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A look at the history of combatives systems reveals two fundamental mistakes, both of which are related to competition. The first mistake is having no form of competition, which is generally due to the thought that the techniques are "too dangerous" for competitions. Although many techniques are too dangerous for live competition, many benefits can be gained by competing even in a limited set of techniques. The boxer is a better puncher than the traditional martial artist not because of the mechanics of punching, but because his technique has been refined through competition.

Competitions are useful for military units for many other reasons. The problem of developing is really the problem of how to Competitions can motivate subordinate unit leaders to emphasize combatives training, which leads to a strong unit program. Competitions also encourage the pursuit of excellence in soldiers.

The other mistake is that once a method of competition has been selected, training will naturally become focused on winning at competition rather than on winning in combat. To gain the benefits from competition without falling into the trap of a competitive focus, the unit must have a graduated system of competition rules. In this way there will be no competitive advantage to training specifically for competitions. Those who do will find themselves unprepared for the additional techniques that are allowed at the next level of competition. This also allows for a very safe subset of techniques to be used at the lower levels without loosing the combat focus.

Three sets of rules govern combatives competition-basic, standard, and special. Although other combative sports are encouraged, they sometimes reinforce bad combative habits.


The basic competition rules are designed for entry-level soldiers, or soldiers with a limited knowledge base. Soldiers will begin with a handshake, face each other on their knees, and fight until submission or for a designated time limit. On reaching the time limit, a winner will be designated by the referee based upon aggressiveness and display of superior technique.


Standard competitions are conducted using the following guidelines.

a. Uniform. Soldiers compete wearing BDUs and PT shoes. For ease in scoring, one soldier may wear a DBDU top.

b. Duration. Matches last six to ten minutes. Specific match duration is decided in advance.

c. Scoring. Points are awarded to establish good fight habits and emphasize the importance of dominant body position. Submission will end the fight regardless of the score. All positions must be stabilized to the judge's satisfaction to earn points. The point values are:

2 Points Take Down: From the standing position, the fighter places his opponent on the ground but fails to gain dominant position.
3 Points Take Down: From the standing position, the fighter places his opponent on his back and gains side control or the mount.
3 Points Pass the Guard: From between his opponent's legs, the fighter clears the legs and gains side control or the mount.
3 Points Sweep: From the guard position, the fighter changes positions, placing his opponent on his back.
3 Points Knee in Chest: From side control, the fighter establishes one knee in his opponent's chest and or abdomen and the other knee up and away from him and stabilizes himself.
4 Points Mount: The fighter establishes the mount with both knees and feet on the ground.
4 Points Back Mount: The fighter establishes the back mount with both feet hooked in position.
1 Point deduction: Stalling: From either within the guard or side control, the fighter must try to improve his position. The judge will give two warnings and then subtract a point. If the stalling continues, the judge gives two additional warnings, then subtracts an additional point, continuing this pattern until the end of the match or action is conducted.

d. Judging. Each match has one judge and one score keeper. It is the judge's responsibility to ensure a safe and fair match. All decisions are final.

e. Illegal Techniques. The following are illegal and dangerous techniques. Their use may result in disqualification:

  • Strikes of any kind.

  • Twisting knee locks.

  • Finger techniques.

  • Wrist techniques.

  • Grabbing the fingers.

  • Toe holds.

  • Attacking the groin.

  • Picking up the opponent to pass the guard.

f. Tie Breaking. If the score is tied at the end of the allotted time, the match will continue until the next point is scored or deducted.

g. Time Limits. Although time limits tend to change the types of techniques commonly employed, they are necessary, especially when conducting a large number of matches (as in a tournament). If time limits are used, a specific time limit will be decided on in advance, commensurate with the number of matches to be conducted. An alternative to time limits is to have a set amount of maximum points (usually fifteen). The first fighter to reach that limit is the winner. A victory by submission is far preferable to a point victory.


Special competitions are conducted using the following guidelines.

a. Required Safety Gear and Uniform Safety Gear.

  • Approved shin and instep pads (pull on type), approved knee pads, cup, mouth guard.

  • Optional-Neoprene or cloth ankle supports can be worn to support a previous injury but the injury must be verified by the ringside physician and the supports must be approved. Taping of previously injured areas will be under the same condition as stated above.

b. Uniform.

(1) Fighters will fight bare top, or with approved athletic top for females.

(2) Full-length tights or bicycle-length tights will be worn on the lower half of the body.

(3) Kneepads are required and must be of approved thickness and density.

(4) Shin and instep (pull on type) pads must be approved for thickness and density as well as proper fit. They must provide maximum softness with enough density so that the shin and knee bones cannot be felt when strong pressure is applied. Pads must fit snugly so they will not easily pull down or move around during competition.

(5) Fighters must wear a cup. If the fighter wears an outer cup it must cover only the groin and lower bladder area; it cannot extend out around the hip area. Outer cups must be approved.

c. Illegal Techniques.

  • Head butts.

  • Closed fist strikes to the head.

  • Striking with the elbows.

  • Groin strikes.

  • Straight palm strikes to the face.

  • Kicks and knee strikes to a downed opponent.

  • Striking the throat.

  • Pulling hair.

  • Poking or gouging eyes.

  • Biting.

