Depending on the sponsoring organization, the rules for BJJ and Submission Grappling competitions can vary significantly.
For example, the IBJJF and other organizations ban the use of heel hooks, neck cranks and slamming your opponent to the mat when competing in the gi, regardless of rank. Other techniques, such as ankle locks, toe-holds, and knee bars become legal at various points at purple belt and above.
For Submission Grappling events, however, heel hooks and neck cranks are often perfectly legal, especially at the higher levels of competition.
For the purposes of sparring at our gym, we follow the IBJJF rule set by default. In other words, training partners may always use the techniques permissible at the lower-ranked training partner’s belt level. Thus, a brown belt training with a blue belt would both use the techniques that are legal at the blue belt level. However, we do permit training partners at blue belt and above to agree to use other techniques if they both agree to do so.
Regardless of belt rankings, rule sets, or agreements between students, we require all students always to train with their partner’s and their own safety in mind, as well as the safety of others who may be training on the mat at the same time. Accordingly, if you are applying a submission, it is your responsibility to provide your training partner with a fair opportunity to tap out before they are injured and to release the submission immediately in a safe manner after the training partner taps. Likewise, if you are defending a submission, it is your responsibility to protect yourself by verbally and physically tapping out before you are injured. It is always better to err on the side of caution. It is far better to release a submission early before your training partner taps rather than risking injury to your partner. By the same token, it is always better to tap early rather than risk injury to yourself.