Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals: An Argument for Berimbolo and X Guard

Aesopian wrote an interesting blog post about where Berimbolo fits in with the “basics”, and it reminded me of something that I’ve been thinking about and evolving on for quite some time.

I have long heard instructors and top-level competitors teach the value of focusing on the “fundamentals” of jiu jitsu. When I first started training, I took that to mean doing a set of basic techniques of the kind Saulo Ribeiro teaches in his awesome book Jiu-Jitsu University. But it wasn’t the techniques that made that kind of jiu jitsu “fundamental”. It was having a complete cohesive set of underlying principles…

Some Basic Principles of Jiu Jitsu

  • Posture: Similar to judo, wrestling, and even olympic weightlifting, jiu jitsu has its own posture rules that have to do both with resisting off-balancing and applying maximum pressure with your hips through leverage. Posture includes the lower back, shoulders, neck, and hips, but every part of your body contributes (including toes, hands, eyes, quads, etc.)
  • Base and balance: Maintain balance throughout the entirety of a movement when you’re on top and work to off-balance your opponent when you’re on bottom.
  • Grip control: Use grips (gi or no-gi) on wrists, elbows, ankles, lapels, pants, belt, neck, etc. to control the opponent.
  • Use their force against them: Move around the force applied by your opponent not against it. When he pushes, don’t simply push back, push and pull and use the moment of defenselessness to transition into a more dominant position or to submit.
  • Protect your limbs. Elbows in. Heels in. No floating wrists and feet.

The above is just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more and the list is always growing. The above has a lot of exceptions, but the point is you can win 99% of your matches without knowing those exceptions. That’s what makes these principles fundamental.

Evolution of Principles

Just as new techniques rise into popular use in competition, new principles are also uncovered and clarified in our collective jiu jitsu mind. The community learns and shares new ways of generating leverage, of applying pressure, or utilizing grips for control.

In fact, I believe that ANY system of techniques based on consistent application of the above principles (and more) is what I would refer to as fundamental jiu jitsu. So in that sense, the x-guard is a fundamental technique because with the help of people like Marcelo Garcia, Fredson Alves, and a thousand other black belts, the x-guard system has evolved a set of rules to a point where you can have a complete game within just the butterfly guard and x guard positions. You very rarely have to venture outside that if you don’t want to. You can win with it at white, blue, purple, brown, and black.

The Future of Berimbolo

berimboloI believe the same is or eventually will be the case for the Berimbolo. This de la riva guard sweep system has evolved in the last few years from a set of technique to a complete system of principles. I believe you can limit your game to just the de la riva, reverse de la riva, and inverted guard and not have to venture outside of that 99% of the time. That’s fundamental jiu jitsu.

I think people freely (and I believe incorrectly) interchange the concept of “old school jiu jitsu” with “fundamental jiu jitsu”. I’m guilty of this as well. Probably because my favorite game to play and to watch is the takedown, smash pass, mount, x-choke game a la Xande or Roger. It’s tempting to assume that this game is somehow the closest to the underlying principles of what makes jiu jitsu work. But that’s, of course, not the case. The principles are simple physics. But like all laws of physics, it only seem simple once you discover it, and there is always more to be discovered…

0 thoughts on “Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals: An Argument for Berimbolo and X Guard

  1. David Carson

    Well said. Every time I see a video of a blue belt or even a purple belt hitting a berimbolo sweep there is always that ” Yeah but I bet his fundamentals suck” comment under it. I believe a lot of those people that say that don’t really understand what fundamentals mean.

    It’s true if you don’t know how to secure back position or hold a proper mount ect… you should not be trying any berimbolos or tornado guard lol. But in my opinion that is not only what fundamentals consist of. It’s understanding the leverage, angles, timing and pressure that makes each position work.

    1. Lex Post author

      Hey Dave, absolutely. I actually had you in mind when I was writing this post. I think your interest in that de la riva / inverted game drove your development and understanding of the fundamentals. It’s exciting to see it gain wider and wider acceptance. In 30 years when you and I are crusty old black belts, we’ll be looking at the fresh new white belts and criticizing them for not sticking with the basics: berimbolo and 50/50 guard 😉

  2. andrew

    My problem with the berimbolo has nothing to with fundamentals, but stem from how ineffective it is in a real fight. I used to pride myself on the fact that I was doing a martial art that actually worked. Now, thanks to the berimbolo, bjj is going the way of tkd. It has been so modified to sport that it is becoming ineffective.


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