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Does the IBJJF Allow Knee Braces During Competitions? Understanding the Rules

knee sleeves ibjjf

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) serves as the sport’s chief regulatory body, setting the standards for competition, including the equipment athletes are allowed to wear – so where does it stand on knee sleeves and knee braces?


Yes, the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation) does allow knee sleeves or knee braces in competition. However, they require that the knee sleeve be made of a cloth-like material, should not have any hard parts, and must be black, white, or the same color as the rank (belt) of the athlete.


I’ve actually competed in IBJJF events while wearing both the the Bauerfeind GENUTRAIN Knee Brace and Shock Doctor Knee Brace without any issue.

Lastly, there should be a distinction made between knee sleeves and knee braces. In some regions these terms are used interchangeably. However, in the US knee sleeves are thought of as being mostly made of fabric with no hard parts (which are allowed in IBJJF events), and knee braces generally include hard parts and brackets (which are not allowed).

Related: Check out our full review of the Bauerfeind GENUTRAIN Knee Brace for BJJ here

Soft vs Hard Knee Braces
Any knee brace with hard parts like metal or plast hinges are not allowed in IBJJF competitions*

Key Takeaways

  • The IBJJF sets clear equipment guidelines for BJJ competitions, including the use of knee braces.
  • Approved knee braces must not contain hard or metallic parts as per IBJJF safety standards.
  • For Gi compeitors, the knee sleeve must be worn under Gi pants and must not be too bulky or contain any hard parts.
  • For No Gi competitors, knee sleeve must be made of a cloth-like material, should not have any hard parts, and must be black, white, or the same color as the rank (belt) of the athlete.

IBJJF Equipment Guidelines

General Rules

The IBJJF stipulates that competitors must wear a uniform that is commonly known as a Gi. This uniform consists of a jacket, trousers, and a belt that indicates the athlete’s rank. According to the federation’s rules, the Gi material must be a cotton or similar cloth that is durable enough for an opponent to grip.

  • Gi Color: Athletes may wear a whiteblue, or black Gi.
  • Material Standard: The Gi should be made of a woven fabric.
  • Maintenance: The Gi should be clean and in good condition.

Specifics for Protective Gear

When it comes to protective gear, the IBJJF allows certain items but with restrictions:

  • Knee Braces: The use of knee braces without any metal parts is permitted. Braces must not compromise the safety of the user or their opponents.
  • Tape: It is allowed and common for athletes to use on their hands and feet

For both the uniform and the protective gear, the guidelines are meant to balance the athletes’ safety needs with the importance of maintaining a fair competitive environment.

IBJJF Stance on Knee Braces

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) maintains specific regulations on the use of knee braces during competitions. These rules are in place to ensure safety and fairness among competitors.


In my own IBJJF matches sometimes they will instpect my knee sleeve before during check in or before my first match and other times they didn’t check them at all – Again, I’ve never had problems wearing knee sleeves like those from Shock Doctor, Bauerfeind, or NEENCA

Competition Rules

Again, in competition, the IBJJF prohibits any knee brace that contains metal or hard plastic components. The rationale is that these materials can pose a risk to both the wearer and their opponent during a match. This includes braces with rigid frames or hinges.

Approval Process for Gear

Gear that is acceptable for use in competition must adhere to certain criteria set by the IBJJF. Generally, nn athlete wishing to wear a knee brace during competition must ensure it is made of soft material, with no hard supports that might cause injury.

While IBJJF does not provide a public list of approved gear, products must typically meet the federation’s safety standards to be permissible in competition. Athletes are responsible for ensuring their gear is compliant prior to competing.

Compliance and Inspection

When considering whether knee braces are permissible under IBJJF rules, competitors must be aware of strict compliance. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation has established a protocol to ensure safety and fairness, and this encompasses the use of knee braces.

Pre-Match Check

Sometimes before a match begins, IBJJF officials may ask to inspect your knee sleeve or knee brace.

If there are no hard plastic parts or metal materials in the sleeve you should be good to go. 

The inspection process is designed to protect both participants—ensuring that no athlete gains an unfair advantage or risks injury from illegal equipment.

Procedure During Competitions

During competitions, the IBJJF enforces its rules regarding knee braces very strictly. Should a competitor be found wearing a non-compliant knee brace after the match has started, they can be asked to remove the gear mid match or at worse be subject to immediate disqualification.

Implications for Athletes

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s regulations concerning knee braces have direct consequences on athlete participation and strategy in competition. Adherence to rules is mandatory for compliance and can affect athletes’ strategic approach during matches.

Strategic Considerations

Athletes who require knee braces due to injury must consider the limitations set by the IBJJF. The use of knee braces without any hard material is a critical factor in competition, as adherence to this can influence both the athletes’ performance and their capacity for injury prevention. Those reliant on braces for structural support must adjust their grappling techniques and strategy to either compete without a brace or find a compliant alternative. This limitation may require changes in their training regime to adapt to competition standards.

Penalties and Compliance

Non-compliance with IBJJF’s equipment regulations, which includes the prohibition of knee braces with hard materials, can lead to penalties. Here are the potential consequences:

  • Immediate Disqualification: If an athlete dons a non-compliant knee brace during a match.
  • Pre-Match Gear Check Failure: Athletes may be asked to remove the equipment or be barred from participating before a match if their equipment is found to be non-compliant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the IBJJF regulations on wearing knee braces during competition?

The IBJJF specifies that knee braces used during competition must not have any hard plastic parts or elements that could pose a risk to opponents. Only soft braces that provide compression and support without hard materials are acceptable.

Is there a difference between the allowance of knee pads and knee braces in BJJ under the IBJJF?

Yes, knee pads and knee braces serve different purposes and are treated differently. While knee pads primarily provide cushioning and are typically allowed, knee braces must adhere to specific safety guidelines set by the IBJJF.

Can competitors use maximum support knee braces, like the Shock Doctor 875, in IBJJF-sanctioned events?

Knee braces such as the Shock Doctor 875, which include hard materials for maximum support, are not permitted in IBJJF competitions. Competitors must use braces without hard elements. Compression sleeves with soft padding are allowed like the Shock Doctor Ultra Knit Knee Brace.

Are there any specific brands or types of knee braces prohibited in IBJJF tournaments?

The IBJJF does not endorse or prohibit specific brands. However, any knee brace with hard plastic or metal parts is not allowed for use in competition.

How does the use of orthopedic supports, such as knee braces, align with IBJJF uniform requirements for Gi and No Gi Competitors?

Knee braces must be worn under the Gi and remain consistent with the IBJJF’s uniform requirements, meaning they must not interfere with the opponent’s grip nor should they contain any materials that could cause injury.

For No Gi competitors, knee sleeves can be worn as long as they don’t have any hard parts and are made of a cloth-like material. They must also be black, white, or the same color as the rank (belt) of the athlete.

    About the Author:

    Zack Nicholas

    Zack Nicholas:

    Zack is an avid jiu jitsu practitioner and weight lifting nerd. When not on the mats or in the gym, he can be found going for walks with his wife, attempting (and often failing) to train his dog, and frequently obsessing over a specific hobby only to forget about it a week later. He can be reached over his LinkedIn or at info@heavybjj.com