Combat Jiu Jitsu is the name that has been given to BJJ matches that allow the use of striking with an open palm. The sport is the brainchild of Eddie Bravo who has featured a number of combat Jiu-Jitsu matches on his Eddie Bravo Invitational promotion. The response to the hybrid sport was mixed initially with some people seeing it as slap Jiu-Jitsu. Others see it as a natural evolution for sport BJJ which many feel has become stale and disconnected from its origins.
Combat Jiu Jitsu Origins
Eddie Bravo has always been somewhat of a Maverick in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world. He is the founder of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, the nogi grappling team famed for their unorthodox style of nogi BJJ. Bravo has been consistently vocal in his criticism of modern sport BJJ. He has raised many valid points about the lack of excitement in modern day sport Jiu-Jitsu, especially in competitions that use the IBJJF ruleset.
The sport of Jiu-Jitsu has never really appealed to the main stream. High level matches are often dull spectacles as the result of stalling. Competitors are often strategic in their efforts to win by points which means that there are less and less submissions. The evolution of the 50/50 guards often results in a no action stalemate at which point a referee decides on a winner. Many of the popular techniques such as Berimbolo are not transferable to real life fight scenarios which make the techniques redundant in many people’s eyes.
For many Jiu Jitsu fans and even casual MMA fans the action during grappling exchanges can be very exciting. Strikes often force opponents to give up positions and take risks which makes for a more exciting spectacle. This is the essence of combat BJJ.
The ruleset for Combat Jiu Jitsu mirrors the EBI rules with some minor tweaks. There has been no official ruleset published to date but these are the rules as Breaking Grips understands:
All matches are 10 minutes long
A match can be won by Submission, TKO, or through the overtime rules.
All submissions are legal
You can only strike a downed opponent. Fighters may not exchange strikes when standing. An opponent is considered downed when their buttocks or both knees are touching the mat
Strikes can only be done with an open palm. No closed fists allowed.
Palm strikes to the body, the face and the side of the head are considered legal.
Standing grappling is only permitted for 1 minute maximum. After 1 minute of standing, a horn sounds and the referee enforces the “Get Down” rule. There is then a coin flip and the winner decides whether to be on top in their opponents butterfly guard with double under hooks or on bottom in the same position reversed. If the one standing has clearly been the aggressor then they automatically win the coin flip.
Purgatory position is when the standing opponent who is not in guard is thought to be stalling by not engaging the legs and attempting to pass. The competitor on top is allowed a cumulative time of 30 seconds total in this purgatory position over the course of the whole match. Any time over the allotted 30 seconds is added onto the Overtime total of the standing opponent. This rule is designed to discourage stalling in Purgatory and to encourage passing the guard
Opponents take turns in defending and attacking positions. A coin flip will decide who goes in what position first. Attacking competitors can choose to either start from the back or from the armbar position
When both competitors submit their opponents, the competitor with the fastest submission is declared the winner.
If one competitor submits, and the other does not (opponent escapes), he is declared winner of that round.
If both competitors escape, we move to the next overtime round (maximum 3 overtime rounds)
In the event of no submissions at the end of the three overtime rounds, the competitor with the fastest combined escape time wins the match
Combat Jiu Jitsu Worlds
The first ever major CJJ event was the Combat Jiu Jitsu Worlds which took place on November 12, 2017 in California. The event featured a lightweight and Bantamweight 8 man tournament. Vagner Rocha claimed the lightweight title while Chad George won the Bantamweight title. The response to the event online was mostly positive and the live experience seemed to be enjoyed by the fans who cheered every time an open palm strike was landed. In some cases the palm strikes used looked odd and a bit silly.
The event even featured a palm strike TKO when Vagner Rocha mounted Nathan Orchard and used palm striked effectively until the referee stopped the bout. The strikes certainly help to make the the event more entertaining and the match was a lot more high paced than regular Jiu Jitsu. In many cases the use of effective striking led to submissions.
The Future of combat BJJ
Combat Jiu-Jitsu have agreed a deal with UFC fightpass to showcase their cards. This will allow the Combat Jiu-Jitsu to showcase their events to a much wider audience. Fightpass is the perfect platform for the young sport as it is a dedicated platform that already contains a large amount of their target demographic.
One of the biggest challenges for Combat BJJ will be attracting high level talent to compete on their cards. To date EBI do not pay fighters money to show. The only chance of compensation is if you manage to submit your opponents in regular time in your match. There is also cash prizes for the winners. This means that the majority of people who compete on the card will not make any money at all.
This proposition may have worked with EBI Jiu Jitsu but the higher level of risk associated with Combat Jiu Jitsu makes this a different prospect.. The risk of concussion and CTE in combat Jiu Jitsu is very real and high level fighters are unlikely to be interested without being paid.
In 2018 defending combat Jiu Jitsu champion Vagner Rocha chose not to defend his title due to the lack of compensation being offered (See full post below). The cancellation of a number of other events that promised top level BJJ and MMA talent has also raised questions about the promotions ability to pay top level fighters
Perhaps the best way to move forward is to start smaller and build you the fanbase. This seems to be the new strategy and the announcement of events such as the 2019 Combat Jiu Jitsu World Championships seems to be a good idea. Even though most competing athletes may not be recognizable names the quality of the contest and production is excellent. If combat Jiu Jitsu continue to build on this there is a chance that they could one day be putting on cards with the best MMA and BJJ fighters in the world.