The De la Riva is an extremely effective guard style. We could have called it just the De La Riva hook, but it’s more than that. It’s a whole system upon which to base your BJJ game on. It was made famous by Ricardo De la Riva. Mr. De La Riva was active in competition during the 1980s during a time when the closed guard was the be-all-end-all of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The De La Riva System for the BJJ Newbie

We’ll be bold and call the back take the cardinal attack of the De La Riva guard. Everything else is a derivation of other guards and positions. The great thing about the De La Riva guard is that it doesn’t attack your opponent head on. Instead, you’re attacking at an angle that even experienced players have trouble defending.


Before you do anything else, this’ll be the first thing to do. Grab your grips and go. We understand beginner’s problems. If you’re having trouble understanding what to go from just grab a heel and go. Unless you’ve got double sleeve grips you’ll almost always be cupping the heel of your opponent. Cup the heel. AS we’ve said before, the De La Riva works the angle. Because of this, many practitioners prefer the cross-collar grip or a cross grip. That’s what will expose your opponent’s side and leg.

What your body has to do

You’ll need two things to effectively use the hook.

  • The first thing you’ll need is just a simple hip lift exactly the same way you’d attack a triangle. You’ve cupped the heel. The small of your back is your axis. Tilt yourself backwards onto your shoulders and lift your hip. Use grips and heel on the hip if needed to offset your body onto one shoulder; the shoulder that’s cupping the heel. Hook the far leg.
  • The second thing you’ll need is the granby roll. You’ve gotten your opponent onto his back. You’re still hooking the far leg from the outside. For the purpose of this example, we’ll imagine you’re cupping the left heel. Grab belt. Move into left shoulder roll position and then switch shoulders. You’ll do the roll off the right shoulder instead. A simple drill to practice this can be done off a wall.

If you want to play the De La Riva you have to have mastered these two. We understand that it’s just words explaining something you need to experience yourself. However, the game plan is something you do in your head. If you’re not sure what sweep to attack first, this is it: the backtake.


There’s many a thing that can happen when you’re trying to apply this live. The two counters that you should be aware of are the backstep and the leg drag. Consider working on counters to both of these passes to make your De La Riva a force to be reckoned with.

Dealing with the Backstep

Grips are going to make all the difference. The cross grip is probably the best grip to counter the backstep. Keep hold of opponent’s sleeve. Don’t let him grab your collar or an under hook. That’ll stop you from getting to the back. If he backsteps while you’ve got the cross-grip. Stiff arm his sleeve and roll over your shoulder to get on top. It’s more than likely however that he’ll go for the leg drag pass if you’ve got a cross grip.

Dealing with the Leg Drag

The leg drag is another common pass to go for on De La Riva players. The opponent will typically go two on one on your non-De La Riva leg and drag it onto his hip or thigh. If he’s still on his feet move your other foot over top onto his hip or under to hook a butterfly hook. If he’s gotten to his knees and is pinning your De La Riva leg with his knee your chances of guard retention have diminished. Stiff arm the soon to be cross-facing shoulder and take escape measures.

Finishing Thoughts

All other sweeps are combinations of sit-up guard, tie-ups and so on. For the purpose of making this article succinct, we’ll go ahead and not consider them as De La Riva at this time. However, the De La Riva does combine well with many other guards and it will do the BJJ practitioner good to drill transitions between single X, sit-up guard and X guard with the De La Riva hook.