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How to Defend Against De La Riva Guard

How to Defend Against De La Riva Guard

Learning To Defend This Position Is Essential In Your Progression...

One of the best open guards to use in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the de la riva guard. This type of open guard is extremely versatile in the sense that it can allow the guard player to apply numerous attacks and sweeps. This guard is also popular because it is a great tool for taking backs. Defending this guard can be tricky and dangerous especially if the defender’s posture is broken down by the many grips used.

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Visually, it seems the dealing with de la riva guard and passing it is unusually difficult, but 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.

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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.

Finally, the last tip I have when dealing with any type of guard is to not allow yourself to get stuck in it in the first place. We are often very complacent in allowing our opponents to settle into their positions and get grips before we get started. It is vital to always be multiple steps ahead when working from the top position.

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