Some people argue that BJJ has moved too far from its roots as a practical, self defense origins, and when you look at berimbolos and worm guard it’s easy to see where they’re coming from.
So, what would you say to a hybrid version of MMA and BJJ, where no-gi grappling is merged with open-hand striking? For those who are interested in such a combination, Combat Jiu Jitsu is exactly that and is growing in popularity amongst professional grapplers and fighters.
Will CJJ become the next big thing in Jiu Jitsu or is it destined to remain a niche version of the no-gi competition scene?
What is Combat Jiu Jitsu?
Combat Jiu Jitsu is one of Eddie Bravo’s passion projects. Eddie, the founder of 10th Planet Jiu JItsu and EBI is famous for his unusual style and focus on no-gi training. True to his reputation, Combat Jiu Jitsu is a no-gi style of competition.
What makes it unique from other no-gi rulesets is that it allows for striking during grappling exchanges. Only open palm strikes are allowed and no protective gear (like gloves) is worn during Combat Jiu Jitsu. Also, competitors are only allowed to strike one another when the match hits the ground.
Apart from this key difference, everything else that is legal in the EBI ruleset is fair game.
Eddie Bravo’s brand of Ju Jitsu was always aimed toward MMA, which is one of the reasons why he only practices no-gi.
Eddie’s goal with Combat Jiu Jitsu is to bring back attention to the self-defense aspect of Jiu JItsu, but in a realistic manner. Since MMA is not a popular choice for many people that are interested in BJJ, this hybrid seemed to fill in the gap.
Bravo’s inspiration came from old Pancrase matches, which had similar rules, and allowed grappling with open palm strikes, as well as from the original Gracie challenges, in which the Gracies relied heavily on slaps to open up the defenses of their challengers before submitting them.
History of Combat Jiu Jitsu
CJJ is not Eddie Bravo’s first attempt at introducing “Jiu Jitsu with striking” to the masses. His first attempt was similar to CJJ, but probably was released too early for the general public, given that at the time no-gi BJJ was still seen as secondary to gi Jiu Jitsu, and sub-only tournaments did not exist yet.
After Metamoris opened the door for sub-only tournaments featuring professional Jiu Jitsu fighters, Eddie seized the opportunity to launch his own submission-only event called the Eddie Bravo Invitational, or EBI.
EBI solved Metamoris’ biggest issue – the draws between competitors which resulted whenever one of the competitors failed to submit the other within the given time limit. Eddie introduced overtime rounds which ensured one competitor gets a win.
Eddie built Combat Jiu Jitsu on the back of this very successful new ruleset and the first Combat Jiu Jitsu event took place in 2017, as part of the 11th edition of EBI. A four-man CJJ tournament was held along with the regular submission-only BJJ tournament to test-launch Combat Jiu Jitsu.
Nick Honstein, Sheridan Moran, Chad George, and JM Holland were the first to test themselves in the waters of Jiu Jitsu with striking, with Honstein emerging as the first-ever CJJ champion at bantamweight (135 lbs).
Over time, Eddie refined the rules a bit, adding CJJ matches to subsequent EBIs before eventually organizing a dedicated Combat Jiu Jitsu tournament in 2018 which he called CJJ Worlds.
Since the first Combat Jiu Jitsu Worlds, CJJ became Eddie Bravo’s primary focus, with EBI falling somewhat behind.
The ruleset of Combat Jiu Jitsu, as everything else connected to Eddie Bravo is somewhat complex, but at the end of the day, it makes a lot of sense, which is why it has caught on so much.
How to Win in CJJ
Combat Jiu Jitsu is a submission-only discipline in which no points are awarded for either obtaining grappling positions or the number of successful strikes landed. There are a few ways to win, with submitting an opponent being the most realistic option and knocking someone out being the most interesting one.
There are no illegal submissions in CJJ. All techniques are legal.
Striking in CJJ
The striking portion of Combat Jiu Jitsu is only allowed when the match goes to the ground. During standing exchanges, takedowns are encouraged, but striking is not allowed.
The moment the match gets to the ground, open palm strikes to the head and body are legal. Palm striking and slapping are acceptable forms of striking.
Getting to the Ground
To avoid having both competitors in long standing exchanges, only 1 minute is allowed for the match to get to the ground. In the case that there are no takedowns or guard pulls, the referee pauses the match, and a coin flip decides which position one grappler will begin in. The options are double underhooks from the bottom or begin on top of the butterfly guard.
CJJ Time Limit
A Combat Jiu Jitsu match includes 10 minutes of regular time. In the case of no winner by the end of the regular time limit, EBI overtime rules apply with three five-minute rounds.
CJJ Overtime Rules
While a submission or a technical knockout immediately ends the match, Combat Jiu Jitsu matches commonly go the distance. In such a scenario EBI overtime rounds help decide the winner.
In overtime, grapplers go through three five-minute rounds in which a coin toss decides which competitor picks the starting position. Whoever won the toss can start on their opponent’s back, seated with a seatbelt grip, or in the spiderweb armbar position.
If a submission happens, the grapplers switch positions and the other grappler has the same time it took the first one to get a submission of their own or else lose the match.
In case no submissions occur during the three overtime rounds, whoever escaped in the shortest amount of time will get the victory.
No strikes are allowed during overtime rounds.
Losing via knockout can happen by way of a knockout, a technical knockout (a referee stops the match due to an overwhelming amount of unanswered and undefended strikes), or the competitor’s corner can throw in the towel.
The first CJJ knockout happened during the Combat Jiu-Jitsu Lightweight Worlds on June 6th, 2022 when B-Team’s Damien Anderson knocked Adrian Madrid unconscious in the very first match of the event.
