Ricardo De La Riva

Were it not for the Brazilian media, one of the most effective and influential positions in jiu-jitsu may still be referred to as Pudding Guard.

It’s not exactly the most glamorous name.

The position in question is now called the much more exotic sounding De La Riva guard, after its creator.

Broken down to its core, all that is needed to perform the technique is a simple hook with a foot or leg behind the adjacent knee of an opponent.

However, from that entanglement is a wealth of attacks, including sweeps, submissions and other guards.

It is one of the most creative positions in the sport.

The history of the De La Riva name in jiu-jitsu can be traced back to 1980, when a 15-year-old began his training.

It is said that young Ricardo and his brothers were involved in an argument while playing football on Copacabana beach.

They were forced to leave the area, so went home and told their father what had happened.

The elder De La Riva enrolled his children in jiu-jitsu classes so they could learn to defend themselves.

He chose the Carlson Gracie Academy as the place they would learn.

That school was renowned for the powerful, aggressive guard passing of its students.

Ricardo was of slender build and as is natural when someone starts learning the sport, spent a lot of time with his back on the mat.

De La Riva described the training as tough.

He said: "Every day, you had to kill the lion, because the training was very, very hard, very tense. But it was healthy, it wasn’t a sacrifice by any means."

"You’re looking after the body, after the mind. It was fun, it wasn’t a chore to go train jiu-jitsu, although it was hard."

Aided by his flexibility, De La Riva made good progress and developed the guard which was later named after him.

He was not the first person to exert control using a leg wrapped around their opponent’s lower limbs.

At this point, the position in question was called Pudding Guard, because it unbalanced opponents and made their posture wobbly.

The name change happened in 1985 when De La Riva rose to prominence by defeating the renowned and then unbeaten Royler Gracie.

Having used the position to good effect in the match, the Brazilian media chose to call the entanglement after its creator.

Pudding guard was no more.

De La Riva was awarded his black belt in 1986. In 1993 he stopped competing to focus more on teaching.

When Ricardo coaches the move, he admits to feeling unease at using his surname to describe it.

He said: “I still feel a little shy to call it that way. I think it’s weird to refer to a position with my own name.

When doing seminars, I have never felt very comfortable to call it the ‘De la Riva Guard’. It didn’t feel right.

But, recently, I have started to feel a little bit more comfortable with it. In the past, when teaching seminars, for example, I would just call it ‘the hook’, or the ‘outward/inward hook’."

Ricardo returned to competition between 2002 and 2004, and aged 37, won a bronze medal at the World Championships.

Since then, he is delighted to see the evolution of the position he popularised.

De La Riva said: “That’s what is wonderful about jiu-jitsu; it is always evolving, always progressing. New things are being taught.

You have a position, so many practitioners, different bodies, different sizes. So you have to adapt the position.

It is always evolving, always changing. The evolution of jiu-jitsu is continuous.”

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