By Can Sonmez
Jean Jacques Machado was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, which resulted in no fingers on his left hand. This forced him to rely less on typical gi grips. Instead, he became an expert at other methods of holding on to the opponent, like under and overhooks. As Machado black belt John Will described it in the second of his autobiographical books:
“It took me years to realise that his so-called ‘handicap’ was in many ways his secret weapon. […] He can’t grip well with his left hand, so he grips with his chin, his armpits, his feet, etc. He has more than compensated; it could be argued that he’s over-compensated.”
In May 1994, Edgar Cano walked into Jean Jacque Machado’s academy in Los Angeles, entering his first tournament two years later at a police academy near Dodgers Stadium. In a competition in Santa Cruz, Cano successfully submitted his opponent Lee Cox with a technique common in wrestling, but virtually unknown in Brazilian jiu jitsu. As Cano explains in his first book, Jiu Jitsu Unleashed:
“Jean Jacques and Rigan hadn’t seen the move before and started calling it ‘the twister’. I tried telling them that it was a wrestling move called the guillotine, but in jiu jitsu the name ‘guillotine’ belonged to the front headlock choke, making it off-limits. As a result, they continued calling it the twister, and the name eventually stuck. Not only that, they soon began calling ME Twister. I didn’t feel the move was anything special and I never expected that it would become a major part of my game. After all, there were literally thousands of wrestlers who knew the wrestler’s guillotine. I just happened to be one of them.”
The man born in 1970 as Edgar Cano is now rarely referred to by that name. He is much better known by the moniker he later adopted, Eddie Bravo. A few years after he gained his ‘Twister’ nickname, he made his first steps into the world of MMA broadcasting. In a later book, Mastering the Twister, Bravo describes how “in jiu-jitsu class I met TV producer Bud Brutsman, who was heavily embedded in MMA. A short while later, he got me a gig commentating for King of the Cage and Pride. I also met Joe Rogan in jiu-jitsu class.”
Joe Rogan would prove integral to his later success, but the single most important moment of Bravo’s career was yet to come. He won the Abu Dhabi trials in 2002 as a brown belt, landing him a spot the following year at the pre-eminent nogi event, the ADCC. Amazingly, Bravo managed to hand Royler Gracie his first ever submission loss against an American, courtesy of Bravo’s triangle choke. He was soundly beaten by his next opponent, Leo Vieira, but it was nevertheless an incredible accomplishment.
Bravo cleverly seized his opportunity, using that newfound notoriety to establish a school. He set up shop inside a kickboxing gym called The Bomb Squad in West Hollywood. Bravo named his new team 10th Planet, which he saw as a new style of BJJ. The genesis of the name is somewhat unusual, as you might expect.
According to Bravo, Zecharia Sitchin (1920-2010) came up with the bizarre theory that humans were created as slaves to mine gold for aliens from a supposed extra planet in our solar system, dubbed ‘Nibiru’. Bravo, never one to shy away from the outlandish, decided that jiu jitsu would be amazing on this planet beyond Pluto (which Sitchin referred to as the 12th Planet in his book of the same name, but Bravo prefers 10th Planet) and would therefore be an apt description for his new team. Bravo explains in Jiu Jitsu Unleashed that while “I might not have been born on the 10th planet, I’d like to think that my style of jiu-jitsu certainly was.”
Whether or not it is of this world, 10th Planet has proved controversial, though you could argue that this is an intentional part of Bravo’s marketing. Part of that controversy is down to Bravo’s vigorous promotion of the alleged benefits of marijuana. He is also very critical of the gi. Although Bravo earned his black belt in the gi, he dispensed with the orthodox uniform in favour of gi pants and a rash guard.
Looking back, Bravo noted that he was fortunate to study under Machado. Like Will, Bravo was impressed by Machado’s ability to adapt to his handicapped left hand, which in Bravo’s view meant that Machado was “50 per cent better than most of the traditional jiu-jitsu instructors when it came to techniques that didn’t require holding on to the gi.” Bravo decided he would follow in his instructor’s footsteps, except that he would not grip the gi at all.
Bravo feels that the gi “does not translate well for no-gi grappling tournaments or mixed martial arts.” At face value that is a defensible statement, but other comments are rather more inflammatory. For example, Rogan’s foreword to Bravo’s Mastering the Rubber Guard stated that 10th Planet was “a completely separate branch off the jiu-jitsu tree […] not just different: it’s actually better. Much better.”
This is a bold claim. More importantly, it has yet to be substantiated: neither members of 10th Planet nor its techniques have made any significant impact at the highest levels of grappling (namely, the ADCC). It also remains at best a minor aspect of MMA, though even that description may be overstating the case.
Nevertheless, Bravo has continued to proclaim the superior efficacy of 10th Planet for MMA. There is still time for 10th Planet to finally back up those claims. After all, it was only in 2009 that Bravo awarded his first black belt, to Denny Prokopos. There are also prospects for the future, such as Adam Sachnoff. Perhaps one day the Nibiru Warriors will fulfill Bravo’s confidence and raise the 10th Planet flag high at the ADCC.
Bravo, Eddie, Jiu Jitsu Unleashed (Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt, 2005) • Bravo, Eddie, Mastering the Rubber Guard (Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt, 2006) • Bravo, Eddie, Mastering the Twister (Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt, 2007) • Gentry, Clyde, No Holds Barred (London: Milo Books, 2005) • Will, John, Passion & Purpose (2010) • thefightworkspodcast.com • www.slideyfoot.com • www.10thplanetjjmelbourne.com • www.10thplanetwatch.com •