By William F. Murphy, Ph.D., BJJ Black Belt 3rd Degree

There has recently been some discussion as to whether or not restricting children under the age of 12 from winning grappling matches with submissions such as chokes and joint locks will negatively impact their later chances of performing well in high level submission tournaments such as the IBJJF Mundials, when they become adult competitors.

To test the validity of this concern, we compiled a list of every male black belt gold medal winner in every BJJ Mundials from 1996 to 2015, and crossed checked the age they reported that they started their Jiu-Jitsu training.

We found that at least 75% of all the gold medal winners in the IBJJF Mundials male adult black belt divisions from 1996 through 2015 did not start their Jiu-Jitsu training until after they were older than 12 years old.

We therefore conclude that there is no reason to think that eliminating submissions as a means to win a kids match for children under the age of 12 will have any negative impact on those children to compete and be future champions as adults in the IBJJF Mundials or other high level grappling tournaments.

We include some other interesting findings below:

75% of all the past BJJ (Mundials) World Black Belt Division Gold Medal Champions started training Jiu-Jitsu AFTER the age of 12.

66% of the past BJJ (Mundials) World Championship Black Belt Absoluto Gold Medal Winners started training Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.

In 80% of the past BJJ (Mundials) World Championships from 1996 to 2015, the majority of the adult male black belt divisions in that year’s Mundials were won by players who had started their Jiu-Jitsu training after the age of 12.

7 Time IBJJF World Champion Bruno Malfacine started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 11.
7 Time IBJJF World Champion Xande Ribeiro started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 10.
6 Time IBJJF World Champion Marcus Almeida started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 14.
5 Time IBJJF World Champion Saulo Ribeiro started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 15.
5 Time IBJJF World Champion Robson Moura started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 10.
5 Time IBJJF World Champion Marcelo Garcia started training Jiu-Jitsu as a teen-ager.
5 Time IBJJF World Champion Rodolfo Vieira started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 13.
5 Time IBJJF World Champion Romulo Barral started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 15.
4 Time IBJJF World Champion Roberto Magalhaes started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 17.
4 Time IBJJF World Champion Fabio Gurgel started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 13.
4 Time IBJJF World Champion Ruben Charles started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 21.
4 Time IBJJF World Champion Guilhermes Mendes started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 13.
4 Time IBJJF World Champion Leandro Lo started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 15.
4 Time IBJJF World Champion Bernardo Faria started training Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 14.

However, it is notable that Roger Gracie won 10 Mundials, and Royler Gracie won 4 Mundials. Even though their starting age was unreported, we can speculate that both of those players started training very young as members of the Gracie family. But, in the class of multiple Mundial winners who each won between 4 to 10 Mundials, they were the exceptions, not the rule.

6 out of 9 of the 2015 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
7 out of 9 of the 2014 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
All 9 of the 2013 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
7 out of 9 of the 2012 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
6 out of 9 of the 2011 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
5 out of 9 of the 2010 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
7 out of 9 of the 2009 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
5 out of 9 of the 2008 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
5 out of 9 of the 2007 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
5 out of 9 of the 2006 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
6 out of 9 of the 2005 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
4 out of 9 of the 2004 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
3 out of 9 of the 2003 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
7 out of 9 of the 2002 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
7 out of 9 of the 2001 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
7 out of 9 of the 2000 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
5 out of 9 of the 1999 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
5 out of 9 of the 1998 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
4 out of 9 of the 1997 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.
4 out of 9 of the 1996 Black Belt World Champion Weight Division Gold Medalists started learning Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 12.

To pull the age the adult male Mundials Black Belt Gold Medalists started training BJJ, we relied mostly on the biography data on the BJJ Heroes website.
Where age data on when the champions started training BJJ was not available on the BJJ Heroes website , we cross checked the bios on their own websites or in other published BJJ magazine articles etc.

When no starting age data was available, we marked the starting age as “unknown” and counted them as training since birth so as not to risk over-exaggerating the number of champions who started training BJJ after the age of 12. (It is possible that the numbers we report above support the conclusion we presented even more than we asserted).

I am granting The Jiu-Jitsu Times a non-exclusive use to post this report on http://www.jiujitsutimes.com and it’s Facebook page, but otherwise all Copyrights are reserved by William F. Murphy, Ph.D., and I will also be posting this report in other news outlets, journals, and distribution channels.

