Tag Archives: Cobrinha

Cobrinha in Vancouver

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Original photo by Eric Yu.

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Rubens Charles Maciel is a man of many talents.  As a four times black belt World Champion it would be enough if “Cobrinha” was known only as a great Jiu Jitsu competitor, but the man is also a skilled baker, capoeirista, innovator and teacher. His many experiences seem to inform the way Cobrinha thinks about and teaches his Jiu Jitsu.

When I heard that Cobrinha was giving his first seminar in over two years only minutes from my apartment, I knew I needed to go. It meant cancelling my plans to drive south to Seattle to attend another Mendes brothers seminar on the same day.

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The Competitor

Cobrinha’s Jiu Jitsu has inspired me since I saw my first footage of him in competition. It was the finals of the 2006 mundials, which had taken place the year prior. I was a brand new white belt searching the internet to kill time. I had heard of Marcio Feitosa who had won the mundials several years earlier, but didn’t know much about his opponent. In that match it looked like Cobrinha and Feitosa were doing two different sports. Cobrinha’s impossibly smooth leg drags, reverse de la Riva sweeps and long-step transitions are still considered innovative in 2012.

Since then we have seen Cobrinha reclaim his world title three more times, including two legendary matches against Bruno Frazatto in 2008 and 2009, which were won by a brutal toe-hold in the dying seconds and a referee’s decision, respectively. Each time he steps on the mats we are able to witness Jiu Jitsu evolving.

Despite these titles and accolades Cobrinha’s legacy is in a difficult place. Several losses to featherweight upstart Rafael Mendes, including a brutal armbar at the 2012 Pans, have overshadowed the veteran’s accomplishments in the eyes of some fair-weather fans. Some might overlook or denigrate Cobrinha as a result, but the man has four world titles at black belt, and in recent years when most of his peers are no longer competing Cobrinha has maintained his status as at least second best in the world. Cobrinha has earned his legend status, and has even been inducted into the IBJFF Hall of Fame, in case anyone would dispute it.

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Cobrinha competition highlights

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Match Breakdown: Cobrinha vs. Rader – No-Gi Worlds 2011

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Justin Rader had faced Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles when the Lovato student was a brown belt. It was a major highlight for the young competitor since it showed that, although he lost, he could hang with the best in the world.

Rader’s base is difficult for anyone to contend with; it’s been honed on the wrestling mats since he was four years old. The last time they were paired up Cobrinha had a surprising amount of trouble sweeping the brown belt. This match, which took place in Long Beach, California, during the finals of the 2011 No-Gi Worlds Pena division, was much different.

Check out the video below for the match, which I narrated. If you dig the commentary let me know and I’ll continue to do it for future matches, otherwise I’d be happy to not have to hear my own voice ever again! Of course a full written breakdown is below as well.

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Match Breakdown – Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles vs. Justin Rader – No-Gi Worlds 2011

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de la Riva Guard – Part II

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Last week I was caught comparing the de la Riva guard to everyone’s favorite show about the degradation of American institutions in Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire. We looked at the sitting DLR guard as a starting point to using the position.

To stretch a metaphor, the sitting guard would be season 1 of The Wire – competent and necessary with a hint of the awesomeness to follow. We’ve also covered the reverse DLR guard (part I, part II), which effectively acts as season 2 – completely different from the other seasons, but you need it to put the rest in context. We also examined inverted DLR sweeps - the season 5 of the DLR/Wire. Over the top fun that is a bit too much for most people.

This entry will be about the interface between these styles of DLR guard – mainly dealing with near-inverted sweeping styles that take advantage of reactions to the previously-described sweeps. And this is where our metaphor breaks down, since I’m not really sure what season of The Wire to which that would be analogous – maybe season 3? It does tie everything else together. Continue reading

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Passing Spider Guard

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Being trapped in a good Jiu Jitsu practitioner’s spider guard can as frustrating of an experience as… well, being trapped in a spider’s web. As I searched for videos to help explain passing this exasperating type of guard I founds a plethora of information out there, so I’ve tried to narrow down the material to a few key concepts that I find work for me. However, I’m sure there are other nice answers to the spider guard.

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Reverse de la Riva Guard – Part I

There are several different names for this guard (reverse de la Riva, spiral guard, Paraestra guard, Terra guard, standing half-guard, etc.), and several different modalities of attack. Regardless, the reverse de la Riva (DLR) guard is a form of open guard that uses the instep to hook inside the lead leg of a standing or kneeling opponent.

This hook starts inside the legs and snakes around to the outside of your opponent’s lead leg, using the instep to hook at the hip, knee or most commonly, the thigh. It contrasts with the regular DLR guard; the hook is inside the lead leg as opposed to outside. Both can be considered forms of half-guard mainly used against a standing opponent.

With the reverse DLR it is important to have the foot of the free leg pushing on the hip and the inside foot hooked deep with your knee pushing out to prevent the leg drag pass or knee slide. One of my coaches, Matt, always reminds us to keep all four limbs doing something. It’s good advice that is seldom followed. For this guard, it is important for your feet to be solidly forming their hooks, and for your hands to be grip-fighting – either grabbing the lead ankle, fighting off your opponents attempts to strip your hooks, or setting up grips for your attacks.

