for certain belt ranks, while others might restrict them entirely.

Always check the specific rules of the event or school you are training with to ensure compliance.

Can You Suplex in BJJ?

Suplexes, a spectacular and powerful throw originating from wrestling, involve lifting an opponent off the ground and slamming them onto their back.

While suplexes can be awe-inspiring, they are generally considered illegal in BJJ.

Why Are Suplexes Illegal?

The primary reason suplexes are not allowed in BJJ is the significant risk of injury, particularly to the person being thrown.

BJJ emphasizes controlled techniques and ground grappling, and suplexes often violate these principles.

What Leg Attacks Are Legal in Gi?

Leg attacks can be highly effective in BJJ, targeting an opponent’s lower body for submissions. However, the legality of leg attacks in BJJ depends on the specific technique.

Legal Leg Attacks in Gi BJJ

  1. Straight Ankle Lock: This submission involves controlling an opponent’s foot and ankle, applying pressure to force them to submit.
  2. Knee Compression: While leg locks targeting the knee joint are generally illegal, knee compression techniques that don’t involve twisting the joint excessively are allowed.

Illegal Leg Attacks in Gi BJJ

  1. Heel Hooks: Heel hooks, a type of leg lock that puts intense pressure on the knee, are typically not allowed in gi BJJ due to their potential for severe injury.
  2. Toe Holds: Toe holds, which target the foot and ankle, are often prohibited in gi BJJ to prevent harm to the opponent’s joints.

Always be sure to check the specific rules of your academy or tournament to determine which leg attacks are permitted.

Are There Illegal Chokes in Jiu-Jitsu?

Chokes are an essential part of BJJ, but some variations can be hazardous and, therefore, illegal in certain settings.

Legal Chokes

  1. Rear Naked Choke (RNC): The RNC is a fundamental and highly effective choke that is generally legal in BJJ.
  2. Cross Collar Choke: This choke targets the opponent’s collar and is widely allowed in both Gi and No-Gi BJJ.

Illegal Chokes

  1. Neck Cranks: Applying excessive pressure to an opponent’s neck can lead to severe injuries and is generally considered illegal.
  2. Guillotine Choke with Slam: While the guillotine choke itself may be legal, performing a slam while executing it can result in disqualification or penalties.

Remember, even with legal chokes, it’s essential to apply them with control and consideration for your training partner’s safety.

Are Judo Throws Allowed in BJJ?

Judo throws can be highly effective takedowns, and many BJJ practitioners incorporate them into their arsenal. The rules regarding Judo throws in BJJ can vary depending on the competition or academy.

In most BJJ competitions, Judo throws are generally allowed, but certain modifications and safety measures might be in place to prevent injury. For example, some tournaments might disallow throws that involve directly landing an opponent on their head or neck.

If you plan to use Judo throws in BJJ, make sure to practice them safely and be aware of the specific rules and guidelines of your academy or the event you’re participating in.

Is Slamming Illegal in BJJ?

Slamming, or forcefully lifting and slamming an opponent onto the mat, is generally illegal in BJJ. The prohibition of slamming is primarily for the safety of the participants.

Slamming can cause severe injuries, including concussions and spinal injuries.

BJJ focuses on ground grappling and submission techniques, and lifting an opponent to slam them goes against the principles of controlled and technical grappling.

Illegal Moves in BJJ Reddit Opinions

As we’ve explored various illegal moves in BJJ and their rationale, it’s essential to consider the community’s opinions and experiences.

Reddit, a popular online platform, is a place where BJJ practitioners and enthusiasts often share their thoughts.

Main Point
Certain moves are generally not recommended: leg locks other than straight ankle lock, knee reaping, bicep slicers, neck/spine cranks, wrist locks, slamming. Different competitions have different rules. Ask your instructor about using different rules for competition prep.
Twisters are banned in BJJ competitions.
Some rules in IBJJF are based on politics and history rather than safety.
Leg locks historically looked down upon in Brazilian BJJ scene, resulting in rules restrictions.
Using pressure points, like knuckle poking, is legal but considered poor form in BJJ practice.
Unconventional pressure point tactics may be used by some but are generally not effective.
Using pressure points (e.g., knuckle to ribs) may be legal but not very effective in BJJ.

