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De La Riva Guard "Ball and Chain" Sweep Series: A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tutorial

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

The "ball and chain" sweep series was popularized by Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz, starting in the late 1990s.

The "ball and chain" sweep series was popularized by Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz, starting in the late 1990s.

The Ball and Chain Sweep: That Helpless Feeling

There are some moves in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) that are like water flowing downhill, going around rocks, and reaching the destination before the opponent even knows what happens. These moves are often a serendipitous experience for both attacker and defender, with the end result being a thing of beauty.

And then there are moves like the "ball and chain" sweep. These moves force the opponent into a terrible conundrum from which there simply isn't a good option to escape, and the end result is terrible (particularly with the first option shown below). Seriously, this position feels absolutely terrible—you feel completely helpless when you're caught in it.

You might want to get started with this more fundamental De La Riva tutorial first, just as a heads up.

Sitting up and Hitting the Ball and Chain

  1. Using the basic entry outlined previously, making sure you're sitting on your opponent's foot, start by trying for the knee-push sweep (option 1).
  2. As your opponent's base stabilizes, sit up as you push the knee. It's important that you allow your left leg (the one that's behind their right knee) to drop as you sit up, facilitating the situp motion you need to execute, and allowing space for you to feed their sleeve through their legs.
  3. With your right hand, punch the sleeve grip through to the other side (while hugging with your left arm around their leg). This is the "ball and chain" position.
  4. Remember how helpless your partner feels here, and with your right hand completely free, grab their left collar (the one furthest away) with your right hand, and then fall to your right ear. This will tilt your partner's shoulders forward to the point that they can no longer maintain their balance. Even worse, they can't take a step forward to keep their base (because their own arm is preventing them from doing so).
  5. Prop your right foot onto the front of their knee while doing this. Reminder: go slowly while doing this sweep; you can get some really nasty face plants on your partner the first few times you do it. If you're able to keep the "ball and chain" grip, a guard pass is virtually guaranteed when you come up on top.
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Quick Follow-Up to Single Leg

Assuming you've hit the ball and chain sweep two times on your partner, it isn't likely that they'll let you set it up a third time. In fact, their reaction is likely to be so vehemently opposed to the very idea of being swept that they'll yank their sleeve free and completely posture up, almost to the point of absurdity. Great! Let them do it (and don't try to hold on, unless you want to practice your BJJ finger-taping skills).

  1. Once they posture up and pull their sleeve free, this means that your right arm is free. Use it to post on the mat to your right, and then swing your legs into an S-shape, hooking behind their trapped foot with your right leg.
  2. Now lift your hips up and drag your legs behind you (almost like a mini-stand in base or "technical stand up"). You'll end up in a fantastic position to over/under pass your partner's guard.
  3. Quick note: be careful not to hit an accidental kneebar on your partner's trapped leg as you hit the takedown!

Pe de Pano and the DLR

This "ball and chain" sweep series was popularized by Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz, who hit this in numerous world championship matches (Mundial) back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It's been a very high percentage sweep for me since about 2003, and although it's really just the tip of the De La Riva guard iceberg, it was one I could hit reliably on black belts fairly early on.

Expand upon your DLR repertoire with this Deep De La Riva Guard tutorial, or go back and look over the De La Riva guard basics.

Above all else, play with these techniques with an open mind, have fun while training, and be sure to take care of your training partners! And, oh yeah, let me know how these work for you.

© 2015 Andrew Smith

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