Leave it to Eddie Bravo to figure out a way to force competitors to keep matches interesting. With the goal of preventing stalling, “purgatory“ rules dictate that whenever one person is on the ground and the other is standing and they are not engaged, they have thirty seconds to do so. If they fail to engage, any time past the thirty seconds is added to overtime rounds.
In case competitors disengage from one another, they have ten seconds to re-engage before the purgatory timer starts. The timer is cumulative, meaning that only thirty seconds of non-engaged time per match is allowed for all competitors.
This encourages both competitors to actively compete rather than waste time. If you ask me, it is a good solution to the perennial problem of stalling in competitive Jiu Jitsu.
Combat Jiu Jitsu vs. MMA vs. BJJ
At the end of the day, while it is still a subset of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, to an extent, Combat Jiu Jitsu is a discipline of its own, bringing about its own distinct pros and cons.
Compared to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, CJJ allows for a lot less positional and technical versatility. Doing crazy things that you can pull off in a BJJ match or roll is not a good idea when you can get slapped to the face and knocked out.
Instead, efficient positions that account for distancing and timing, as well as the option of you involving strikes to subsequently get a submission, are where the competitor’s focus lies.
Compared to MMA, Combat Jiu Jitsu is a lot more grappling-heavy, focusing on Jiu Jitsu rather than the merging of different martial arts together. The strikes make it more realistic and dangerous, but the lack of punches, elbows, and kicks makes it a lot safer and quite different than MMA.
According to Joe Rogan, CJJ solves the broken hand problem, which is a common one in MMA matches with gloves. Open palm strikes greatly reduce the danger of fractures to people’s palms and wrists. Also, without gloves to interfere, grappling exchanges more closely mimic what is possible in no-gi grappling.
At the end of the day, CJJ bridges the gap that has emerged between MMA and BJJ. After all, MMA originally emerged as a result of a form of BJJ that actually involved striking defense, some kicks, and strikes. CJJ is a modern-day version that allows for the fun of BJJ and the rush of MMA in one.
Combat Jiu Jitsu Competitions
Combat Jiu Jitsu events are becoming more regular lately, with the CJJ World events organized by Eddie Bravo. Since the first Worlds tournament in 2018, Eddie Bravo has held CJJ events on a regular basis, covering all weight classes. As time goes by, there is more and more interest from both professional grapplers and professional MMA fighters in participating in the events.
The fact that the events are streamed by UFC Fight Pass adds to the draw for competitors which in turn, makes the events a lot more interesting for spectators.
If you want to sign up for a Combat Jiu Jitsu competition though, it is currently impossible outside of Eddie Bravo’s Worlds Events. Taking part in those is either available through invitation, or going through 10th Planet’’s qualifying tournaments.
In truth, I believe that this is a good approach as I do not think CJJ should be available for everyone. For now, it is best if professional grapplers and fighters are the only ones allowed to compete. Once the details and some regulation aspects are ironed out, the ruleset will be ready for participation by seasoned grapplers and amateur MMA fighters.
The Community’s View
People in BJJ love their affiliations and lineages and their own tribes and are often resistant to anything new coming their way. This has not proven to be the most effective way of approaching things (cough, leglocks). But the grappling community as a whole seems to be a slow learner.
Of course, the no-gi bunch is generally in favor of Combat Jiu Jitsu. On the other hand, the Gracie Barra and gi-oriented grapplers usually disregard it as something fun to watch but that has little to do with proper Jiu JItsu.
At the end of the day, CJJ does have a lot of room for development, but it will offer a different perspective to Jiu Jitsu in general. While some of the exchanges now might be received as funny by the grappling public, they are still a step forward in a direction that is bound to provide a more spectator-friendly version of sport BJJ.
Of course, everyone has the right to their opinion, but the fact of the matter is that Combat Jiu JItsu is a valid version of Jiu Jitsu. And yes, I do call out everyone that claims Berimbolos, and the like, will help in a setting where strikes are allowed. I’m curious to see how many berimbolos will factor into victories at upcoming CJJ events!
In my humble opinion, CJJ classes should become a regular thing at academies. However, they should only become available once students reach advanced classes. In terms of Combat Jiu Jitsu with the gi, I am a big fan of that notion as well!
The Most Realistic Way to Train Jiu Jitsu for Self Defense?
Apart from the entertainment factor of seeing grown men and women alternate between slapping each other and trying to tear off their limbs, CJJ actually has a huge value in terms of self-defense.
As someone with 20 years of martial arts experience, including an extensive period of Krav Maga training, I am too aware of the fallacies of self-defense training in modern days. Most self-defense moves are trained like Aikido and Karate, with an “if this, then that” approach, which is most certainly not the way violent street altercations happen.
Self-defense training must replicate the stress of a real fight and get people to activate their adrenaline response.
Combat Jiu Jitsu does precisely that when you try to go for a simple move like a sweep and suddenly someone is slapping you across the face from the top. If you still want to finish that sweep, you can’t smirk and wait for the strikes to stop, but you’ll have to find a way to apply what you’ve learned in class.
From a realism standpoint, Combat Jiu Jitsu is one of the best ways to expose people to real self defense training, while keeping them safe, and teaching them useful things that might one day save their life.
Combat Jiu Jitsu is a fun new way of practicing BJJ. It is not quite BJJ training, nor is it quite like MMA training. It is bang in the middle, allowing for the best of both if you are after training for self defense.
No amount of BJJ monkey moves like spins and fancy flying stuff makes the cut, but at the same time you’re not going to get elbowed in the face or ground and pounded into oblivion. You will simply learn how to fight. For real.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.