No-Gi Grappling Rules



 (South African Grappling Association)


V 5.1 – 21 April 2015

SAGA is open to athletes from all forms of grappling, and discriminates against none.

SAGA NO-GI grappling match can be won four ways:

  • Submission
  • Points
  • Referee decision
  • Disqualification.

Each of these will be addressed in detail below.


Submissions must be applied in order to get a submission, and not with the intention to injure the joint.


Tapping out can take on multiple forms:

  • Slapping the opponent, oneself, or the mat with an open hand more than once;
    if the hands are immobilized, tapping out can be done with a foot or even the head.
  • Tapping out verbally, either by saying “stop” “tap” or by yelling out (verbal submission) when caught in a submission.

Note: A verbal submission is only relevant when a competitor yells while caught in a submission attempt. Other instances of verbally yelling during the match are not considered a verbal submission. In these instances the competitor will be addressed by the Referee (or Medic if needed) and the match will resume. If the competitor yells out in pain again at some point in the match, he/she will not be allowed to continue and thereby forfeit the match. The flow of the match and the right of the opponent to compete at his/her fullest capability to win without the fear of un-intentionally injuring their opponent must take preference in ensuring an even and fair advantage.

If in the Referees opinion a submission cannot be escaped, and an injury appears imminent, the Referee can halt the match and award victory to the competitor applying the submission.

Note: A Referee always reserves the right to stop a match if he/she feels injury is imminent!


If there is no tap out in the match, the winner is determined by Points.

NO-GI Points are awarded for the following:

Takedown                            1 or 2 Points

Sweep                                   2 Points

Side Control                         2 Points

Mount                                   2 Points

Back Grab                            2 Points



NO-GI Point Definitions and Descriptions

Takedown Points (2 Points):

 In awarding two points, the Referee is directed to look for the following:

The competitor must initiate the Takedown or complete a strong counter


The initiating competitor must exhibit restraining control for two seconds or more in a top dominant position.

Observation 1: Forcing a competitor off his/her feet, putting them directly to their back or side and initiating two second dominant positional control will result in a 2 Point Takedown.

Observation 2: A competitor can initiate a Takedown as a counter to an already initiated Takedown. Being the first to initiate a Takedown does not guarantee that only the originally initiating competitor can get 2 Points.

Observation 3: If you snap the opponent down and he/she ends up on all fours, in order to receive 2 Points, you must immediately come around and control him/her from the back.

Observation 4: If you take the other competitor down by jumping on his/her back and end up in a Back Grab position facing up, you are awarded 2 Points for the Takedown. You also receive accumulative Back Grab points (additional 2 Points for the Back Grab).

 Observation 5: If the bottom competitor initiates the stand up, and then is taken down again, 2 Points can be awarded. The competitor who stood up must stand for long enough (one to two seconds) and be in a position of balance where there is a scoring opportunity. Popping up momentarily to both feet only to be immediately taken down again is awarded 1 Point.

Take Down Points (1 Point):

Observation 1:  If you snap the other competitor down and he/she posts on his/her hands, NO Points are awarded. If you initiate a snap down (not a situation where he/she shoots and you counter with a defensive sprawl) and he/she ends up on all fours facing towards you (with you controlling from his/her top), NO points will be awarded.

Observation 2: If you execute a hip throw and your opponent immediately rolls leaving you in a bottom position, only 1 Point will be awarded. If the opponent ends up in Side Control or Mount, 2 Points are awarded for the control (but not for the Reversal/Takedown). If the competitor taken down uses his/her Guard to Sweep the other player over, 2 Points will be awarded for the Sweep (1 Point for the competitor who initiated the Takedown), plus any points for the ending position.

Observation 3: A full “Ippon” hip throw where the initiating competitor ends standing while the opponent  is flat on his/her back or side is not awarded 2 Points (in Sambo or Judo it would be match ending) as no control is established. In this situation, 1 Point is awarded.

Observation 4: Taking a competitor down and letting him/her up, only to take them down again will not result in further Takedown points.

Observation 5: The opponent taken down must be on both feet. The competitor initiating the Takedown can be on both feet, both knees, or one foot and one knee. If starting from the ground, an opponent who has at least one knee down cannot be taken down, because he/she is not on both feet.

Observation 6: It is not permitted to sit or lay down in any position without first making contact with the opponent. Sitting down without contact is conceding the Takedown, and results in 1 Point being awarded to the standing opponent. Contact must be continuous, from a standing position, down to the ground – 1 Point.

Observation 7: If one competitor has the other in a position from which a Takedown is inevitable, and the match is stopped for the opponent stepping / falling out of bounds, 1 Point could be awarded to the initiating competitor without the Takedown having taken place should the referee feel that the “spoiling” was intentional by the defending opponent. The competitors will be restarted from a neutral standing position in the centre of the mat to resume the match.