Here is the data we used to compile these results:
Alexandre Paiva starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Amaury Bitteti starting age of training BJJ: 5
Andre Galvao starting age of training BJJ: 16
Antonio Braga Neto starting age of training BJJ: 4
Augusto Mendes starting age of training BJJ: 14
Bernardo Faria starting age of training BJJ: 14
Bernardo Pitel starting age of training BJJ: 18
Bibiano Fernandes starting age of training BJJ: After 10
BJ Penn starting age of training BJJ: 12
Braulio Estima starting age of training BJJ: 16
Bruno Malfacine starting age of training BJJ: 11
Caio Terra starting age of training BJJ: 17
Carlos Lemos starting age of training BJJ: 14
Cassio Werneck starting age of training BJJ: 18
Celso Vinicius starting age of training BJJ: 15
Claudio Calasans starting age of training BJJ: 15
Daniel Moraes starting age of training BJJ: 5
Daniel Otero starting age of training BJJ: 13
Delson Heleno starting age of training BJJ: 15
Erik Wanderley starting age of training BJJ: 10
Fabio Gurgel starting age of training BJJ: 13
Fabio Leopoldo starting age of training BJJ: 15
Fabricio Werdum starting age of training BJJ: 13
Felipe Costa starting age of training BJJ: 13
Fernando Augusto starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Fernando Marques starting age of training BJJ: 18
Fernando Pontes starting age of training BJJ: 13
Fernando Vasconcelos starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Fernando Vieira starting age of training BJJ: 10
Francisco Fernandes starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Fredson Paixao starting age of training BJJ: 15
Gabriel Gonzaga starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Gabriel Lucas starting age of training BJJ: 15
Gabriel Moraes starting age of training BJJ: 15
Gabriel Vella starting age of training BJJ: 14
Gilbert Burns starting age of training BJJ: 12
Guiherme Mendes starting age of training BJJ: 13
Helio Moreira starting age of training BJJ: 8
Jefferson Moura starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Joan Roque starting age of training BJJ: 2
Leandro Lo starting age of training BJJ: 15
Leo Leite starting age of training BJJ: 15
Leo Nogueira starting age of training BJJ: 16
Leo Vieira starting age of training BJJ: 6
Lucas Leite starting age of training BJJ: 12
Lucas Lepri starting age of training BJJ: 15
Luiz Guilherme starting age of training BJJ: 6
Marcelo Ferreira starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Marcelo Garcia starting age of training BJJ: Teenager
Marcio Corleta starting age of training BJJ: 18
Marcio Cruz starting age of training BJJ: 17
Marcio Feitosa starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Marco Barreto starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Marcos Norat starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Marcus Almeida starting age of training BJJ: 14
Mario Reis starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Mario Sperry starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Michael Langhi starting age of training BJJ: 13
Murilo Bustamante starting age of training BJJ: 10
Omar Salum starting age of training BJJ: Teenager
Otavio Souza starting age of training BJJ: 13
Pablo Silva starting age of training BJJ: 14
Paul Miyao starting age of training BJJ: 16
Paulo Barruso starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Rafael Correa starting age of training BJJ: 10
Rafael Lovato, Jr. starting age of training BJJ: 13
Rafael Mendes starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Ricardo Liborio starting age of training BJJ: 15
Ricardo Vieira starting age of training BJJ: 5
Robert Drysdale starting age of training BJJ: 17
Roberto Correa starting age of training BJJ: 19
Roberto Magalhaes starting age of training BJJ: 17
Roberto Traven starting age of training BJJ: 16
Robson Moura starting age of training BJJ: 10
Rodolfo Vieira starting age of training BJJ: 13
Rodrigo Cavaca starting age of training BJJ: 19
Rodrigo Medeiros starting age of training BJJ: 12
Roger Gracie starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Romulo Barral starting age of training BJJ: 15
Ronaldo Souza starting age of training BJJ: 17
Royler Gracie starting age of training BJJ: UNKNOWN
Rubens Charles starting age of training BJJ: 21
Samuel Braga starting age of training BJJ: TeenAger
Saulo Ribeiro starting age of training BJJ: 15
Sergio Moraes starting age of training BJJ: 10
Tarsis Humphreys starting age of training BJJ: 13
Vitor Ribeiro starting age of training BJJ: 14
Xande Ribeiro starting age of training BJJ: 10