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How to Do an Overhead (Balloon) Sweep


Balloon Dreams

Few things in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are more impressive than sending your partner (or opponent) overhead with a sweep. And while you don't get points for style in a sport like BJJ, you typically can score for getting on top from guard, along with a possible dominant position upon completion of the move. Here, let's take a look at a few different "balloon sweep" examples and options, and some key details to making sure you dominate when finishing on top.

Roleta Sweep

Once upon a time, there was a legend in the making in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. From the mid to late 1990s, Roberto "Roleta" Magalhães was one of the leading competitors, and the "Roleta sweep" (sometimes now called the "balloon sweep") was a trademark move after winning a high-level international competition with the technique. This move works best when your partner stands in your closed guard.

  1. Starting from closed guard with your partner on their knees, control both sleeves with same-side grips.
  2. Right as your partner's weight transfers from their lower body to their upper body (which means their weight will be on your torso), open your guard and pinch your knees together, creating a sort of cradle for your partner.
  3. Use this to pull them forward, carrying the rest of their weight. Pull forward on their sleeves at the same time, and circle the sleeves away from the ground and toward your sides, preventing them from being able to post.
  4. Shoot to end in the mount position on top. Timing is everything.

Open Guard

Much like the closed guard version, the open guard overhead sweep relies on good timing, but it's a bit more forgiving since your partner is already standing up, and the main goal is just to get their weight coming forward a bit.

  1. Start with a good ko uchi gari attempt or feint, and as your partner steps back, step on that same hip to pull guard. Be sure to hop in closer with your "kickstand" leg, ensuring that your hips are underneath your partner's hips.
  2. The off-balance with the sleeves is essentially the same, but you can also use a sleeve-and-collar grip here, giving you better upper body control.
  3. Finish in the mount position, looking over your shoulder in order to facilitate the transition from bottom to top.

De La Riva Guard

The De La Riva guard version of this sweep can be even simpler, once you have a good fundamental understanding of the position. Once you have established the position, your partner may be driving their weight forward.

Double sleeve control is ideal here, as you'll once again want to pull the sleeves forward in order to off-balance your partner, and you can facilitate this with the hook behind the knee. Just collapse your knees in close to your chest, as with the other versions of this sweep.

As your partner begins to fall, ensure that they know to tuck their chin if they've never practiced this before with you, and keep your hook tight during the transition, helping to ensure that you end up in the mount position.

Alternate DLR Version

Another version of the De La Riva guard overhead sweep is with sleeve-and-collar control. The advantage here is that you once again have great upper body control, and one good way to enter into this position is starting on the feet, once again utilizing a guard pull to enter straight into the sweep.

Keep the collar grip on the side where you want the DLR hook to end up, and bring your knees to your chest, then lift your partner into the air, paying attention once again to their safety, and to taking away their base with the sleeve grip.

Happy Trails

While sweeping is the ultimate goal here, it's all for naught if your training partner gets injured. Nothing slows down progress at a BJJ gym faster than partners being injured, so remember to use caution with any dynamic sweeps, especially ones of the overhead variety. Play with the different variations, including sleeve and collar versions along with double sleeve versions, and determine which options work best for you. As always, let me know if anything works well for you!

© 2018 Andrew Smith