Open guards are a fundamental part of jiu-jitsu, and they come in many variations, with new open guards still being invented. One of the older ones still used at a high level is the De La Riva Guard. But what is it?
The De La Riva Guard is an open guard involving the bottom player hooking a leg on the outside of his opponent’s lead leg and hand-controlling his heel on the same side.
This guard, which we will call DLR for short, has immense use in BJJ because it’s hard to pass and allows for many unbalancing options and a variety of sweeps and back takes. While there are a lot of advanced uses for the DLR, even white belts can find great utility in it.
Just like with most techniques, the outside hook with the leg has been used in judo long before it became popular in BJJ. But the man who popularized its usage was Ricardo De La Riva.
He was training at the Carlson Gracie Academy in the 1980s, which was full of powerhouse competitors against whom the slender-framed Ricardo had to find a way to grapple effectively.
The guard he used initially for the purpose had a different name. Still, after he defeated the previously unbeaten Royler Gracie in competition by applying it effectively, the position was named after De La Riva.
The De La Riva guard is not easily passed and has been used effectively as a defensive move and sweeping position. But in the modern era, its evolution includes the berimbolo, a natural progression from the guard. Then there is also the reverse De La Riva guard and many lapel guards that start from the basic position.
De La Riva Guard Fundamentals
The de la Riva guard is an open guard in jiu-jitsu established from a supine position by wrapping a leg on the outside of the lead leg of a standing opponent.
The foot of the wrapped leg sticks to the inside of the thigh or hip of the opponent and is known as the de la Riva hook. You must hold the same leg by the heel, ankle, or pants for a full re la Riva guard.
Like every other BJJ guard, the legs play a crucial role. The hooked leg is called the passive, and the hook can be shallow or deep.
The shallow hook is the most common de la Riva position, in which your foot is wrapped on the thigh or hip of the near leg. The higher your foot can go, the more control you will have. The full deep hook is when the foot reaches the opponent’s rear leg.
While the de la Riva hook and the leg grip are a must for the De La Riva guard, the other leg and hand can be in many different positions and are the active parts of the guard, forcing the opponent to react or unbalance him.
The active arm will look for the opponent’s sleeve or wrist in no-gi or his lapel, while the free leg is often on his hips or biceps.
The body position is also vital for good control with the De La Riva. If you stay square against the opponent, the hook will not be tight enough, and they can pull the leg out. Instead, you should aim to angle towards the leg you are controlling.
It is also wise to have some distance and have your hips mobile because the hook will be hard to use if you are too close to them.
Here is a detailed overview of the different grips you can get in the De La Riva guard:
Your de la Riva guard is established according to all instructions, but now what?
It’s time to start using it for attacks which include various sweeps, transitions into back takes, and submissions.
There is a massive pool of options from the De La Riva, and people like to transition into berimbolos, lasso guards, lapel grips, and all kinds of crazy stuff.
Still, since this guard was no longer an advanced and revolutionary tool it was 2003, even white belts could use it effectively. This is why we will cover some of the more straightforward attacks from the De La Riva.
De La Riva Sweep 1
The first classic option for a sweep is the simple rollover. You must post the active leg on the opponent’s knee and grip the far side sleeve. If you manage to do this, the sweep is as easy as pie and is finished by a push on the knee with the active leg, a pull of the arm, and a slight nudge with the hook leg.
The full sweep is ongoing, though, and you need to get on top, so you should keep the sleeve grip tight. This sweep from De La Riva is super effective, but more advanced players know very well the danger of it, and you will find catching the sleeve a challenging task.
Without it, the sweep is impossible. But for the lower levels is an excellent option as an introduction to De La Riva sweeps.
De La Riva Sweep 2
The next sweep from De La Riva is also beginner-friendly and requires the grip on the sleeve on the hooked side, which is often easier to get than the other one. Once you have the grip, the sweep requires you to release the De La Riva hook and place your foot on the opponent’s hip and the other leg behind his knee.
Then do the natural motion and pull the sleeve and the leg behind the knee while pushing with the leg on the hip. As usual with sweeps, ensure you don’t get stuck and complete the move by finishing on top.
De La Riva Back Take
On top of the many sweeps from De La Riva, taking the back is also a good option. A simple yet effective solution is shown here by Felipe Pena. First, you must transition the passive leg to a deep De La Riva hook. The aim is to straighten the leg as much as possible and put the other on the mat. Push with the hook leg to force the opponent to step backward.
After positioning yourself behind the opponent, you must secure a belt grip and use your legs as butterfly hooks to land them straight into back control.
Submissions From The De La Riva
There aren’t many available submissions from the De La Riva, which is natural since this is common for all open guards. To be able to go for a submission, you will first need to sweep the opponent or take his back, and only then can you attempt to finish. An excellent example of this is the Kimura shown by Mikey Musumeci.
A direct option for a sub directly off the guard is the triangle choke, which does take quite a few steps to accomplish, but it is entirely possible to pull off.
Another possible move is the de la Riva ankle lock, also known as the Terra lock, popularized by Caio Terra, and it utilizes the De La Riva hook to isolate the foot joint and apply pressure to it.
For the Terra lock, grab the ankle with your passive arm as deep as possible under your armpit, similarly to what you would do for a straight ankle lock. The active leg moves behind the far side knee, while the active arm has the freedom to move. This is usually done as a sweep but can also lead to a nasty ankle lock finish.
How To Pass The De La Riva Guard
We’ve discussed establishing and attacking from the De La Riva at length but have yet to discuss how to work against it. Knowing how to pass it is a valuable skill since it’s a very easy guard to establish.
There are many variables in the equation, mainly what grips the person on the bottom has established. Based on that, each position elicits different responses and offers different passing options.
Here is a great video detailing many of the passes. Always remember that you can use this knowledge twofold: when you know how to pass, you also know how to prevent others from passing when you are the one establishing the De La Riva.
The De La Riva guard is powerful and effective at all levels of jiu-jitsu. Some of the more basic sweeps are straightforward, while it also serves as a base for complex lapel guards and berimbolos, so all belt levels can find a way to implement the DLR.