Five Grappling Rules Q & A With David “Silverfox” Karchmer
Interview by: Tyler Bishop
Answers by: David “Silverfox” Karchmer
Is it fair to call you the architect behind the Five Grappling rules?
As the head referee of FIVE Grappling since inception in 2013, I have had the responsibility of writing and maintaining the rules in a concise and coherent rulebook. Remember that FIVE Grappling began as a points-based tournament and has since evolved to include the Super League format, which is submission-only.
Before our first tournament, we gathered a large group of competitors, coaches, and others in the jiu jitsu industry, and asked them to give input to create a great tournament with the best set of rules. We used that information as the foundation to our ruleset. So I’ve certainly not created the wheel, but instead I’ve used the input I’ve received as well as my own experience to help shape a quality set of rules.
What was the motivation behind creating the Five ruleset?
The rules are designed to promote activity, reward genuine accomplishments for actions and positions, and foremost, encourage submissions.
Why 6 minutes instead of 5 or 7, or 20 for that matter?
Six minutes is the average time for most competitive grappling matches, and is typically the length of most sparring matches in practice.
It’s designed to be long enough to accommodate a feeling out process between the competitors, yet short enough to put pressure on the competitors to make things happen.
The first Five event was sort of a testing ground for the rules. How do you think it went?
We’ve been so satisfied with the rules that we have made little or no changes, and the feedback from competitors is that they really enjoy them.
If you were to test any changes to the Five Grappling rules or structure, what would they be?
The only area of concern for me has been around the criteria for referee’s decisions. Referee’s decisions are probably one of the most misunderstood and unsatisfying part of the sport for many competitors and spectators.
FIVE is unique because our referee’s decisions are codified instead of allowing random discretion, which can vary greatly. Sometimes it’s hard to explain the criteria versus other scoring systems, but I think the fact ours rewards submissions most heavily makes it superior.
In the matches that went to decision last time, did you ever find it hard to keep track of all the exchanges between the competitors?
We break our referee’s decisions into four distinct categories by priority: submission attempts, dominant actions/positions, aggressiveness/ring control, and penalties. Once you know the criteria of what to look for, it makes it easier to remember which competitor has the advantage should it be a tie at the end of regulation.
Once you know the criteria of what to look for, it makes it easier to remember which competitor has the advantage should it be a tie at the end of regulation.
Some would argue that points provide transparency to matches that don’t end submission. What would you say to those folks?
There are pros and cons to both point-based and submission-only competitions. Now in 2017, the grappling community is very fortunate to have so many options to compete in and spectate. I think it largely comes down to preference, and there’s plenty of room for both types of tournaments to exist. As for judging transparency, our written criteria for referee’s decisions make it much easier to understand how a winner is selected.
I think it largely comes down to preference, and there’s plenty of room for both types of tournaments to exist. As for judging transparency, our written criteria for referee’s decisions make it much easier to understand how a winner is selected.
What are the greatest strengths of this ruleset for sub-only and what are the greatest drawbacks?
Some of the inherent weaknesses I saw in sub-only tournaments were border enforcement and penalties. Some sub-only tournaments seemed to have an ‘anything goes’ attitude about how they were officiated, and over time, issues erupted.
We’ve seen submissions taking place off the mats, unsportsmanlike conduct, and stalling occur without any mechanisms to address them. FIVE Grappling has considered all these possibilities and created ways for officials to handle them fairly.
Additionally, with a short 6 minute time period, it helps promote action, and we have a >45% submission rate to prove it.
Will people find a way to “hack” these rules in the future?
I think understanding the rules and using strategies that exploit them is smart in any sport. The question I would ask is if these strategies go against the core principles of promoting action and submissions. If matches are no longer interesting merely because of the rules, then it’s time to consider a change.
Thanks for taking some time to discuss. Aside from the rules, since you won’t actively be participating as a referee in this event, do you have a favorite for the Light-Heavyweight Tournament?
As a referee, I try and remain impartial by not publicly voicing any competitor preferences. I will say that the card is amazing, and some of the fighters included are competitors I like to watch. I am so sad to miss this one!
About David Karchmer : David ‘Silverfox‘ Karchmer is a 1st Degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has been training for more than 17 years. David’s martial arts background spans over two decades, and includes a black belt in Tae Kwon Do he received in 1993. His BJJ journey began at Gracie Thornwood, NY in 1999 after he took a seminar with Royce Gracie and knew he was hooked on the art. In addition to training and instructing, David has focused the last eight years on officiating grappling competitions and has officiated more than 3500 gi and no-gi matches at over 70 events for multiple organizations.He was a previous head referee at Grapplers Quest, has held head referee duties at FIVE Grappling, Copa NoVA, Rollmore SuperComp, UAEJJF, and Tap Cancer Out tournaments, and routinely officiates events in North America. Visit his officiating website www.TheGrapplingReferee.com .