Understanding the De La Riva Guard – BJJ Fanatics

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Your Guide To The Ins and Outs Of De La Riva Guard!

The Da Liva Guard in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most popular and most utilized positions when someone is playing from their back. The numerous transitions, sweeps, and submission potential makes this guard dangerous even against skilled guard passers. Although this position has been around for many years, it was made widely popular after grapplers like Rafael Mendes and the Miyao brothers displayed its potential in competition. Although not all practitioners play from this guard a lot, it is important to know at least a few techniques for guard success.

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One of the most common uses of the De La Riva guard is for transitioning to berimbolos for back-takes. Many grapplers, especially new ones, shy away from the De La Riva guard because the berimbolo is a very complex technique requiring a lot of dexterity and flexibility. Fortunately, there is a shortcut to the berimbolo that any grappler can use to take the back of their partners. The technique, the babybolo, will be displayed in the following short video.

The traditional berimbolo requires that the top player falls to the ground through a sweep. A lot of times, however, sweeping to the required position is difficult. The babybolo bypasses the sweeping part. It also places the guard player in a similar position under the hips as the berimbolo does except the defender is standing. This technique requires little flexibility compared to its parent move making it easy for grapplers of any size and skill level.

One important tip when your doing this technique is after getting the back, make sure you have full control of the defender’s hips by grabbing the belt or pants. Anytime you move your grip in this position, make sure you do it one hand at a time. Although they start with a collar grip in the video, I find using ankle and belt grip much more effective and easier.

This technique can also be made in a drill that we use often in our academy. Starting the technique in the same way, allow the top person to take a step back so that you end up in the guard but on the other side. From here, keep doing the technique on each side for a certain amount of time to improve muscle memory and technique success.

The guard itself is an excellent tool for sweeping your opponent and also attacking the back. There are countless sweeps from the position utilizing a variety of different grips such as a sleeve grips and lapel grips. It is also the base of more advanced guards such as De La Riva-X guard and reverse De La Riva. As always in the sport, an advancement in a position is typically countered by advances of its defense. A common defense to the guard is when an opponent steps back using the far leg in a rotational manner to a seated position allowing them to either attack a knee bar or begin a passing sequence. Without proper knowledge of how to counter this defense, we will be limited in our ability to move forward against our opponent.

In the following video, Seth Daniels counters the De La Riva guard defense previously described to attack a kimura on the close side arm. The attack is especially easy when your opponent has a lapel grip as they attempt the pass.

The attack is not one opponents typically see coming as they begin their rotation. To ensure catching the kimura, it is vital to drill this at increasing speeds due to the confusion in grabbing the kimura in this unorthodox fashion.

You do not have to be an expert in the De La Riva guard to have success with it. In the previous video, Seth Daniels confesses to not being very good at it, but has learned to capitalize on it when the opponent begins their defense.

The De La Riva Guard Ankle Lock

The De La Riva guard has become a staple method of controlling an opponent in open guard. The guard is more popular, however, in the gi due to the numerous grip types and available sweeps utilizing those grips. The De La Riva guard in no gi is not as powerful as it is in the gi and is used mostly for guard control and retention. One great technique from the no gi De La Riva guard is the ankle lock that was popularized by Caio Terra. The ankle lock, albeit it technically simple, is powerful and can incur lots of damage.

At Quintet 3, master leg locker Craig Jones utilized this technique to quickly get the submission against 10th Planet black belt Richie ‘Boogeyman’ Martinez. There is not a lot of objective measures for how painful a submission is, but Boogeyman’s face and reaction is a great example of it. In the following video, you will see a basic breakdown of Craig Jone’s finish against Boogeyman.

The De La Riva ankle lock will require a deep grip on the ankle such as displayed in the previous video. Bring the hand around the ankle and placing the palm high to the chest will reduce the likelihood that the guard passer can escape their leg. The most difficult aspect of this move is sweeping your opponent to the ground, as this submission cannot be finished against a standing opponent. Fortunately for Craig Jones, Richie Martinez decided to sit to prevent his opponent from sweeping him and coming on top. To finish the move, a bridging motion must be created to allow the attacker’s hamstring to apply an immense amount of pressure onto the upper leg. Combined with extending the back, these two motions work to bidirectionally separate the foot from the leg at the ankle. The defender will have no choice but to tap or allow their ankle to be broken.

Craig Jones once again surprises us with his ability to submit a tough opponent in Richie Martinez. Craig’s creativity and quick ability to seize opportunities as presented have made him the successful and entertaining grappler that he is today.  

In quickly examining the positional nature of the de la riva guard, you will notice that the non-de la riva hook leg is usually free, and even if it is not, it can easily be made free. This is probably one of the biggest problems of the de la riva guard and is used to start defending the position.

Because one leg is usually free and undefended, this means that one can start attacking that leg with numerous submissions. The most common submission to attack here is the toe hold. Unfortunately, or fortunately for some, many people don’t know how to properly execute this submission, exposing themselves.

In the following video, Professor Tom DeBlass shows the proper and effective way to quickly execute this technique against your opponents.

The main problem people have with this technique is not actually the break but getting the necessary control to prevent the guard player from rolling out or quickly defending the submission. Also, one thing I noticed when I was attacking this submission a lot is that is very helpful to bend the defender’s leg while you are finish the toe hold as it will provide more leverage for a break.

One common mistake people make when trying to get this toe hold is that after getting the correct grip to finish the submission, they fall to their butt trying to get the proper leverage. To defend this, the guard player has to simply straighten their leg and stand up, giving them the superior position.

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It is important to main the top position when attacking this submission in case it does not work, which is often because this submission is hard to finish, you can transition quickly. If you can’t get the finish from the top position, the defender’s movements will usually be enough to allow you to transition to other positions to pass or submit from.

Although passing this guard is difficult, the same elements of any guard pass still apply such as posture, balance, and head positioning. There are two themes of guard passes for the de la riva guard: leg drag style passing and smash passing.

In the following video, black belt legend Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu shows us a very effective smash pass to counter the de la riva guard.

As Cyborg mentions, it is important to keep the attacker flat because most de la riva guard attacks require the guard player to be extremely mobile. Head positioning is particularly important when defending the de la riva guard because if one leans too far forward, the guard player can elevate them and sweep them.

The passing position Cyborg enters after stepping over the leg is a common top position we call headquarters at our academy. There are numerous pass options that range from both loose passing and smash passing. In order to make Cyborg’s smash pass more effective, fake a knee slice pass on the opposite side so that the guard player can push their leg in the direction you actually want to smash to.

When trying any smash pass, it is important to strongly pin the hips of the guard player on the ground so as to prevent them from hip escaping or rotating. Any amount of space here is dangerous so always look for strong shoulder pressure against the head and even under hooks if the opportunity presents itself.

For additional information and technique on the De La Riva guard, check out Jay Wadsworth’s DVD “Precision De La Riva Attacks“. BJJ Fanatics has it here!

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