The De La Riva is one of the most effective GI-based Jiu Jitsu positions out there. In case you have never run into it before (which I doubt), it is an open guard variation. It might seem weird at first, especially in comparison to the static nature of the closed guard. However, it will quickly become one of your top position after you give it a try for the first time. 

What Is The De La Riva BJJ Guard? 

The De La Riva guard is an open guard that involves the use of an outside leg hook as the basis of its effectiveness. As such, it’s taught as an advanced technique, which is often the case with open guards. In my own personal opinion, determining whether or not something is advanced is just a matter of perspective.

To help support that claim, let me share with you the secret that makes all open guards, including the De La Riva guard tick. A guard is any position in Jiu Jitsu that has you on your back and has your legs in between you and the person standing or kneeling opposite of you. And every open guard, regardless of its name or origin, shares the same fundamental leg placement. 

Basically, there is a passive and an active leg in any open guard in BJJ. The passive leg is the one that is used as the hook in the De La Riva guard example. It has the task of attaching us to an opponent, and mainly, helps protect against guard passing. The active leg is the one that’s free to roam, and in the De La Riva, can be anywhere from behind the knee to the hip and even that shoulder. It is the attacking leg. 

The guard itself is one of the first open guard variations ever used. Ricardo De La Riva is the man credited with founding the guard, hence the name. He did so by experimenting a lot with the outside in the Carlson Gracie Academy in the early 1980s. A brown belt at the time, he kept refining the new position until it turned into something so effective, everyone was looking to copy him. 

The guard has never gone out of “fashion”, sort to speak, but it a real resurgence later, during the 2000s. People like Caio Terra, the Miyao brothers, the Mendes brother,s Michale Langhi and plenty others used it to launch the Berimbolo or figure out hybrid guards and other versions of the De La Riva that became so effective it brought them world titles. In fact, the evolution of the guard is still ongoing.

Basic De La Riva Guard Mechanics                                

Since the defining aspect of the De Riva guard is the outside hook, often called the De La Riva hook, let’s talk leg placement first. Namely, you place your leg around the opponent’s lead leag by looking to have your shin on the outside of their knee so that you can place a “hook” with the top of your foot behind and inside their thigh. This is what will keep you from getting passed and disrupt balance for the top person. 

The other leg, the active one, goes on the hip in most cases, although it may also be placed on the inside of the opposite side knee. It will be the leg that gets shifted all over the place, allowing you to set up different attacks. 

The hands are equally as important as the legs, especially the grip on the leg you’re hooking with the De la Riva hook. The aim is to grab the heel of the opponent as low as possible with your arm, aiming to have the pinky finger on the mats. This, in combination with the hook will give you the De La Riva guard. 

The other arm, similar to the active leg, is quite free to grip anywhere. If you can get the collar, that usually gives you an extreme advantage because you can break the top person’s posture. Alternatively, grabbing any of the sleeves will also open up plenty of options. 

A key aspect of the De la Riva guard that is often not emphasized enough is angling. You’ll only get a powerful outside hook if you have a solid angle. That man instead of being directly in front of your opponent you want to beat roughly a 45-degree angle in relation to the shin of the lading leg. This will provide depth for the hook and make the De La Riva game possible. 

As with all other guards, the main goal of the De la Riva is to stop the top person from passing. Only when you achieve that can you think about attacking, which should be second on your list. The possibilities are plentiful but fall under two main categories: sweeps and submissions. If for some reason you can’t pull those off, you go for your third to-do option: transition to another guard. 

The Layers Of De La Riva

The goals mentioned above will help you build an impregnable De La Riva guard game, as long as you layer them accordingly. Thinking in terms of layers is always great when you find yourself playing a guard game: 

1. Retention

Layer number one is guard retention – there’s no point in playing guard if you can’t stay in it. The De La Riva will help you prevent most passes just with eth outside hook, as long as nobody breaks its structure. The key point is to try and help the knee close to your torso, especially when they pressure in. Provided that the grip on the heel is in place, you’ll find it easy to stay in the gaurd without much effort. 

2. Sweeps 

Getting on top should be your priority whenever you’re in guard because even the best guard will let passed eventually. So, sweeping comes next on your to-do list and it is very easy from the De la Riva guard. the outside hook will help you unbalance people so that you can lead them in all four directions for sweeping.

Sweeps from the De La Riva are mostly dependent on the grips and the depth of the hook. Grips determine the direction where you can lead someone to fall, given that you’ve taken away their ability to post. the hook will then help you off -balance them in said direction. Ending up on top after a De La Riva sweep also places you in a prime position for passing directly. 

3. Submissions

Of course, if you’re more of a submission hunter, or you can’t get sweeps to work against someone. you can finish the job right then and there. Chokes and armlocks are pretty easy to get, but leg locks are scarce, apart from that sneaky Caio Terra straight foot lock. 

Once again, grips and the outside hook will determine what you can get. A cross grip will open up the lead arm, with omoplatas and triangle chokes quite the dilemma to present to anyone. Having a grip on the far arm will provide some interesting arm locking options. 

4. Transitioning

Finally, if nothing really works for you, it may be high time to abandon the De la Riva for greener pastures. The modern De la Riva guard is a hub to get to other guards, ranging from the spider gaurd and Reverse De la Riva, to X-guard and even the 50/50.

Of course one of the key transitions that the De La Riva provides is getting the back. You can be “old-school” about it, using a deep hook and hip escapes, or take the flashy route and use Berimbolos or baby bolos to get to the back. In any case, hardly any other open guard provides so many direct back taking options as the De la Riva does. 

Final Thoughts

The De la Riva guard is something everyone encounters in BJJ. Whether you’re going to play it or have to pass it, there’s no way you’re not going to run into it. IF you ask me, it iso on of ht staple position of Jiu Jitsu that everyone needs to know, if not thing else, just to have a secure attacking open guard to fall back to from time to time.