The Canadian championship of Brazilian jiu-jitsu has been postponed after Montreal police threatened to make arrests at the meet because the martial art violates national laws against violence.

The event, which has gone ahead the past nine years, was cancelled after police said they would arrest anyone involved in the tournament.

"The [Montreal Police], acting on an internal legal memo that included jiu-jitsu as a combat sport – i.e. having strikes ("an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet") – informed the Abu Dhabi Pro Jiu-Jitsu committee that they would proceed to enforce the section to arrest any participant in the tournament," Montreal police said in a statement on Facebook.

Following an official complaint, the Montreal police said the style of the marital art means it cannot be practised competitively in Canada. Combat sport contests, according to the country's criminal code, can only be held if they are "on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee," CBC reported.

As such, jiu-jitsu, a Japanese martial art that has close combat but is not on the IOC's programme, violates the law.

Organisers have said they were surprised to be warned of the likely arrests by the police. Two hundred and forty competitors, the youngest of whom were nine were die to take part.

"For us, it was a huge shock because it was never a problem before. We didn't even think it could be a problem," organiser Danny An Khoi told CBC.

The event has now been postponed until March 5 as organisers look for an alternative venue. "It was not a decision that was taken lightly. However, considering that our first priority is the security of our competitors and secondly the reputation of our great sport, we believed that there was no other alternative [than] to the postponement of the tournament," the organisers said.

A new location will be chosen for the future tournament. It will not take place in Montreal.