9th April 2011: Ricardo de la Riva at Mill Hill BJJ, London

It's not an exaggeration to state that Ricardo de la Riva Goded is an absolute legend in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The list of his achievements in the sport are too numerous to mention but I think it's sufficient to say that his stature is immense. So it was particularly interesting to witness how very few of the 40 people gathered here at his seminar actually noticed the diminutive 6 degree black belt walk into the dojo. One person who I was chatting to actually said: so where is he then? To which I replied: er, he's standing right next to you! Yup, the man who invented the techniques that bears his name has no airs or graces, he's completely and utterly humble, friendly, warm and loves to teach jiu jitsu. Which was good cos we wanted to learn!

Language no barrier
De la Riva speaks pretty good English, good enough to have a friendly chat and point out tips during class. However for the main portion of the seminar he taught in Portuguese as he wanted to ensure he could impart all the tiny details that would make his techniques work perfectly. Our translator David did an amazing job and I did not feel at any moment lost or confused.

One thing that's been bugging me for ages and ages was the correct way to spell Ricardo de la Riva's surname. No website seems to be consistent with knowing which letters are capitalised or not. Thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger Slidey, I've now cleared that little conundrum up!

De la Riva kicked off the session with a triad of submission options all based around the same side lapel grip and cross sleeve grip from closed guard. By placing your lapel-gripping hand *under* your opponents arm (assuming he has placed his hand on your torso and is posturing within your guard) de la Riva explained that your opponent would not feel threatened by the grip and defend or react accordingly. It also prevented him from bringing his own elbow in tight to his body to defend your next few moves. Open guard and shift hips backwards whilst also rotating onto your side. Plant your foot onto the opponent's shoulder and push:

(i) the shoulder push should turn your opponent's upper body away from you and from here you now attack his arm (the one you are cross gripping) with an omoplata. Your leg that was on the shoulder needs to come off and step onto the ground to allow you to pivot around.

(ii) if your opponent grips your leg, the one pushing his shoulder, thus preventing your leg to be placed onto the ground, release the cross gripping hand and now grip his other arm elbow. Pull his arm towards you as you kick your leg out. Trap his arm under your own arm, bring your knee back in and squeeze your knees tight for a straight armlock.

(iii) a variation to (ii) is when you cannot grip at his elbow and can only reach for his sleeve cuffs. Place your foot onto this bicep and push just as you would for a spider guard. Unbalance him as you push and he should post his free hand to stop him falling to his side. This opens him up for you to shoot your sleeve grip side) leg over his shoulder and attack with a triangle choke.

(iv) If he grips your foot, de la Riva showed a neat trick to release the grip. Most folk frantically wave their foot around (which doesn't work) but de la Riva showed us how to use our knee to snap the foot away from the opponent's grip. The technique is very similar to one method of escaping when someone grips your own wrist (trad JJ stylee!).

I made Matt B eat my belt!

What I noticed with this sequence of techniques was how economically effective it was. Here was a platform where you could both defend and attack from all angles no matter what the opponent tried to do. De la Riva was happy to walk around the mat helping us out but we were also aided by Nick Brooks, David Onuma and (de la Riva's third degree black belt) Marcelo Vanusa.

De la Riva showed a ton more techniques. My memory has failed me with the details so I'm gonna have to get me a copy of the seminar video and review it. Some really really cool techniques that stood out today were his series of half guard sweeps and reverse de la Riva Sweeps. They stood out not just because they were cool techniques - which they most certainly were - but that they were techniques loaded with the same ethos of attack and defence combined into one handy package from where you could deal in what ever manner that your opponent reacted.

Right there.

A couple of times, my training partner (Matt from Scramble fame) and I called de la Riva over for help and he would offer us a couple of variations on the variations and we were both like WOW! Our very own personalised variation on a variation that only we now know courtesy of the man himself! It was very evident to me that someone of de la Riva's standing brims with so much jiu jitsu knowledge that a simpleton like me could only ever aspire to maybe 1% of his level. Every single tiny detail, every single big detail, just everything he showed us was brilliant. Nothing was overly difficult, yet each technique was loaded with the kind of details that will have to take a long time to digest and absorb. I'm also kind of amazed that de la Riva showed us a couple of things where he was saying he was working on so and so technique. If I understood correctly, he was showing us stuff that only he himself had just been developing. If that's the case then I think it's really cool that someone who has probably seen every single thing in jiu jitsu would still be working on 'new' stuff. And even better, he came all the way to England to show us!

(L to R) David Soares translated excellently, Marcelo Vanusa, Ricardo de la Riva

I have no hesitation to say de la Riva's seminar was the best I have ever attended. It was brimming with cool, relevant and manageable techniques. Just learning from the man who is so highly revered around the world and yet is completely free of any ego was enlightening. My own instructor Nick Brooks said to me: I just wanted people over here to understand why it is I choose to travel every year to Brazil only to train with one man. Now I hope they can see why.
Yeah Nick, I can totally see why and you're not the only one. The room was full of de la Riva academy alumni - guys who have visited and trained with him in Rio and have now come from all over the UK, France, Italy, Israel just to train again at this seminar. It's a measure of just how much Ricardo de la Riva is respected and admired as both a teacher and a person.

Of course that also meant he was cool to be part of my obligatory goofy photo with him...

One of us is a master of goofiness

If I ever make out to Brazil one day, if...then I only plan to train at one place. I had better start saving up then!



Flaminginho said...

Damn, I wish I could have made it to the seminar! But I'm still pretty chuffed I got to meet him briefly on Friday - and get a signed belt to auction for my charity too!
Great post, sir, let us know when any videos are posted :D

Anonymous said...

looks great

out of interest, did K2 fightgear sponsor the seminar?

Meerkatsu said...

I am not sure what the exact arrangement was with sponsors but I assume something was organised for banner ad prominence and maybe some gis as gifts. But as I say, I don't know the exact details.

graham cooke said...

nice write up mr Meerkat. Having the chance to train with legends is what is great about grappling/MMA. The top guys in our sports are so accessible to the fans / practitioners. How often in say football would you get the chance to have a kickabout with Kenny Dalglish, or a baseball fan get to hit a few balls from mr whoever-is-great-at-baseball (not a fan myself :))

I have very little experience in the gi and have seen a bit of de la Riva's stuff, but haven't gone into it in much detail. How applicable would you say it is to nogi?

The Part Time Grappler said...

Dela riva and reverse dela riva is 80% of what I play in open guard in no gi! It's the shizzle Graham!

Seymour, we need to do Brazil together my fren.

Meerkatsu said...

I'm sure one can use DLR and its variants in nogi. As with all other guards, the key is breaking opponents' posture. Easier to do if you have sleeve grips.