Brazilian jiu-jitsu has seen an incredible rise in popularity over the last 30 years alongside the advent of modern MMA. Still, with that rise, it has also branched into different variations and competition rules. The newest and arguably the most exciting of these is Combat jiu-jitsu, or CJJ for short.
Combat Jiu-Jitsu is a no-gi grappling competition where no points are scored for control and positions, with the added twist of palm strikes and slaps when both competitors are on the ground. The only ways to win are by submission, TKO, or special overtime rules in case neither happens.
CJJ was created to bring jiu-jitsu closer to its roots, and adding back the strikes is a huge step in that direction without turning it into MMA. But do you know all the rules and specifics of this new and exciting sport?
What Is Combat Jiu Jitsu
Combat jiu-jitsu is a very young grappling sport aiming to be the middle ground between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA. The added palm strikes and slaps on the ground are the detail separating Combat Jiu-Jitsu from other submission grappling competitions and formats. This seemingly little detail changes the game drastically.
Both competitors start standing, just like in regular BJJ matches, and are not allowed to hit each other while on their feet. But once they touch the ground, the slaps start flying. This aims to return the increasingly regulated sport of BJJ to its roots as a practical martial art for self-defense or MMA.
At first glance, CJJ may look like BJJ with slaps or something similar to the Pancrase fights famous in the early days of MMA, but unlike in Pancrase, with CJJ, palm strikes are allowed only on the ground.
Another place Combat jiu-jitsu takes inspiration from the even earlier Gracie challenges, where many more strikes were allowed. Still, the goal always was to prove how BJJ works in a real fight.
The palm strikes also add a lot of dynamics and prevent many of the stalling tactics that modern-day BJJ has become synonymous with. No-gi jiu-jitsu removed many of those, making the full mount irrelevant. In contrast, the real danger of strikes makes it a dominant and desirable position once again.
Slaps and strikes to the head and body create openings for submissions and can serve as a good defense against leg locks. The submissions-only, no-points system, along with the addition of palm strikes, aims to create fast-paced, entertaining grappling matches. After watching just a few bouts, you will find it hard to disagree with the result despite some comical sequences in the first events.
In CJJ, you can even win the match with a knockout or a TKO courtesy of some nasty palms strikes. The current CJJ lightweight champion Vagner Rocha is a perfect example of what an experienced MMA fighter and a BJJ expert can do within the ruleset.
Combat Jiu-Jitsu Rules
Aside from the added palm strikes, all the other rules in Combat Jiu-jitsu are the same as those in Eddie Bravo Invitations tournaments which have been around for much longer than CJJ and have set the standard for submissions-only grappling competitions. Here is how Combat jiu-jitsu rules look:
- Style is no-gi
- Submission, TKO, or EBI overtime rules can only win matches. There is no point system.
- All submissions are allowed
- Matches are played in a single 10-minute round. The match goes to EBI overtime rules if there are no submissions or TKO.
- Strikes and slaps are only allowed once one competitor has been grounded. No strikes can be exchanged with both competitors are on their feet.
- There is a grounding rule that takes effect if the standing grappling takes more than 1 minute. In this case, the referee stops the time, and the coin toss winner decides whether to start at the bottom or top of the butterfly guard.
- The two special rules are overtime rules and purgatory positions.
A purgatory position occurs when one contestant stands while the other is on the ground. The standing competitor is not engaged in either guard position or leg entanglement. For the duration of the match, a participant is permitted thirty seconds of “purgatory,” after which any time spent in this position is added to the overtime round.
The purpose of this rule is to prevent stalling and to encourage active guard passing from the player on top. When the person on top’s knee meets the ground, they are considered grounded, and the purgatory count ends.
It is not considered purgatory if a competitor is standing when their opponent has a full guard or engages them with a leg entanglement. If the standing competitor disengages from a leg entanglement or breaks guard, they have only 10 seconds before the purgatory timer begins.
This encourages both competitors not to waste time and grapple. If you ask me, it is a perfect solution to many problems of competitive jiu-jitsu.
As the only way to win is by submissions or TKO, some matches go the 10 minutes and continue into overtime. But most of the matches in the CJJ Worlds end with a submission. But when they don’t, here is how the winner is decided.
In overtime, grapplers compete in three five-minute rounds, with the starting position determined by a coin toss. The toss winner may begin on their opponent’s back, sitting with a seatbelt grip, or in the spiderweb armbar position.
If a submission occurs, the grappler’s trade places and the other gets the same amount of time as the first to earn their own submission or lose the match.
If no submits occur throughout the three overtime rounds, the person who escaped in the shortest time wins.
Rules for Striking in Combat Jiu Jitsu
The significant factor in CJJ is the strikes. To differentiate the sport from MMA and keep the focus on grappling, though, they are allowed only when both competitors are on the ground. A person is considered grounded when both his knees or butt are on the mat. No closed fist strikes are allowed. Only palm strikes and slaps can be delivered to both the head and body.
Who Created Combat Jiu Jitsu
Edie Bravo’s 10th Planet style of jiu-jitsu has always been aimed at MMA and fighting practicality, so the birth of CJJ was the natural progression for his grappling ideology to materialize in a competition setting.
Eddie has always been a strong proponent of realistic jiu-jitsu and often criticizes sports BJJ’s direction. He has tried introducing some striking BJJ before, but the timing wasn’t right. But since the first CJJ matches were hosted at EBI in 2017, the new sport has only been growing, despite some ridicule from the community.
More recently, Edie Bravo has gone all in on Combat Jiu-jitsu and started organizing the Combat Jiu-jitsu Worlds. The fans love the action, and more and more grapplers are flocking to the sport. In the words of Bravo, he aims not to replace traditional BJJ tournaments but rather to make CJJ the professional level of jiu-jitsu.
And the deal he struck with UFC Fight Pass only further showcases CJJ to the right audiences and improves its popularity. Currently, the only way to be in CJJ is to be invited or win qualifying tournaments, and I think this is wonderful.
Combat jiu-jitsu is excellent because it bridges the gap between grappling and fighting. Still, it’s also dangerous and not for everyone, at least not competitively. While many MMA fighters have been drawn to it, inexperienced grapplers should stick to the much safer BJJ version without strikes.
But let’s talk about including some form of striking into regular BJJ training for self-defense purposes. I am firmly in favor of the idea. After all, the Gracie family has done it their whole history and still practices similar forms in their self-defense classes.
Training like this or with the CJJ rules will make practitioners accustomed to grappling scenarios where they can get hit or use some strikes in their favor, skills much needed for real-life self-defense.
Combat jiu-jitsu is a new sport in the jiu-jitsu world. While there are still flaws in the rules, and some sequences seem ridiculous, the CJJ is a more realistic fighting version of BJJ while retaining the focus on grappling. The added strikes also dissuade stalling tactics, making it a more spectator-friendly sport.