Three Tips to Help Unban Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournaments in Montreal


(Photo by Martin aka Maha/Flickr/CC)

For the first time in recent memory, the mainstream media in Canada is talking about Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about that a little bit.

But my God I don’t want to, or know where to start.

For those of you who missed it, the Canadian National Pro Jiu-Jitsu tournament has been postponed thanks to a visit from Montreal’s neon-panted finest. Apparently the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) decided that Brazilian jiu-jitsu constituted a prize fight under Section 83 (2) of the criminal code. As a result, they said that if the event took place within city boundaries, they would not only shut it down, but make arrests.

Section 83(2) defines a “prize fight” as “an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them.” Exceptions are made for anything recognized by the IOC, or anything that’s been “designated” by a province’s lieutenant governor or another “person or body” designated by the lieutenant governor.

The first thing that strikes me about that definition is that by that logic, Montreal’s digi camo-clad shock troops should be breaking down the door of every children’s karate tournament on the island.

The second thing, and this is the thing that the tournament’s organizers tried to convince the police of, is that it probably doesn’t actually apply to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That definition sounds like it’s aimed at striking sports. I guess technically BJJ is “an encounter with hands,” but so are a lot of things. Patty cake, for example. Maybe that is also illegal now? Who can say?

What is more likely, though, is that the SPVM got Brazilian jiu-jitsu confused with another, more traditionally Japanese form of jujutsu, some of which do include striking. It’s confusing, I know. As are the differing spellings. So it is entirely possible that this very prestigious tournament, which was going to allow Canadians to qualify for an even more prestigious tournament, was postponed and sent scrambling to find a new location, because the SPVM didn’t do their homework, and then refused to back down when they were proven wrong.

(Also, they look like ‘90s ravers from the waist down.)

But there’s another element at play here. Apparently they organizers were contacted by police after someone tipped them off anonymously. What’s more, amateur martial arts events in the city have been plagued by infighting and promoters calling the police on each other. This seems totally unhinged to me.

I know people who promote amateur martial arts events. Mostly, they don’t make money. If they do, the dollars per hour is so low they’d be better off dog walking.

(I dog walk as a side hustle. You’ll never get rich, but it’s not a bad second gig. Also, you get to hang out with a lot of dogs. I digress.)

So here are a few pieces of advice for all parties concerned to make sure this doesn’t happen again:

For the SPVM:

Err on the side of common sense. Imagine an illegal prize fight in your mind. If what you’re seeing doesn’t look like that, don’t threaten to come in with a SWAT team in pyjama bottoms and send everyone to jail.

For the Province of Quebec:

But really, it’s not good to have laws that are too dependent on the discretion of individual officers. It leads to inconsistent enforcement. So have your athletic commissioner sanction BJJ, and while you’re at it, give your official blessing to Muay Thai, K-1 kickboxing, karate, Sambo, wushu, sanda, Muay Boran and Pradal Serey. Other provinces should probably get on that, too.

For promoters:

Oh come on guys. Get it together. I know this is a business and you’re in competition, but they goal should be to grow the pie. Run professional, well organized events. Put on demos. Explain your sport. Don’t do ridiculous things.

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