The De La Riva guard has become one of the most popular open guard positions used among Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners. This guard, which is considered to be relatively complex, is so widespread that even white belts are using it as their primary open guard.
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Although the De La Riva guard was founded decades ago by professor Ricardo De La Riva, only a few grapplers mastered it early on. It was until the wave of “modern” Jiu Jitsu by guys like the Mendes brothers and the Miyao brothers that this guard gained its popularity.
Even though this guard is so popular, its complexity can deter some students from using it. From watching high level black belts use it, I can see why, but there are some great, simple techniques any grappler can utilize effectively in the gym or in competition.
Sure, there are some odd, complex, difficult sweeps you can use from de la riva guard. It doesn’t mean that’s all you can use. In fact, you can use de la riva guard as a point to set up some of the most simple sweeps you already know.
One of the earliest open guard sweeps we learn as a white belts is the tripod sweep. Even as a purple belt today I found great use for the tripod sweep and use it effectively against equally skilled and equally ranked opponents. All that is needed is better set ups.
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Since the guard passer is probably expecting some sort of crazy sweep or back take attempt, they really won’t see the tripod sweep coming from someone utilizing de la riva guard. In the following video, you will see how to set this up. See below:
A common mistake I see a lot of new students make when finishing the tripod sweep is they push their opponent away. The problem with this is that their opponent lands so far away that by the time the guard player gets up, so does the defender, and it turns into a scramble.
To prevent this from occurring, instead of pushing your opponent, lift them up slightly with the foot in the hip and pull their ankle into your armpit. This will force them to land very close to you.
One of the main reasons I love this move so much, other than that it works really well, is that it shows us how we can take advanced positions and use them to set up simple and easy techniques. These are the kind of techniques blue belts and purple belts need to be learning.
The real reason the De La Riva guard got popular wasn’t all the crazy sweeps, it was actually the back takes. You’ve probably heard of the berimbolo. It’s a technique that starts from de la riva guard and allows the guard player to get their opponents back in a very complex, yet effective way.
The berimbolo is a difficult technique, and a lot of students stray away from using it. Fortunately, there is a short-cut, or easy version of the berimbolo, rightfully called the babybolo. In the following video, you will see how to execute this slick technique.
To execute the original berimbolo, the guard player first has to get their opponent to the ground while maintain their leg position. From here, the guard player than has to invert, lift their opponents hips up, and then take the back. Each part of that is difficult.
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The babybolo essentially combines all three steps into one technique. It eliminates the need to invert too because you essentially end up in the same spot in the babybolo as you do in the berimbolo when you invert.
A common mistake students make when executing the babybolo, or even berimbolo, is they don’t use grips to their advantage. When using either technique, you need to control your opponent’s hips. Personally, I like getting grips on the belt or on the inside of the pants for this. You should also always maintain at least one grip and never remove both hands because the defender can then escape.
De La Riva Guard Ankle Lock
Although the de la riva guard is a great position to hit sweeps and back takes from, its also just an overall good guard to control one’s opponent and maintain distance.
In the gi, we have the luxury of utilizing various lapel grips, sleeve grips, and even belt grips to aid us in controlling and attack the guard passer. Without the gi, and hence without grips utilizing the gi, controlling the top player becomes difficult and a lot of sweeps and back takes become more difficult too.
There are other techniques you can use when playing de la riva guard without the gi. One great submission attack that works really well is the de la riva guard ankle lock.
In the following video, you will see a basic breakdown of Craig Jones using the de la riva guard ankle lock to defeat Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez at Quintet 3. You can tell by the look on Richie’s face that this ankle lock is devastatingly painful. See below:
When attacking the de la riva guard ankle lock, you want to treat it like a regular ashi garami ankle lock except your outside leg is over their shin rather than under it. This also means you need just as deep as a grip around the ankle.
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The biggest struggle I’ve had when attacking the de la riva guard ankle lock is sweeping my opponent after getting the grip. I find that you have to use your entire leg to push against your opponent’s leg and not focus too much on the ankle lock part first.
The same mechanics you apply to the ashi garami ankle lock are applied to the de la riva guard ankle leg. Meaning you want to bridge and extend your back for maximum breakage. More so, take advantage of your de la riva hook leg to apply some extra pressure.
Transition to X-Guard
So far we’ve seen a sweep, a back take, and a submission from de la riva guard. What if you are unable to use any of them, or what if you dislike de la riva guard so much that you just want to use it as a means to get to a better position. I’ve got some good news for you.
As white belts and blue belts, we get so focused on using the guard we would be in at a specific moment to sweep or submit our opponents. We fail to remember that we can also transition to guards that might better or that you just might like more.
One of the best open guard that can be used in Jiu Jitsu is the X-guard. The way I see X-guard is that if you get there, you should pretty much always finish a sweep unless you are extremely naïve to the position or you are up against someone significantly better than you.
The problem with X-guard is that it is difficult to get to. You have to somehow find yourself right under your opponent while controlling both legs. The de la riva guard on the other hand is way easy to get ahold anytime you end up in an open guard scenario.
So if we can find a way to transition to X-guard from de la riva guard, we will be going from position that is easy to acquire, but difficult to attack from, to a guard that is way more effective. In the following video, you will see how you can make this simple transition. See below:
The difficult thing about any X-guard entrie is find a way under your opponent. This will usually require some sort of lifting, which is difficult from other positions. From de la riva guard, though, its easy to get our opponents hands on the ground, making their legs light, which will allow us to lift their nearside leg and enter the guard.
If you enjoy leg locks too, you can opt our of going for full X-guard and getting to single leg X by wrapping your legs around the leg you were controlling with their hands. Single leg X, aka ashi garami, is a great position to sweep from as well.
I hope you enjoyed these de la riva guard techniques. I understand that the position is difficult at first, but so is any position in the sport. Learning just a few techniques from de la riva guard can make your open guard game so much more dynamic and effective.
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