Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques: The Berimbolo

Rewind to about a decade back, and you’ll see that the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was way different. The tactics and moves you see in matches today are quite different than back then. You won’t see many (if at all) leg locks, for example. You’ll see people playing half guard with their backs on the ground, which is considered suicide these days. You’ll see more of the “classic” BJJ stuff that the Gracies developed. But you’ll also see great innovation. For example, you’ll see a few small guys do inexplicable things from their guard and end up on people’s backs, choking them unconscious. What you’ll see is the Mendes and/or Miyao brothers introducing the grappling world to the Berimbolo.

When can we consider a new BJJ technique, move or concept to be legitimate for widespread use? Well, when you see a move work over and over again against the highest levels of opponent’s you can be sure it’s going to catch on. Furthermore, when that move works regardless of the opponent’s attempts to defend, escape or counter, you know it is the real deal. And, if that move ends up working for more than a decade than it is something you truly need to master. If there was ever any move that fits this description to a T, it is the Berimbolo.

The Berimbolo is one of those moves that you can’t really understand until you try. The first time you see it, you won’t even see it. It is such a confusing thing that you won’t know that it is a deliberate move. Once you start understanding it, you’ll begin to recognize a pattern. then, you’ll be in for the same cycle when you give it a try. At first, it is going to seem like you’re trying to pilot a spaceship. Until you manage to get a few reps in and discover that it is nothing but a mechanically advantageous way of finishing a specific task in Jiu-Jitsu. This is probably the point when you’re either going to fall in love with it or deem it untrustworthy. Our bet is on the former option.

Figuring The Berimbolo Out

The way that the Berimbolo came to be is through the De la Riva guard. The De La Riva is an open guard that people started figuring out right when the Berimbolo emerged. It is one of the first inverted techniques in BJJ. In addition to inverting, the Berimbolo includes a spin as well, to allow you to switch position while leaving your opponent no opportunity to counter.

Despite popular belief, the founder of the Berimbolo is not one of the Mendes brothers. It is actually a grappler by the name of Marcel Ferreira, a Carlson Gracie student. When people in training started shutting his De La Riva down, Ferreira managed to find a workaround by literally spinning around. The move was born in the 90’s but reached the pinnacle of popularity after the turn of the century.

The person responsible for the name of the move is none other than the legendary Andre Galvao. The modern Berimbolo move, which is slightly different from the original technique done by Ferreira, emerged somewhere around the early 2000’s. Before the Mendes brothers, it was a guy named Samuel Braga that used it in competition. However, Gui and Rafa Mendes took the move to a whole new level. Actually, the Mendes brothers built their whole game around the Berimbolo, winning world championships along the way.

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How To Do It

Doing the Berimbolo actually requires you to have some understanding of BJJ. Most importantly you need knowledge of two aspects of grappling. The first is the De La Riva guard, and the second is inverting. Inverting is easiest to learn through drills like the Granby roll. The more you drill, the more efficient you’ll become. The De La Riva guard, on the other hand, requires time. You need to experiment with it against different opponents and get the hang of it. Only then can you think about doing Berimbolos.

BerimboloFor the “basic” Berimbolo, you need to have a De La Riva on a standing opponent. One hand needs to be on the ankle of your opponent. just like in the De la Riva. The other hand should go in the middle of their belt. YOUthen use both grips and your De La Riva hook leg to change the angle slightly so that you put pressure on their knee. From there, you need to sweep your opponent, maintaining all grips and leg position as you do.

BerimboloOnce you have the opponent’s butt on the ground, it’s time to think about inverting. Use your grips to pull yourself in an inverted position. When you end up inverted, extend the De La Riva hook leg so that you hook the opposite side hip of the opponent. From there, you simply finish a Granby roll, ending up on your opponent’s back in most cases.

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When To Do It

The best application of the Berimbolo is actually as a counter-attack. Sure, you can use it as a primary attack, but you’ll need to find a way to off balance your opponent. On the other hand, using it as a counter requires much less effort and setting up.

Form the De La Riva guard, the Berimboloi right there whenever an opponent puts pressure on you. Once their knee goes forward, which is one way of passing the guard, you have the opening to grab the belt and sweep. Another occasion is when an opponent decides to kneel back, thus rendering your De La Riva useless. In this case, there’s no need for a sweep as you can directly invert into the technique.

The basic goal of the move is to either get you on top of your opponent (a sweep) or, preferably, on their back.

Give BJJ’s tendency for evolution, today the Berimbolo is in its third resurgence. The modern-day bol is slightly different from the Mendes’ signature spin. The person responsible is a BJJ wizard by the name of Gianni Grippo. He doesn’t just have a great DVD instructional on the Berimbolo, but also on the De La Riva and all other Bolo requirements. Check out the Gianni Grippo DVD collection at a cut price for a shortcut to mastering the Bolo! 

Who Can Do It

Finally a word on training Berimbolos. It is easy to get discouraged by a move if you look to utilize it before you really understand it’s basic mechanics. IF you decided to try the Berimbolo early on in your BJJ career and ended up smashed, think about revisiting later on, when you have more knowledge.

If you’re deadset on mastering the Bolo, though, then make sure you have the basics right. Do Granby rolls every chance you get and get comfortable with inversions. Dedicate as much time as you can to playing De la Riva guard, especially against higher belts. Also, remember to learn how to take and hold the back position, as there’s no point to dong a Berimbolo if you just have to do it all over again.

As a basic rule of thumb, I’d say that this is a move for people that are seasoned blue belts / early purple belts. By that time, most people know how to invert and have a basic understanding of the De la Riva. Any attempts without a solid technical base are just going to make learning the Bolo that more difficult.

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