Sweep Points (2 Points):

When a competitor on the bottom of any Guard is able to reverse the position and end up on top of his opponent, 2 Points are awarded.

Observation 1: A Sweep is by definition only applicable if started from any type of Guard position. A Reversal is executed from positions other than the Guard and receives NO points. However, if a Reversal ends up with the top competitor in some form of Side Control or Mount, then 2 Points are awarded. The 2 Points however are awarded for the Side Control or Mount, and not for the Reversal.

Observation 2: When a competitor advances from a Guard to the back of his opponent (opponent is still on his/her hands and knees), the competitor will receive 2 Points. If the Back Grab is attained simultaneously with the Sweep, 2 Points are awarded for the Sweep and 2 Points are awarded for the Back Grab.

Observation 3: If the competitor executing a successful Sweep ends up in Mount or Side Control, a further 2 Points are awarded for position.


Side Control Points (2 Points):

 Side Control is any secure form of top control (except for the Mount variations) that lends itself to a submission. The control has to be long enough to set up a Submission Attempt. Two seconds is long enough to meet this standard. The highest percentage forms of control include Cross Side Mount, Scarf Hold, Modified Scarf Hold, Knee on Stomach and North/South.

Observation 1: NO points are awarded when a competitor transitions between one from of Side Control to another. For example, if you have Side Control and then transition to Knee on Stomach, no additional points are awarded.

Observation 2: Additional points are awarded when a competitor moves from a Side Control to any of the forms of Mount or Back Grab.

Observation 3: NO points are awarded for escapes. Thus, if you are bottom Mount, and you bridge into Guard, no points are awarded as you went from a disadvantageous position to a neutral position.

Observation 4: In order for Side Control points to be awarded, the top competitor must be completely free of the opponent’s legs with dominant control of the position.

Observations 5: The bottom competitor does not necessarily need to have his/her shoulders pinned to the ground in order for points to be awarded in a Side Control position.


Mount Points (2 Points):

When a competitor successfully maintains any of the Mount positions for a length of time and of a form sufficient to allow a submission attempt (two seconds), 2 Points will be awarded.

Observation 1: SAGA recognizes a number of variations of Mount including: Mount, Back Mount and Technical Mount.

Observation 2:  The opponent can be laying on his/her back, side or stomach to receive 2 Points for the Mount position.

Observation 3:  One knee and one foot on the ground will still be considered the Mount position. Two feet on the ground is not considered the Mount.

Observation 4:  The competitor in the Mount position can have one knee over the opponents arm, but never both arms to receive Mount points.

Observation 5: The competitor in the Reverse Mount (top player facing towards the legs) WILL NOT receive any points.

Observation 6: Reverse Mount (top competitor facing towards the legs) where the bottom competitor is facing down (Boston Crab) is not awarded Mount points.

Observation 7:  A mounted triangle is not considered Mount (although it is a Submission Attempt). If the mounted triangle began from Guard, in addition to the Submission Points, Sweep points can also be awarded.

Observation 8: Voluntarily moving from Mount to Side Control WILL NOT result in a further 2 Points, as it is moving from a superior to an inferior position.

Observation 9: The Back Grab is considered to be one of the most dominant forms of positional control in the sport. Moving from the Mount to a form of Back Grab will result in a further 2 Points being awarded.

Back Grab Points (2 Points):

Back Grab (heels hooked into inner thighs)

Body Triangle

Back Grab with one foot over one of the opponents arms (the foot is still hooked into the inner thighs)

Back Scissor (Back Grab competitor has his/her ankles crossed)

Observation 1:  When a competitor can control opponents back, with both feet positioned on the inner thighs, Back Grab control will receive 2 Points. One leg can be hooked into the leg, and one can be hooked over the arm on the opposite side, but both feet must be hooked into the inner thighs. If the legs are over both arms, then it is not a Back Grab worthy of points, even if the heels are hooked into the thighs. A Body Triangle is also a worthy form of Back Grab to receive 2 Points.

*A total of 6 points can be awarded moving from a form of Side Control to a Mount or Back Grab. When a competitor establishes a Side Mount (receiving 2 points), then transitions to Mount (receiving 2 more points),

2 more points can be awarded for controlling the Back Grab. In order for the points to resume, the opposing competitor will have to escape the position forcing the dominant competitor to a lower position of dominance.

Determining a Tie
No Advantages are awarded in NO-GI. However, as in BJJ Gi, in the event of a tie, the Referee will use significant action to determine a winner.

