Win Conditions

By knowing and exploiting the rules, you can defeat an otherwise superior opponent who doesn’t.

We spend significant time refining our technique, conditioning our body, and cultivating the right mindset. But we often neglect to develop one of the other keys to success: mastering the rules.

Because most grapplers fail to master the rules, this creates a massive opportunity for clever grapplers who do. Mastery of the rules is a competitive advantage, just like technique, cardio, or strength.

Recall the principle of asymmetric warfare: you don’t need to fight your opponent where they’re strongest. You want to fight them where you’re strongest. If your strength is mastery of the rules, you can compensate for deficiencies in other areas.

Knowing exactly how to play to the rules is a mental model called win conditions.

Most grapplers lack a full understanding of the win conditions in Jiu-Jitsu. As an example, consider the IBJJF ruleset. If you enter an IBJJF tournament with the goal of dominating position and submitting, you’re not correctly understanding the win conditions. You should focus instead on: point-scoring opportunities, submission attempts that don’t allow your opponent to score points, and (dare I say it) knowing how your opponent can get disqualified.

Tim Ferriss tells an excellent story in The 4-Hour Work Week about how he won a kickboxing tournament by forcing his opponents into disqualification. It’s summarized in an article on Martial Development.

Win conditions in real life

Here are some examples of how knowing the win conditions can help you in real life.

Optimizing your taxes.
A lot of people think it’s sufficient to do your best work and get paid. It isn’t. I’ve seen people shave 30% off their taxes by maximizing corporations, tax-exempt accounts, and other write-offs. Having a good accountant can make a huge difference.

Understanding the law.
The law can be counterintuitive and confusing if you haven’t studied it. A perfect example: you should never talk to the police. Even if you are innocent, don’t talk to them. Even if you are not directly involved in their investigation, don’t talk to them. This is counterintuitive, as we feel that if we have nothing to hide, it surely must be a good idea to talk to the police. But it’s not. Here’s a great video explaining why.

Getting a job.
We’re told that finding employment involves finding a job posting, applying, going through the screening process, and getting interviewed. But in reality, these are not the win conditions. The only win condition is actually getting the job. All of these steps can be skipped if you find clever ways to get considered. In fact, you should try to find ways to bypass the standard hiring process because these steps are designed specifically to screen you out. The next time you’re looking for a job, instead of applying to a posting on the website, try emailing the CEO or taking someone from the team for coffee.

Win conditions in Jiu-Jitsu

Here are some examples of how knowing the win conditions can maximize your performance under the IBJJF ruleset. Note that there may be different examples under different rulesets.

Avoid takedowns that go directly to side control.
It may seem that the best takedowns take you directly past guard and into a dominant position, and outside of IBJJF this may be true. However, under a ruleset where so many points are awarded for guard passing, it’s often beneficial to use takedowns that land you in guard, but with a setup to pass easily.

Knee on belly.
Even if you’re not looking to attack from knee on belly, it’s an easy two points to enter this position from side control.

Farm points when passing guard.
It can actually be beneficial to let your opponent re-guard. If you can convince your opponent to attempt a re-guard that you can easily defeat, you can quickly score three more points.

Further study