While opinions on certain techniques can vary, there’s a general consensus that illegal moves should be avoided, and practitioners must prioritize the safety and well-being of their training partners.

Many Reddit threads discuss the potential risks of illegal moves and emphasize the importance of adhering to the rules of BJJ to create a positive and respectful training environment.

Understanding the Consequences of Illegal Moves

In any sport or martial art, the use of illegal moves can have severe consequences, both for the practitioner executing the move and the recipient.

In BJJ, where the emphasis is on leverage and technique rather than brute force, illegal moves can lead to injuries that can sideline a practitioner for an extended period.

Additionally, using illegal moves in training or competition can tarnish a person’s reputation, impacting their standing within the BJJ community.

It’s essential to remember that BJJ is not just a sport; it’s a martial art that fosters discipline, respect, and camaraderie. Engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct by using illegal moves goes against the core principles of BJJ.

The Role of Referees and Judges

In BJJ competitions, referees and judges play a critical role in ensuring fair play and enforcing the rules. They are responsible for identifying and penalizing illegal moves, as well as making sure that competitors adhere to the established guidelines.

Referees undergo extensive training to be able to make quick and accurate decisions, promoting safety and fairness in each match.

While referees and judges do their best, the fast-paced nature of BJJ matches means that some illegal moves might go unnoticed.

This is why it’s essential for practitioners to have a good understanding of the rules and to act responsibly during training and competition.

Safety Measures and Protective Gear

To minimize the risk of injuries in BJJ, some BJJ schools have specific rules when it comes to training leg attacks.

In no-gi training, leg locks might be allowed for advanced practitioners, while they may be restricted or even prohibited for beginners to avoid accidents and injuries.

The Importance of Learning Legal Techniques

As practitioners progress in their BJJ journey, they discover an extensive array of legal techniques that allow them to control opponents and achieve submissions safely. Emphasizing the importance of learning and mastering legal techniques is crucial to ensuring that BJJ remains a martial art focused on skill, strategy, and respect.

By focusing on legal techniques, practitioners can develop a well-rounded game that adheres to the principles of BJJ. Learning legal techniques also allows practitioners to build a strong foundation for their grappling skills, leading to continuous growth and improvement.

Ethical Considerations in BJJ

Beyond the rules and regulations, BJJ practitioners often engage in discussions about the ethical aspects of their art. For instance, some practitioners question the ethics of certain techniques, even if they are technically legal. Techniques that put excessive pressure on joints, such as the “stack pass” or “torreando” in guard passing, have raised ethical concerns among some practitioners.

These ethical considerations highlight the importance of applying techniques with control and mindfulness of the potential risks to training partners. Respecting the physical well-being of fellow practitioners is an integral part of the BJJ culture.

The Evolution of BJJ Rules

The rules of BJJ have evolved over the years, adapting to the changing landscape of the sport.

What might have been considered legal in the past could be prohibited today, or vice versa. Organizations like the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) regularly review and update their rules to promote safety and fairness in competitions.

As BJJ continues to gain popularity worldwide, it’s crucial for practitioners to stay updated on the latest rule changes to avoid unintentional violations and ensure a positive experience in both training and competition.

Navigating Gray Areas

In any sport or martial art, certain techniques might fall into a gray area when it comes to their legality. These are moves that might not be explicitly forbidden but could be perceived as dangerous or potentially harmful.

In such cases, it’s essential for practitioners to use their best judgment and consider the safety of their training partners.

BJJ is a constantly evolving art, and practitioners often find themselves exploring and experimenting with new techniques. However, as they do so, it’s crucial to balance innovation with responsibility to maintain a positive and respectful training environment.


Illegal moves in BJJ are a subject that demands attention and careful consideration. Understanding the rules and regulations is essential for the safety and well-being of practitioners and their training partners.

By adhering to the guidelines and focusing on legal techniques, we can uphold the values of BJJ as a people-first martial art that fosters skill, respect, and camaraderie.

As you continue your BJJ journey, always keep in mind that the true essence of this beautiful martial art lies not just in achieving victories but also in embracing the spirit of sportsmanship, discipline, and continuous learning.

So, step onto the mat with an open mind, a heart full of respect, and a passion for the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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