  1. Referees will first consider Initiation and Aggression. The Referee is directed to consider who made the greatest successful effort to attack and control? In practice, this is most commonly attempting Takedowns, and attempting Submissions.
  2. In the event that competitors are equal in terms of Initiation and Aggression, Referees will determine a tie by considering who skilfully controlled the Pace, Place, and Position on the mat, in order to ultimately set up an eventual submission.
    1. Pace is which Grappler determined the tempo of the match.
    2. Place is which Grappler dictated where on the mat the match took place. This is most commonly seen when one competitor moves forward while the other circles or backs away out of the entre square.
    3. Position is which Grappler successfully initiated specific tie ups and other action.
    4. If the competitors are still equal, the Referee will give the decision to the competitor with less warnings or Penalties.
    5. Last, in the absence of any warnings or Penalties, the edge shall be given to the fighter who better exemplifies the sport as an exciting, colourful, viable contest.

If the competitors are still equal, then an overtime period can be given by the Referee. Please note that this should be an unusual occurrence.

No rest period is given between the end of the match and the start of the overtime period. There is no Sudden Death – the winner is the competitor who gets the most points (or wins by submission) in the overtime, not the first competitor to score a point.

  • The overtimes are two minutes for all Adult, Women’s, Masters, Directors and Executive competitors.
  • One minute overtimes may be given to all Kid and Teen divisions.





NO-GI Division Time Limits

  • All Kids and Teens between the ages of 6 and 13 years old:
    • 2 minutes in length. Semi-Finals and Finals: 1 round 3 minutes in length.
  • All Kids and Teens between the ages of 14 and 17 old:
    •  3 minutes in length. Semi Finals and Finals: 1 round 4 minutes in length


  • All Adult Novice divisions (less than 1 year experience):
    • 3 minutes in length. Semi Finals and Finals: 1 round 4 minutes in length
  • All Adult Advanced divisions (more than 1 year experience)
    • 4 minutes in length. Semi Finals and Finals: 1 round 5 minutes in length


Clean uniform consisting of the following is required:

  • Shorts or long pants or fighters shorts. Shorts with a drawstring must be worn. No pockets or zippers are allowed on the shorts to prevent injury.
  • Mouthpieces are not compulsory. Parents & senior competitors must decide for themselves and take responsibility of both pros and cons either way.
  • NO Wrestling/Martial Arts shoes
  • Ear guards (ear protectors) are allowed
  • Excessive taping of hands, wrists and feet is not allowed.
  • Knee braces cannot have a solid portion that could result in injury.


  • Blood rule. Because there is no blood testing for grappling, a competitor who cannot control the bleeding will not be allowed to continue. In the event of bleeding, the Referee will stop the clock and allow the competitor a reasonable amount of time (two to three minutes) to stop the bleeding. If the competitor continues to bleed a second time in the same match, that competitor will be disqualified. The competitor is not Disqualified from the event, so if the competitor is competing in another division, or if it is a quarter finals match, the competitor will be allowed to continue in further contests. Bleeding is defined as an amount of blood that shows when a white cloth is pressed on the area.
  • No competitor can compete with a communicable skin disease, including ring worm, impetigo, herpes, etc.
  • Hair Rule: Women and Men with long hair are required to have her/his hair tied in such a fashion as to not interfere with the match. Due to the potential for injury to the eyes, and otherwise interfering with the normal play of a match, spiked hair, particularly spiked Mohawks, of a length and consistency sufficient to cause irritation to the eyes are prohibited in SAGA. Spray painted hair that may have the colour “run” due to sweat is also prohibited in SAGA competition.


  • No Interference by a corner with any official or fighter.
  • No attacking an opponent in any of these circumstances:
    • Before the fight has started.
    • After the fight has ended.
    • During a rest period between rounds.
    • When an opponent is being looked at by the Medic or any other official.
    • No spitting while on the mat is permitted.
    • No swearing is allowed by a player either on the mats, or next to them. Coaches and spectators are held to these professional standards as well.
    • No throwing an opponent off the mat.
    • No unsportsmanlike conduct.


 All Adult Divisions (Male and Female, Adult, Masters, Executive, and Directors)


