Scoring Points or Going For Submission?

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You need to make reasonably good decisions when you compete in matches with points and regulation time.

Some of the most important decisions include:

  1. Am I safe now?
  2. Can I improve my position?
  3. Should I score points or go for submission from this position?
  4. Will I be in a worse position if I fail at the next move I’m about to make?

Question #1 is something you should always keep in mind. Assess your situation, and go forward typically only if you are sure you are safe.

But if there are points and regulation time involved, you might need to gamble and do what may be a risky move, especially when you are down on points and there’s not much time left.

In that case, you might have to scratch question #2 and settle for a good-enough-but-not-ideal position.

Question #3 is the most relevant one of all these questions regarding matches with points and regulation time.

If it’s earlier in the match, unless you are 99% sure you can get your submission, I believe the best course of action is always to score points first. The reason behind it is that you get points for improving your position, and instead of chasing a submission that might fail and put you into a worse position, improving your position will increase your submission success rate and reward you with points at the same time. This decision is related to questions #2 and #4.

But, again, if you don’t have much time left or need to score a lot to catch up, you may need to take chances.

What I mean by a worse position in question #4 is a position where your opponent can score or go for submission against you. If you judge that you might get into such a position in case of failure, it’s better to keep your position and try to improve it.

The tricky thing is, of course, that you often need to think about these questions and make decisions quickly and constantly.

When you train for competition with points and regulation time, you can try counting all the points you and your partner score during sparring. This will help you get better ideas about how you are doing in terms of points and possibly give you some pressure regarding your decision-making. This way, you can practice decision-making in a semi-realistic situation where you are under pressure.

Generally speaking, I believe the best practice is to keep improving your position until you are in a dominant position where you have a high chance of submitting your opponent, like the mount and the back. By the time you get there, you will have scored a reasonably good amount of points, and you will be in a safe position to initiate your submission options.

If this strategy works for Roger Gracie and Gordon Ryan, then I don’t see why you shouldn’t follow their thinking.

On a related note, if you are going for submission from a not-so-ideal position, you should know how to turn this submission attempt to a threat to your opponent so you can improve your position based on that threat. Leg attacks are great examples of this — you could use leg attacks to create an opening for a sweep or a pass, depending on where you initiate your leg attack.

Or you could connect one submission with another one that is more likely to land well. Using Kimura as a controlling position and switching to something else would be a prime example.

There are all sorts of possibilities, but when you control your opponent well, you can narrow things down and make it easier to predict what’s likely to happen. When you know what’s likely to happen, you can execute your moves confidently. Keep improving your position until you reach where your opponent cannot stop your submission. You will score points and end up dominating your opponent through this process.