Operation: Berimbolo Counter-Attack


The first time someone pulls off the dreaded berimbolo sweep on you, it feels like it is impossible to stop. My though process went something like this, “Oh, that’s a lot of pressure on my leg, it would be a good idea if I sat down to relieve it.” Next thing I knew someone’s spinning underneath me forcing me to throw myself to the mat to prevent my opponent from taking my back.

The berimbolo is becoming increasing popular, with multiple videos on the internet attempting to explain the sweep that was made famous by Samuel Braga and his rivals on the Atos team. But be careful, warns Caio Terra, when learning the berimbolo from videos: “It’s PATHETIC how many videos explaining the “berimbolo” are in the internet but NONE of them are correctly, I mean, not just the move is incorrect but people who posts it have no idea what the berimbolo really is.” Point taken, Caio… point taken. So let this be a disclaimer that it’s important not only to check out instructional videos, but to see how techniques work in competition. I’m a big believer in watching competition footage, and when talking to Rafael Mendes last week he said the same thing, much to my amazement.

The result of all the exposure: even lower belts are pulling off this seemingly-advanced technique. With the popularity of the berimbolo firmly established it’s becoming increasingly important to have an effective counter for the inevitable moment that you come across it in competition. The main counters most people try are to sit back on the de la Riva hook for a knee-bar or attempt to toe-hold the free leg. Either approach will likely result in your back being taken if you’re not careful. To get a sense of how to counter the berimbolo against one its best practitioners, check out how Bruno Malfacine dealt with the sweep against Ary Farias at the 2011 European Jiu Jitsu Open.


Ary Farias vs Bruno Malfacine – European Open 2011



The first step in defending the berimbolo is not letting your opponent get to de la Riva guard, since most berimbolo attempts start there. All the same elements of passing the de la Riva guard still apply. It’s important to control the free leg and prevent it from pushing on your leg or body; it’s important to remove the outside hook either by pushing it off or using your leg pressure to kill the hook; and it’s vital that your opponent does not control your hooked leg by forcing it inwards.


Andre Galvao – shutting down and passing the de la Riva guard


Atos captain Andre Galvao shows a nice de la Riva guard pass that incorporates all of these elements. Note that by pushing the free leg between his legs Galvao is able to prevent his opponent from inverting into the berimbolo. This is the same defense that Augusto Tanquinho successfully used against Rafael Mendes’s berimbolo attempts in their blistering 2011 match at the Abu Dhabi World Pro.

But there’s a distinction between defenses and counters in Jiu Jitsu. It would be ideal to prevent our opponent from ever getting into position to perform the berimbolo, but as we all progress in the art we are more likely to encounter those, like Paulo and Joao Miyao, who seem like the berimbolo is the only sweep they do. This is with good reason, since many of their competitors are not able to adequately defend or counter their sweep attempts.


Bruno Malfacine – Toe-hold/kneebar against the berimbolo.


Bruno Malfacine – Granby roll counter to the berimbolo


Coming back to the action-packed match between Atos’s young Ary Farias and pocket-sized World Champion Bruno Malfacine, we see a grab-bag of different ways to counter the berimbolo. As Farias pulls Malfacine into his de la Riva guard at the top of the mach, he instantly transitions into the bermibolo. This is something for which his team is famous. Malfacine dives onto a toe-hold on the free leg that’s coming across his body, and switches to a kneebar by pulling his own leg free leg over Farias’s. Farias is forced to roll out of bounds to defend, giving Malfacine the first two points of the match. Be careful with the toe-hold counter, however. Rafael Mendes specifically likes when his opponents dive for the submission because it means that their arms are not defending the sweep, allowing him to swing into the back take. This is what happened when he and Malfacine faced each other in the Abu Dhabi Pro 2011.

The second major counter to the berimbolo demonstrated by Malfacine is a sideways roll with the attacking Farias to prevent the Atos competitor from getting dangerously ahead of him in the battle to create an advantageous angle. By rolling with Farias, Malfacine is able to loosen the sweep and eventually settle on top to threaten a guard pass.


Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu  – Passing the berimbolo


“That’s is all good for a tiny competitor like Bruno,” you say, “But what about showing some love for the big guys among us?” To you I have but two pieces of advice: 1) “Lose some weight, fatty,” and 2) “Check out ‘Cyborg’ Abreu’s bad-ass counter to Jordan ‘Dexter’ Shultz’s berimbolo at Grappler’s Quest.”

As Jordan initiates the sweep, Cyborg makes sure to control the free leg, preventing it from coming across his body. This allows him to torque his knee outwards, putting his shin across the delicate inside of Jordan’s knee. While he does this Cyborg prevents Jordan’s attempt to bring his head underneath the legs by scooping his head with a crossface. With all of these elements in place, Cyborg is able to escape the berimbolo before using his own fancy back take to win by a quick choke. The entire match is fantastic, especially the hapless guy getting choked unconscious in the background.


Eduardo ‘Teta’ Rios – Re-berimbolo to the dreaded counter re-berimbolo


Probably the most elegant option I have encountered is exemplified by Eduardo ‘Teta’ Rios in his fantastic video talking about style and advanced techniques in Jiu Jitsu. Teta (in white) has both in abundance, and shows how his opponent (in black) can counter his berimbolo attempt with a re-berimbolo. The premise is similar to using an armdrag to counter your opponent’s armdrag. In that case whoever can drop their weight faster tends to win. With the berimbolo counter it seems that whoever is able to escape their hips to a greater degree will be more likely to take the back.

In the above animation, the opponent in black reaches through to the collar grip, although there it would be equally appropriate to use the belt grip as well. As he rolls away from Teta’s berimbolo, he attempts to use both legs to wrap up Teta’s, pressuring them to reveal the back. Teta, however is able to perform a counter to the counter by inverting once again and rolling hard into another berimbolo. This time he is able to sweep his opponent.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the re-berimbolo is defunct, although a great deal of practice is needed to automatically roll into it when your opponent attempts the sweep. While not exactly a counter berimbolo, the following video from Davin Maxwell explores further options for countering the berimbolo with a counter back take.


Davin Maxwell – Back take counter to the berimbolo 


Regardless of the approach you decide to take it’s likely that at some point you will be faced with having to counter the trendiest sweep in the Jiu Jitsu world right now. Many white and blue belts are working feverishly on perfecting the berimbolo (often ignoring their fundamental techniques); how awesome is it going to be to stuff these little punk’s attempts with a back take of your own? Very awesome. But don’t forget your own fundamentals; the best defense is still not getting their in the first place. Try to block your opponent from getting to their favored positions – this case the de la Riva guard. But if they get there you now hopefully have an abundance of ammunition to initiate your counter-attack.

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Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

8 responses to “Operation: Berimbolo Counter-Attack

  1. Justin Pynn

    Great break down for dealing with the Berimbolo. I have been exploring several of these options recently as several of my sparring partners have taken to using the Berimbolo. I found killing the leg the simplest of these methods with the most options afterwards. Coming from a leg lock background, I nearly fell into the trap of attacking the leg as my counter. Really enjoying reading your posts.
    Take care,


  2. Mike D

    I just did the World Pro Trials in NYC today(lost my first fight) and the Berimbolo was in full force. Learn it at blue and expect it a purple, ignore at your own peril.

  3. i saw 2 faded blues and several purple belts doing it at Gracie Barra Pernambuco this past week. expect to see it all over the pan ams. the cyborg counter has been my best response to it in general, that or crushing the de la riva hook before it gets deep.

    • bobloblaw

      I’ve noticed that the people that are good at it always have their hips off the ground in which case the cyborg gif counter above would be harder to do than simply control the other leg and just rolling with them.

  4. Very well written. It’s just a matter of time before everyone will learn how to stuff this attack and its popularity will fall. Down side to this style is the popularity is promoting competitions where both competitors drop down to there butts at the start of the match. I dont have a problem with guard pulls but I feel when both guys drop to their butts it makes our martial art look very unauthentic. and unrealistic.

  5. E

    How about an article on how to pass the reverse de la Riva?

  6. A lot for me to digest, but thanks for the great insight.

  7. Jeff

    Seeing the Berimbolo a lot at the blue belt level lately. Thanks for the great article

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