  1. NO Neck cranks or cervical locks
  2. All twisting leg locks including inside heel hooks, outside heel hooks, and knee slicers. In the case of a straight ankle lock, there can be no rolling or reaping of the knee. The competitors outside leg cannot come across past the hip or over the attacking thigh.
  3. NO Bicep slicers and wrist locks
  4. NO slamming from the Guard or to escape submission.
  5. NO slamming is allowed in Takedowns. In determining whether or not a Takedown was a slam, Referees will consider whether the intention was to hurt the opponent.
  6. NO strikes of any kind are allowed to any part of the body or head, by any part of the body or head.
  7. NO Clutching of the windpipe (open hand posting is permitted).
  8. NO pressure of any type is allowed to the eyes. Explicitly, no fingers, chin, palm heel, etc. are allowed to press on or around the eyes.
  9. NO pressure of any type is allowed to the groin, unless it is an inevitable and unintended result of a legitimate technique.
  10. NO pressure may be applied directly into the nose unless it is an inadvertent consequence of a legitimate technique.
  11. NO striking of any kind including: shoulder, head butts, punches, elbows, knees, kicks, etc.
  12. NO Fish Hooking
  13. NO Biting. A player defending against a rear naked choke cannot purposefully open his/her mouth so the teeth contact the opponents forearm.
  14. NO spiking an opponent on his/her head.
  15. Small Joint Manipulation. No pulling a thumb or less than three fingers is permitted.
  16. NO Pulling hair.
  17. NO Pinching, twisting of skin.
  18. NO putting a finger or toe into any orifice.
  19. NO grabbing of clothing is allowed. Competitors cannot grab their own clothing or the clothing of their opponent.
  20. Placing one knee on the ground (with no intent to shoot for a Takedown) is a Penalty. Placing one knee on the ground while attacking a viable Takedown is not a Penalty.


Further Notes:

  • No stalling is permitted. A referee may warn a competitor about stalling and if it continues award penalty points
    • Observation 1: Stalling can take place from any position standing or on the ground. The only time stalling cannot be called is when a competitor is applying or defending a submission.
    • Observation 2: If there is stalling on the ground, the Referee has the right to restart the match standing, in addition to the other penalty actions defined elsewhere.
    • Observation 3: Taking an opponent down and then standing up and getting a Takedown again will receive no further Takedown points, and can receive a warning for stalling. If the competitor is using the second attempt at a Takedown to further control on the mat, no warning is necessary.


  • Observation 4: A competitor standing up from In Guard cannot call the down opponent up, and once standing has to aggressively engage. Otherwise he/she will be warned or penalized for stalling.
  • No going out of bounds to avoid a submission. It is not possible to restart players in a near submission position, so Referees are directed to allow the contest to continue if the moving out of bounds was inadvertent. Purposefully exiting the ring to avoid a submission will result in Disqualification.
  • No going out of bounds to avoid a Takedown. Purposefully going out of bounds to avoid a Takedown will result in the player receiving a stalling penalty.

In addition to all forbidden techniques above for adults, the further restrictions below also apply to Kids & Teens.

 Kids and Teens No-Gi Competitors

  • The NO-GI Ezekiel Choke is not permitted in competition for all Kid and Teen divisions.
  • If a hold is applied in such a way that it is a crank, the Referee can reposition the players so that the hold is no longer a crank. For example, by moving from Scarf Hold to Modified Scarf. The Referee may even reposition a legal submission attempt if the attempt has become a neck crank. Example – A legal arm triangle choke is applied from the bottom of the Guard, the opponent moves his/her arm over to defend the choke; the submission attempt is deemed no longer viable by the Referee without a neck crank inflicting harm to the competitor, the submission will be halted by the Referee and Points will be given for the attempt.
  • Pulling the head down on triangle chokes is allowed. Guillotines are permitted, with restrictions as detailed below.
    • While executing a Guillotine from standing, you cannot lift the opponent off the mat. A competitor who lifts his opponent off his feet with a Guillotine will have the match stopped. The competitor who executed the Guillotine will receive a Penalty warning. A second Guillotine that lifts the opponent off the feet will result in Disqualification. If one competitor applies a Guillotine and the opponent chooses to defend by jumping up and wrapping legs around the attacking competitor, no foul has been committed, as the opponent was not lifted up, but rather he/she chose to jump. The Guillotine must be completed by pulling a form of Guard to finish the submission.
  • No Scissor Takedowns are permitted, whether a hand is on the ground or not.


The usual process with ordinary, unintentional fouls is:


  1. First Offense – Verbal Warning
  2. Second Offense – Verbal Warning (optional)
  3. Third Offense – Results in opponent receiving 1 Point.
  4. Fourth Offense – Results in opponent receiving 1 Point.
  5. Fifth Offense – Results in Disqualification.

Fouls are cumulative. The five step process defined above does not apply to each separate type of foul. That is to say, it does not have to be the same foul three times in a row to merit for example a Third Offense (opponent gets 1 Point) it can be three different fouls or infractions.


The Referee is not bound to go through the five step process above. Depending upon the severity of the infraction, there can be only one warning, 1 Point awarded to the opponent, or immediate Disqualification.


The most common grounds for immediate Disqualification are:

  • Intentional slamming
  • Flagrant disrespect to a Referee, Opponent or Staff Member (swearing, shoving, etc.)
  • Intentional striking
  • Refusing to release a submission after a physical or verbal tap out.


Depending upon the severity of the infraction, a competitor can be disqualified from the match, but will be allowed to continue (in another division, or if the semi finals in the 3rd/4th match) in the event, or can be Disqualified from the entire competition and future competitions (with no monetary reimbursement) upon severe infractions.