First, let’s get familiar with the basics transitions involved with the reverse DLR from the following video of brown-belt Matt Kirtley (Aesopian.com):

Kirtley nicely demonstrates how the stance and posture of your opponent dictates your guard choice. For example, start with the conventional DLR: if your opponent tries to prevent your outside DLR hook by squaring up to you and dropping their weight, use your free leg to hook inside the same knee, pushing on the hip with your now-defunct outside hook. From here, you can transition to X-guard by under-hooking the far leg and pushing with the inside hook to bring both legs inside your opponent’s. Replace your inside hook with the other hook at the knee and raise it to tight into the hip.

Alternatively, with both legs inside, you can shoot one foot deep, lacing around to the hip. This is the one-legged X-guard (Kirtley calls it the “leg-lock guard”), which have been highly developed by Marcelo Garcia and will be the focus of a post in the near future. Kirtley also briefly demonstrates one of the first sweeps on which we will focus.

In the following video, Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles also demonstrates this sweep, which is similar to a sweep performed from the X-guard:

Other basic sweeps from here include the reverse tomahawk and sitting up to a single leg. Sitting up from DLR deserves an entire post to itself, which I’ll put on the ever-increasing list of future topics. However, there’s one more sweep from this position that I consider fundamental, which can be done with or without a gi. Here’s Rafael Mendes demonstrating the no-gi version:

Although this is in Portuguese, it’s obvious that this is a modified version of the Shaolin sweep, using the torque of the far arm to facilitate the tomo-nage roll. Important notes:

  1. The far wrist needs to be pushed between the legs instead of across the body like the Shaolin, and the shoulder needs to be pulled forward with the under-arm grip.
  2. When your opponent’s weight breaks over your center of gravity, kick straight up with your legs and begin to rotate your opponent’s weight over you.
  3. Don’t bother trying to pull your opponent over you, once you facilitate their roll you can guide their weight over you with much less force.
  4. Make sure you’re connected to them so you can follow their weight and roll to the top position.

At 30 seconds in this video Guilherme Mendes pulls this off beautifully against his brother in the Abu Dhabi Pro finals (the video was previously included in the inverted DLR post – it really is the gift that keeps on giving):

To perform this technique with a gi, use the lapel and sleeve grip instead. The following video shows a version of this, although I much prefer to use the far lapel instead of the near lapel as shown in the video.

Doing these techniques in live rolling will depend largely on your opponent’s posture and your ability to achieve wrist/sleeve grips. From the basic leg position your opponent will probably attempt to push off one of your hooks. I find that if they try to push off the foot on their hip, you can grab their lead sleeve and arm drag to the back or to sit up to the single leg.

If they try to strip your reverse DLR hook between their legs, you can get their rear hand and begin to work the previous tomo-nage sweep. Most of these sweeps work best when your opponent is in a lower stance. When your opponent stand up high, he or she will often give you space to invert.

This concludes our first post on the reverse de la Riva guard. The next entry will discuss the inverted options that are used in the highest levels of Jiu Jitsu.

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de la Riva Guard – Inverted Sweeps

Lately I’ve been playing around with ways of off-balancing my opponent using the de la Riva to get right underneath them. I first saw variations of this style of attack from Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles in his instructional and competition footage. At the time it was difficult for me to understand, and I left it alone to work on more fundamental jiu jitsu. In fact, I ignored de la Riva all together, focusing my energy on butterfly guard and x-guard since I’m able to use them with or without a gi.

Since I started to gain interest in more efficient methods of sweeping that might not be known by my opponents I began to revisit the de la Riva guard, and specifically the options from the inverted position. Watching Cobrinha and the Mendes brothers, it seems that this style of attack is also useful both with and without a gi, and it must be said, looks friggin’ awesome. It’s also becoming more common in my weight class (Leve) and below, although it seems that the featherweights own this style of guard play.

My coach, Adam, showed us some variations of this recently, which helped solidify the awesomeness of the inverted de la Riva for me. If it’s unclear what I’m talking about, here’s Rafael Mendes performing the “basic” inverted de la Riva sweep in his instructional DVD:

You can also see Rafael transition from this position into a beautiful x-guard sweep at 46 seconds in his recent finals match at the Abu Dhabi Pro No-Gi against his brother:

Rafael also uses the inverted de la Riva to transition to the back at the beginning of his match with Renan Borges in the European Championships:

The transition to the back from de la Riva has been getting a lot of attention recently due to its efficiency at the highest levels of jiu jitsu competition. So much so that a future post will be devoted entirely to the technique, which some Brazilians refer to as the “Berimbolo” – a derivation of the name of a weird stringed instrument used in Capoeira.

For now, let’s break down the sweep and its options.

  1. Take a look at the first video posted – notice how the de la Riva guard is used to get the hooking foot deep onto the opposite hip.
  2. From here, Rafael uses a near wrist grip to control the upper body and transitions to an underhook of the isolated leg with the hand that was cupping the heel. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the opponent’s knee and hip.
  3. Rafael still controls the wrist, or risks losing his ankle to a toe-hold. If your opponent does try to grip your free leg, the pendulum motion that you use to invert should throw his weight forward, actually helping you.
  4. Using the underhook, Rafael spins under and behind his brother, with both feet on the crotch. This allows him to extend his legs slightly while gripping both ankles, completing the sweep. It’s important to control your opponent’s legs after the sweep, preferentially pulling you into position for the double under pass.

Notice in the second video how Rafael uses the hook not to sweep, but to block his brother’s hips? This allows him to complete another rotation, placing his foot into the x-guard position. This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in jiu jitsu, and well worth the amount of hours it’s going to take drilling this to get it right. This hook, though, can also be used to enter deeply into the 50/50 position – which will be covered in a future post.

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