Ten Years Without Reaping: Time to Reevaluate
The term “cruzada de perna” was added to the CBJJ rulebook in 2006. It is eventually translated into “knee reaping,” entering just about every BJJ players vocabulary not much time later. The rule change trickled down from the IBJJF, which at the time was the only major host of world-class tournaments before they expanded to host “opens” all over the world in smaller regional formats.
Many grapplers today were not around when you could go for a footlock and not worry if your foot crossed over the knee reaping line. Knee reaping has been around for almost ten years at this point, and I believe this one change has had a great impact on the sport than any other action the IBJJF has taken in its history.
The rule had a huge impact on the reputation of leg locks as a whole, from toe holds to heel hooks. If your foot crossed that line, game over. This was one foul you couldn’t come back from. Were you attacking with a perfectly legal kneebar but your opponent twisted to escape? Were you countering your opponent’s leg lock attack and looking to establish your own control? Tough luck. You had to play within a narrow sliver of the leg lock pie.
Outlawing reaping was reportedly to increase safety—never mind the fact that sambo curriculums all over the worlds teach reaping to children, and there is no epidemic of knee injuries in Russia that I’m aware of. I’ve been unable to find any data on the number of injuries that could be associated with reaping prior to the 2006 ruling or how many matches have ended in reaping DQs since the rule change. Anecdotally, however, I’ve seen more matches end because of this foul than any other.
Some matches stand out in my memory: Davi Ramos was dominating a match but was DQed while trying to finish a footlock. Joao fell into a similer trap at Worlds while working for a 50/50 footlock. He instinctly adjusted for additional leverage and his foot slipped across the reaping line. And who can forget Terere’s comeback match during the Europeans? He was in the finals, facing off against Calasans and got called for reaping.
I’ve been fortunate enough to train with a wide range of competitors around the world. I love learning from arts outside of jiu-jitsu: sambo, judo, collegiate wrestling. If there is a different way of approaching a problem, I want to see it. I want to understand it. Along the way, I’ve trained with grapplers who don’t hold back from reaping because they aren’t trained to avoid particular regular positions.
My conclusion: Reaping is not more dangerous than takedowns or armbars.
We could get hurt falling just as easy as being reaped, but we learn how to fall. We learn what’s safe and what’s dangerous. And we drill. We must also learn how to roll and accept the reap and how to escape it without putting pressure on our knee. Yes, this is possible. Our brothers and sisters training sambo have been doing it just fine for years.
Jiu-jitsu has grown exponentially in the last ten years. Many things have changed, and our attitude towards footlocks is at a critical turning point. We are seeing a surge of popularity in the leglock game, especially as submission only formats like EBI and Polaris give grapplers the freedom to focus on the finish (isn’t that why we train?) with minimal rules to stunt their creativity. Yes, leglocks were looked down upon for a long time, but it’s time reevaluate.
We should never have to hear a referee say “parou” because of reaping again. It’s time to evolve.