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Passing Reverse De La Riva Guard: A BJJ 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.

Setting up the X-pass against the reverse De la Riva guard.

Setting up the X-pass against the reverse De la Riva guard.

Dealing with Tough Guards

"Reverse De la Riva guard? I didn't even know there was a regular De la Riva guard!"

It happens just about every day: a new type of guard is invented for sport BJJ. As a result, everyone goes scrambling to their smartphones to shoot a quick technique breakdown, and by the next morning, forums are abuzz with conversation, Facebook is broken, and a dozen new theories have been developed on how to attack this new jiu-jitsu hotness.

However, I like taking a bit of a different tack to solving the complicated guard puzzles that are thrown at me every day: first, it's important to simplify things and take a look at what is actually happening, anatomically and physically speaking. Second, it is equally important to learn to impose the game you want to play in virtually every situation. The best guard passers in the world do not have a different answer for every type of guard. Instead, they have the same answer for a multitude of guards. This is exactly the approach we're using here.

Clearing the Hook and Using the "X-Pass"

Bread and Butter, and "Yogafoot"

This is the essence of the technical sequence, in a nutshell. Like a classic toreando pass ("bullfighter"), you're more or less holding your opponent's legs in place while you skirt around them, avoiding his guard in much the same way as you'd avoid a charging bull.

However, with reverse De La Riva guard (or RDLR, for short), there is an additional complication you have to deal with: your trapped leg is hooked by your opponent's foot. Instead of simply kicking your leg back, as many toreando options often explore, where you're likely to lose your balance and still have your leg hooked, we're going to take a different, more subtle tactic.

Start by gripping your opponent's lapel, right at the bottom of the jacket. The idea here is threefold: first, you want to be sure you have a hand on their midsection for base. Second, you need to block their outside leg from getting involved (think: leg lasso). Finally, it's helpful to keep their hip pinned somewhat as you execute the following maneuvers.

Once your hands are in the right place, you need to put downward pressure on your opponent's hook. The easiest way to do this is with your trapped knee, by pushing inward. Once the hook pops off, now you're going to change the angle your knee points toward, turning downward and then, eventually, inward, guiding his or her foot to the inside the entire way. From here, you're almost completely past their guard, and knee on stomach is a logical progression.

X-Pass Variation 2: The "Side Hop"

Troubleshooting #1: The "Side Hop"

One of the first obstacles you're likely to encounter as you become proficient in the "yogafoot" version of the "X-pass" here (don't worry; BJJ terms are all like this, and you won't be quizzed later on) is that your opponent's shin is actually above your knee. Remember, the first thing you're trying to do with the "yogafoot" variation is to pin their shin underneath your knee, ultimately turning your knee inward. If you can't take control of their shin, this motion is at best futile, and at worst it will result in you getting swept (or submitted).

The solution? Make your opponent's hook become lower than your knee. If you're immeasurably stronger than your opponent, you can likely just push their foot down and then perform the usual "yogafoot" from step 1. However, let's assume for a minute that you are of normal, mortal strength in relation to your opponent.

The easiest way, therefore, to get their hook to move below their knee is by simply hopping in the direction of the pass. Their hips will turn as you do this, thus lowering their hook. From here, it's just the same pass as before, being careful to keep your foot in tight.

The RDLR hook

The RDLR hook

Peeling the Grip

Troubleshooting #2: Dealing With a Basic Grip

One more thing that immediately complicates things is when your opponent grabs your trapped foot, reinforcing the hook. The combination of the hook behind your knee/thigh and the hand grabbing your foot now makes it considerably more difficult, if not impossible, to turn your knee inward in order to remove the hook.

The solution? Simply peel the hook off, using all five fingers (don't try to grip their sleeve here). Of course, once you peel the grip off, your opponent will have time to regrip immediately, but not before you are able to turn your knee outward while reinforcing the turn with your hand. In the same motion as you peel the grip off, make sure your hand lands on the outside of their knee. If you're able to turn your knee out before your opponent regrips, just proceed through step 1 once again.

Dealing With a Stronger Grip

Troubleshooting #3: Dealing With an Underhooking Foot Grip

As you proceed through the skill level of your opponent, they are increasingly more likely to grip your foot not with their hand, but with an underhook, using their elbow to trap your foot. This can be considerably more difficult to deal with than the simple 'hand grab" hook from earlier. You can't just turn your knee in on this one.

The solution? "Go with the flow." You can't go the direction you want to go, so let your knee drop in between their legs, going in the direction they want you to go. Once you've dropped your knee to the ground, effectively forcing the half guard for your opponent, it's important that you immediately sit on the inside (trapped) knee, lest you have to deal with a guard far more complicated than half guard. From here, pass half guard as normal.

Switching to a Knee Cut Pass

Sometimes, after peeling the grip as above, your opponent is just going to stubbornly regrip your foot, sometimes long before you're able to complete the X-pass from earlier. As a result, they are successful in keeping you from retracting your knee, thus inhibiting your completion of the yogafoot motion.

The solution? Again, go with the flow. Point your knee in the one direction your opponent seems to want it to go: forward. Head into a 45-degree angle knee slice position, cutting your knee out in front of their RDLR hook. It's really important here that you drop your hips and actually sit on their hip, out in front of their ability to hook your knee (otherwise, you're just going to be back to square one).

Finishing With a Leg Drag

One Alternate Finish: The Leg Drag

Leg drags are all the rage these days. Look up "guard passing" on google, and you're likely to turn up hundreds of pages involving or featuring the "leg drag." For me, the leg drag position is awesome, but the actual dragging part is unwieldy and extremely difficult to attain on a knowledgeable opponent. However, the position is all over the place, even without the drag itself.

When finishing this X-pass, keep the grip you have on the knee. Sometimes, your opponent is likely to anticipate your knee on stomach finish. As you try to push their knee inward, they're likely to push back. Of course, their leg is stronger than your arm, so it can be really difficult to "seal the deal" on this pass.

The solution? Just change the direction of the pulling to straight upward. This will allow plenty of room for your knee to slide through, stapling their far leg down underneath the near one, and ultimately twisting their spine uncomfortably. What could be better? Well, pinning their inside bicep can take this pass to a completely different level of discomfort.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There are two things all of these variations have in common:

  1. First, you're almost definitely going to encounter every single one of these as you go about trying to pass this annoying type of guard.
  2. Second, you need to practice each one a great deal. Repetitions that come from you drilling a move a thousand times nonstop can't be faked, and your body doesn't just "know" how to combine the fairly basic movements all together into one cohesive guard pass. Drill first, then try using them in rolling, and then, finally, use them in competition. Don't skip from knowing nothing to this last step! Very few people can ever pull this off.

If you've enjoyed this tutorial, you might also like our How to Pass the Guard Using the Kimura tutorial. If leg attacks are your thing, we've got several leglock lessons, including leg attacks from the knee cut position covered here. As always, feedback is warmly welcomed, so please do let us know if you've had success with any of these techniques, or if there's anything we can do to make them easier to understand!

Allowing Someone to Get too Far in RDLR Guard Is a Bad Idea


© 2014 Andrew Smith


Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on May 21, 2015:

Patrick - any chance you could post a quick youtube clip of the exact situation? I'll be glad to help if I can!


Patrick on May 21, 2015:

How do you deal with someone grabbing your left sleeve and just keeping that arm stiff and then making space again?

Some people watched the Ryan Hall Defensive Guard DVD and since then doing Toreada and related passes has become rather annoying. Sometimes I can convert the situation into a gift wrap grip, but most of the time it allows them to recover guard or reset. This has been bugging me for a while and I can't find a good solution.