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BJJ Techniques: Diamond Concept of Defense

BJJ Techniques: Diamond Concept of Defense


One of the great distinctions John Danaher makes in his BJJ Fanatics tutorials is the difference between heuristic and algorithmic ways of learning. Those are definitely ten dollar words, so what do they mean?

The word “heuristic” comes from the Greek root word meaning to discover or find. A heuristic is therefore a mental model that can often be quickly communicated and implemented in a practical fashion that allows the student to discover things for themselves.

An algorithm is a very clear, step-by-step and procedural method of stating “If X then Y, or if A then B”. Algorithms offer a pre-programmed approach to problem solving that don’t require the student to actively problem solve, but instead work to apply a pre-decided solution. 

Both heuristic and algorithmic pedagogical approaches have their place within the study of BJJ. 

In this blog we will look at a great heuristic from one of the best BJJ competitors in the history of the sport, Xande Ribeiro, which he calls the Diamond Concept of Defense.


Xande Ribeiro has competed and won at the highest levels of BJJ for a long time. He won the Worlds seven times and ADCC twice. He has beat a huge roster of the biggest names in the sport and guess what?

Xande hasn’t had his guard passed in fourteen years at the highest level of competition! 

Fourteen years of retaining guard!

As a beginning student one of the realities of sparring is that we often can’t dictate where we will be, which often means we’ll end up on the bottom.

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Being on bottom, being on the receiving end of heavy pressure and multiple submissions that we can’t escape from is no fun.

Gaining and retaining guard then is a crucial skill for the beginner to get as good as possible as fast as possible. The heuristic approach Xande will teach you is a great way to gain momentum in your guard game.

Also, as Xande’s competition record attests, this Diamond Concept of Defense will also work at the highest levels, so no matter what belt you’re at, there’s a wellspring of knowledge here.  As with any good heuristic, it is a simple concept with a lot of depth for learning. 

Firstly, how did Xande discover and create the Diamond Defense approach?

Pressure makes . . . Diamonds! When you’re Xande and you’re older brother and training partner is Saulo Ribeiro then that’s some real #everydayporrada level of pressure!

The other kind of pressure though is distance close-down. Someone is pressuring your space.

The Diamond Concept is different than many approaches in that Xande is emphasizing paying more attention to your own bodily architecture, the structural shapes you are making with your own body, than implementing a specific technique against your opponent. 

The first concept is about distance control. The Diamond Defense concept helps us to preserve our own space with an intelligent and responsive use of framing

Framing is a hugely energy efficient way of keeping distance between you and your opponent as you are largely carrying their weight on your skeletal structure, rather than using musculature. 

When Xande says “I could stay here all day” he really means it!

The key framing concept of the Diamond Defense approach is the connection between the elbow and knees and “staying elegant”. Staying elegant is a succinct way of saying that instead of trying to manipulate and man-handle our opponent, which will deplete our strength and have us chasing after them, we instead focus on our own shape and space. 

Xande illustrates staying elegant by instead of trying to push Bernardo away he instead regains his shape by framing and moving himself away. This shift in mindset is core for the Diamond Defense concept. 

Something that Xande emphasises with the Diamond might be unexpected with a system designed to protect against guard passing, and that’s his focus on the upper body.

The architecture of the upper body naturally lends itself to the geometrical and strong shape of the diamond, and this is something Xande repeats in multiple positions during the video.

Whether standing, in half guard, being mounted, or on top game, Xande is applying the geometric and structurally strong Diamond Defense system. This enables him to stay energy efficient, strong, and have cutting power through his opponents defenses.

Even someone who may be physically unimposing at 60kgs can be at their strongest by using the structure and mechanics of their body to its best. This is a core concept of BJJ and it’s great to see Xande maintaining and developing this ‘old school’ approach to the art, which can benefit everyone. 

Another concept Xande has within the Diamond system is the Vortex. The Vortex is a strong convergence of energy towards one’s center to close off attacks. Again, the emphasis here is on one’s own body more than on what one’s opponent is trying to do. 

Xande’s level of technical understanding is of course very high but all the technical, or algorithmic, solutions are based on the heuristic foundation of the Diamond.

From the Vortex Xande looks into what he calls Protecting the Corners, which are the vulnerable areas of inside control on the hips, the arms, and the neck. The most areas of concern for him are the inside control of arms and neck, and the Vortex helps him close his opponents out of these areas. 

As Chinese General and legendary tactician Sun Tsu said:

The Skillful Warrior attacks

So that the enemy 

Cannot defend;

He defends 

So that the enemy

Cannot attack. 

The Diamond Concept of Defense by Xande Ribeiro is a MASTER CLASS in DEFENSE. If you find yourself getting your guard passed constantly, or you are getting stuck in side control Xande can help you out. These techniques don’t require extreme athleticism or strength, just the power of the DIAMOND! Know how to structure your body to form the Ultimate Defense regardless of skill level!



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