  • Throwing an opponent onto their head or neck.

  • Heel hooks.

  • Grabbing the ring ropes.

  • Pinching (intentional).

  • Scratching (intentional).

  • Striking the side and or front of the knee.

  • Knee strikes to the face.

  • Finger and toe submissions.

d. Additional Illegal Acts. Fighters may not use any slippery substance on their body such as petroleum jelly or liniment.

e. Legal Techniques.

  • Slapping with the open hand palm side only.

  • Kicking the legs, body, or head (when both fighters are standing).

  • Punching the body.

  • Takedowns with the exceptions noted above.

  • Submission, joint locks, chokes, and pressure point techniques except as noted.

  • Knee strikes to both the legs and body (while both fighters are standing).

f. Length of Matches. Matches will be at least five minutes. Longer matches may be coordinated.

g. Methods of Victory.

  • Win by knockout (KO).

  • Win by technical knockout (TKO).

  • Win by "tap out."

  • Win by verbal submission.

  • Win by choke out.

  • Win by referee stoppage.

  • Win by judges' decision.

  • Win by disqualification.

h. Disqualification.

  • Use of any illegal joint technique will result in immediate disqualification.

  • Intentional use of any illegal technique will result in immediate disqualification.

  • Any unsportsman-like conduct may result in disqualification.

i. Definitions of Methods of Victory. The methods of victory are defined as follows:

(1) Knockout (KO). If one fighter goes down from the impact of a blow (not from a push, slip, or throw), the referee will send the fighter who struck the blow to a neutral corner and begin a 10 count. If the downed fighter cannot return to his feet before 10 is reached, a knockout is awarded.

(2) Technical Knockout (TKO). A TKO is registered when the referee deems that one fighter cannot defend himself and is in danger of receiving excessive damage if the match continues. In this case, the referee will award the other fighter a TKO victory.

(3) "Tap Out." A fighter may give up at any time during the match by "tapping out." This is done by slapping their open palm several times (a minimum of twice) on the mat, The referee acknowledges a victory for the opponent and ends the match immediately.

(4) Verbal Submission. A fighter may give up at any time during the match by saying "stop" loud enough for the referee to hear. The referee will stop the fight and award the victory to the other fighter.

(5) Choke Out. When a choke has been applied, the referee will watch for any sign of unconsciousness, including failure to respond to verbal questions, and immediately stop the match, awarding the victory to the fighter who applied the choke.

(6) Referee Stoppage. The referee will consider both combatants' safety at all times. He may stop the match if he thinks that a fighter's safety is in danger and or an injury is eminent. This is especially important when a joint lock is being applied and the "locked" fighter refuses to "tap out" or verbally submit. The referee will award the victory to the appropriate fighter.

(7) Judges' Decision. The match will be judged by three judges. When a match goes to the time limit, the judges will make a decision based on the following point system.

(a) Standing Superiority. The fighter who shows superior skills on his feet will be awarded one point and the opponent no points. In the case of equal display of standing skills, both fighters will be awarded one point.

(b) Takedown Superiority. The fighter who shows superiority in takedowns will be awarded one point and the opponent no points. In the case of equal display of takedown skills, both fighters will be awarded one point.

(c) Ground Superiority. The fighter who shows superiority in ground fighting will be awarded one point and the opponent no points. In the case that neither fighter displays superiority during ground fighting, both fighters will be awarded one point.

(d) Total Superiority. The fighter who controls most of the action during the match will be awarded two points. In the case that neither fighter controls most of the action, both fighters will be awarded no points.

The points will be totaled and the fighter with the most points will be judged as the winner by each individual judge. The judges will turn in their scorecard with their name on it at the end of the match. The referee will award a decision based on the decision of the judges as follows:

  • Unanimous decision. All three judges awarded victory to the same fighter.

  • Majority decision. Two judges award a victory to the same fighter and the third judge scores the fight a draw, or one judge awards a victory to one fighter and the other two score the fight a draw.

  • Split decision. Two judges award a decision to the same fighter and the third judge awards a decision to the other fighter.

  • Draw. All three judges score the match a draw or one judge scores the fight a draw and the other two judges are split.

j. Stalemate. When the combatants are on the ground and neither is attempting to gain an advantage position or submission, the referee will start a 30-second count. If neither fighter attempts to improve his position or gain a submission, a stalemate exists and the referee will break the fighters and restart them on their feet. When the fighters go under the ropes or become entangled with the ropes the referee calls "STOP" and drags them into the center of the ring. The referee will ensure that neither fighter gains advantage from this movement before restarting with the command "FIGHT."

k. Weigh-In Procedures and Weight Classes. Fighters may weigh in the evening before or up to one hour before the fight. No fighter should weigh in more than 24 hours before the fight. Fighters will be paired by weight class. Sponsoring units may create their own weight classes. Suggested weight classes are as follows:

Super Heavyweight Over 220 pounds
Heavyweight 220 and under
Super Light Heavyweight 205 and under
Light Heavyweight 195 and under
Cruiser Weight 185 and under
Super Middleweight 175 and under
Middleweight 165 and under
Light Middleweight 155 and under
Super Welterweight 145 and under
Welterweight 135 and under
Super Lightweight 125 and under
Lightweight 115 and under
Bantamweight 105 and under

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