As a previous wrestler, you like me, may have experienced some frustration with berimbolo specialists. The movement, initiated from de la Riva involves pushing your opponents bottom to the mat and inverting while holding onto their legs. This inversion and roll, if done correctly, usually results in a unique and highly effective back take. It goes against Despite Ricardo de la Riva’s development of what is now known as the De la Riva guard early on in BJJ’s development, the first documented Berimbolo was done by Samuel Braga during the Mundials in 2005. This relatively new technique is quite complex to learn but once learned is highly effective, especially against grapplers whose initial background is not in Jiu Jitsu. It is an extremely foreign and BJJ specific (sportcentric) movement. Check out wrestlejitsu’s breakdown of the berimbolo and some of it’s possible counters:
You’ll notice one of the first points I brought to light was the fact that you don’t see this movement in MMA. To which a viewer quickly pointed out (within a day of the video’s posting) a particular instance in a bellator where a fighter executed a berimbolo. I’ll be adding this to the next video edit. I however was pointing out that the technique is not widespread due to the danger of getting hit during execution involving inversion.
So it can be done in a fight, really quickly.
In any case to protect yourself from the move you must understand it in great depth. To hit the perfect berimbolo we need look no further than two sets of brothers: The Mendes and later the Miyao brothers. The mendes brothers changed the face of BJJ with their effectiveness winning multiple world titles with the movement alone. How does one hit the perfect berimbolo? To protect yourself from this movement you must first understand and be able to execute the move. The biggest key to the move is getting your opponents butt on the ground. Many people miss the fact that berimbolo specialists often use a collar drag to first initiate the movement while pushing on the opposite side hip to accomplish the butt plant. The belt is then grabbed and a roll is initiated. Plenty of instructionals can be found online including one by Guillerme Mendes showing a breakdown of the movement. As both the Mendes brothers often pull guard they initiate the position by grabbing the belt and then inverting. The Miyao brothers have further perfected this movement by remaining inverted until the back can be taken rather than coming up and settling for the leg drag, which is also an option. A breakdown of the Miyao style berimbolo can also be found on YouTube. Both ways are extremely effective. So effective in fact that many BJJ players now run into a match and both pull guard simultaneously – a highly unlikely real life situation. This movement is exemplary of how sportcentric BJJ has become and how far it has been removed from its once revolutionary movement in MMA.
So how does one deal with the berimbolo? There are a few options. As far as world class berimbolo specialists are concerned, their guards have hardly been passed at all. Keenan Cornelius has passed with a leg-step pass (used successfully often by Sebastian Broche) once and has also executed an armbar from 50/50. Currently, there is no shortage of counters and reversals for the movement. BJJ scout recently pointed out that Leandro Lo prevent de la Riva completely simply by pushing the leg to the ground. This however can prove extremely difficult as if one’s arms are shorter leaning over only enhances the opponents collar drag. Although, finding real life footage of these counters being executed is a different story altogether. Samuel Braga himself shows that backstepping should be an effective technique. Both Bruno Malfacine and Tanquinho have proven that it can be effective (mostly in buying time and not for stuffing the berimbolo) but that the back can still be taken with the backstep. Although not on YouTube, Marcelo Garcia’s (MGinaction.com) counter is also a backstep. Perhaps one may need Marcelo’s proprioception and timing for such a simple solution. Xande Ribiero recently pointed out that getting one’s body low to the ground and combining the backstep with a crossface may enhance this effectiveness. Although I haven’t seen live footage of this, forums say he used this technique to shutdown the berimbolo used by Braulio Estima at Copa Podio. We’ll have to wait on the real footage (if you weren’t watching it live).
Another more recent solution is shown by Keenan Cornelius by pirouetting to reset one’s top position. Kit Dale uses this technique in his match against Paulo Miyao successfully.
Leg locks are also an option including knee bars and toe holds but these moves deliberately give up position and usually just buy time for resetting.
Reversals are also a viable option. Perhaps the most glorious potential reversal was attempted and nearly completed by Travis Stevens at Copa Podio. My Professor Jeremy Arel calls this the rock star pass and can be initiated from either the knees or standing and involves first stacking and then rolling under your opponent with either belt or lapel grips (Stevens uses one of each). This seems to be a possible solution as I couldn’t find footage of a single successful stacking pass against a berimbolo specialist. Another possible reversal involves completely reversing the position. First you agree to also sit down, then you push the near or far side ankle with your own foot and then switch the hooking leg while you control the leg nearest to you and pull on the belt towards the back. Recently, I had the pleasure of watching a great local BJJ player, Chad Bingham, hit this at a local tournament.
This is a lot to learn. It’s worth learning though. If you get off balance you need to ber prepared to hit one of these options. What’s the most effective berimbolo shutdown technique? It’s actually none of these. It turns out that being proactive rather than reactive is more effective. Augusto Tanquinho Mendes proved that crouching tightly while maintaining a knee forward position and waiting for an opening (if any) prevents proper inversion. Mistakenly, I came across an amazing older brown belt match of Manny Diaz vs Miyao where Miyao could hardly accomplish anything while Manny maintained his knee forward position. What happened? Manny attacks from the opposite side trying to pass to his opponents left side….perhaps because he is left handed. Like this arm drag this prevents his opponent (miyao) from using his dominant hook and shuts down much of his berimbolo and non-beriimbolo based game.
This made me curious about passing to the non dominant side in general as most of us only practice from one side. Even Marcelo claims that it’s “better to have one good side than two bad sides”, but in practice we find the opposite may be true in some cases. In his match at ADCC 2011 against Leo Viera (well known for his effective passing game) Marcelo passes Leo’s guard by using an over under pass on the opposite side. More recently at ADCC 2013 Galvao initiates his remarkable pass against Braulio Estima on the opposite side as well which led to him taking his back and finishing with a RNC.
So first maintain position, knee forward, hips low, and if you practice it on the opposite side. Then learn the counters and reversals so you’re ready for a number of positions you may end up in. Rule changes in 2014 by the IBJJF are going to limit the double guard pull to 30 seconds, probably because Jiu Jitsu progenitors are bothered by such sportcentric nonrealistic movement, but the berimbolo isn’t going away.
Learn it. Learn how to shut it down. And remember, if you really want to go down in history for your berimbolo prevention skills, there’s always the option of the hammer fist to the face 🙂