Sandbagging is one of the most frustrating and often disheartening parts of competing in lower belt divisions and at least one grappling tournament organization is taking a firm stance against it, Grappling Industries. The practice itself is where someone enters a specific belt or experience level division while having more experience or being a higher belt than that division allows. While the issue exists in almost all competitive sports at a hobbyist level, Jiu-Jitsu tournaments are notorious for having issues with sandbagging competitors.
Perhaps the most common example of sandbagging in BJJ tournaments comes from collegiate wrestlers and those that hold black belts in Judo. For almost all competitions those grapplers would be required to compete at blue belt in the gi or in an advanced division in no gi, but many people have been found hiding their past experience in other grappling arts and entering either white belt or beginner divisions instead.
The end-result is almost always the predictable outcome, the vastly more experienced grappler dominates the Jiu-Jitsu white belts and wins a gold medal. The only real reason the practice exists is because it allows those competitors to have an easy path to victory instead of finding a proper challenge in the appropriate divisions. Notably, those that transition from Judo or wrestling to BJJ and have a lot of success tend to avoid sandbagging at all costs and compete against tough opposition. Not only is this better for the superior grapplers, but it’s also better for the development of the true beginners who need a place to test out their newly-acquired grappling skills against people of a similar level.
An end to sandbagging would be welcome by all corners of the Jiu-Jitsu community and this could be a good sign that more organizations will follow suit and hit competitors with harsh penalties for attempting to enter divisions below their skill level. Grappling Industries made the announcement of their new code to combat sandbagging in a recent post to their official Facebook account: