As the sport of Jiu Jitsu continues to grow, the tournament scene also continues to grow. There are multiple "big name" organizations and plenty of smaller ones hosting events. Here are the major ways BJJ events can differ:
1. Illegal Moves: This is arguably one of the most important aspects to familiarize yourself with before a tournament. You do not want to be DQ'ed for performing an illegal move. It is important to read through the Rule Book before an event and make yourself aware of the illegals moves for your division. Organizations can differ heavily in this regard. For example, a no-gi NAGA tournament would allow a Blue Belt to perform a heel hook but IBJJF would disqualify a Blue Belt attempting this move.
2. Uniform: This is a very basic rule that you should understand for the organization you are competing in. As the uniform check occurs before you even step on the mat, you do not want to be DQ'ed for something so simple. When in doubt, it is always safe to have a second gi / uniform ready for inspection (white gis are universally accepted). Read our article "Is Your Gi Competition-Legal?" to better understand the differences.
3. Time Limits: This difference might not affect you greatly but it is always good to know how long your fight will be. For example, IBJJF Adult Black Belt matches are 10 minutes long but only 6 minutes long at a JJWL event. Be prepared to fight as long as required so you don't gas out!
4. Point System: Generally, there is less variance between organizations in the way they award their points. The most common point system seen in smaller tournaments is the IBJJF point system. However, there can be differences such as the fact that JJWL does not award advantage points, unlike IBJJF.
5. Elimination Process: This is another important aspect of an organization's rules to understand. Some events may be single-elimination (only one loss required to be omitted from the event) but others might guarantee a minimum number of matches. You should be prepared to fight even after losing in case the event you are in guarantees multiple matches.