Positional Studies: Sit Up Sweeps (Cobrinha, Otavio Sousa, Rodolfo Vieira)

Cobrinha Sitting Guard

If it works well and often, I’m Interested

Consistency is the name of the game at high level sport BJJ and despite the endless generation of moves in BJJ, most champions just use a small set of well rehearsed moves/strategies/sequences. The number of “go to” moves employed by an elite BJJ player is typically no more than 10 in most cases. Therefore the trick to “scouting” is to firstly look through all the noise and find the “go to” move and at a second stage, focus on the set up (what preceded the move) and the “plan b” (when the move is countered). Lo’s DLR counters or Rodolfo’s weaving counters to turning in/turtling are examples of this approach, which can be applied to any BJJ player you fancy.

Taking a step back though, you will sometimes find moves which transcend weight classes (or gi/no gi) and are universally applied. They may go though subtle modifications but are essentially the same move (for example the kneeslide).  This “list” of universal moves is not set in stone though and once in a while we see some player in a different weight class adapt a move not thought possible (for example we see bigger players use the berimbolo these days). These universal moves, if you can find them, are worthwhile additions to any BJJ player’s game.

Sit up Sweeps are Used Across Weight Classes

One move that as been adapted across divisions is the sit up sweep. This is basically a sweep where you come up into a single/double from your guard and drive the passer back to sweep him over his heels. This can happen out of sitting guard, DLR, halfguard or even RDLR.

For the options off sitting guard in general check this out:

(ps this channel has very good instructionals and videos, check it out!)

It’s useful as a counter to a Smasher

Getting smashed is a constant threat to a guarder. When your back is pinned to the floor and mobility is killed, getting out from the grind can be energy sapping and at best is just playing catch up. There are a variety of ways to stop this though, distance management (ie spider, DLR/RDLR) or at the very least, turning to your side. This “turning in” response is an important habit to cultivate when a smash is on/about to happen, as that creates the space that consequently allows the shrimp/turtle/inversion.  Between these two extremes (staying far with spider or turning in at the last moment) is the “sitting guard” when you sit close to an opponent’s leg almost hugging it. You are near, but your back is far from the ground. When someone tries to smash in, there is room for your back to “turn in” and avoid ending up flattened.

The situp sweep is an immediate offensive counter you can do against someone trying to smash into your sitting/half/DLR/RDLR. Quickly turning in as the smash comes in and setting up this sweep is something often done by Rodolfo Vieira. Note, his guarding is primarily designed to stop the smasher. If he is not using his DLR, he is always trying to sit up into the would be smashers in his division (that’s basically everyone). The video below illustrates this “turning in to sit up sweep” sequence that he uses very well against aggressive smash passers. Key to his success is always making sure the smash is interrupted so that he can swing his legs out to quickly get up and drive back with the double/single.

It’s useful against Scramblers

What if the passer isn’t smashing in? This is a common situation in the lighter weights. They typically want to pass from a distance, setting up drags and toreandos, trying to get around rather than smashing through. If anything the moment they sense a sweep is coming or the guarder trying to “load” the passer, the primary response is to flee/disengage/retreat (as opposed to aggressively punching for underhook/kneeslide ala Lo for example).

It has been mentioned previously (DLR Counters entry) that berimbolo enhanced DLR massively because the primary defence, untangling the DLR leg and fleeing is now a much more dangerous proposition. Before berimbolo though, Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles was dominating many lightweights who tried to retreat out of DLR with the sit up sweep. Here, playing off the “retreat” response – many lightweights fleeing his DLR are simply “timed” into conceding the sweep.

For those that don’t retreat immediately though, Cobrinha has an armdrag/situp sweep combo. This is a well rehearsed tactic to emerge out of the scramble in an advantageous position. Grabbing the near sleeve from his DLR,  Cobrinha often initiates a strong drag to trigger the retreat. Upon retreating, the passer often finds that same sleeve hand fed to Cobrinha’s other hand and Cobrinha immediately trying to stand/take the back. The passer standing/retreating in this situation leads to a single leg battle which occurs on unfair terms. Don’t retreat strong enough, his back is taken like a normal arm drag. The video pretty much says it all.

Sometimes at the elite lightweight level it’s all about who can win the scramble and Cobrinha is excellent at creating a 50-50 scramble with this armdrag/situp combo. This “loose” version of the sit up sweep works well because many light weights aren’t looking to smash but “retreat” therefore Cobrinha can stand up with  one leg to “follow” the passer retreating from his initial drag (ok he is also athletic to begin with). It seems like he is scrambling randomly but Cobrinha has done this so often it really isn’t a random scramble to him and he will take this risk knowing he enters with stacked odds.

You can Chain Many Sweeps with It

What if the passer is both a distance passer and smasher? Between the heavyweight smashers and the lightweight scramblers, the middle weight is a mix of both. Otavio Sousa is a big user of the sitting guard and he chains the primary sit up sweep with a variety of “plan b” sweeps in other directions. In a nutshell – when it’s “retreat” it’s the normal sit up sweep but if there is no retreat and the smash follows, that’s when his “plan b” overhead and sideways sweeps come in.

To begin with, Otavio is good at shutting down the passer’s mobility with the sitting guard position. This kills off the toreando/drag and the passer is now confronted with a “smash through” or “retreat” option. While stuck in sitting guard, Otavio constantly looks to grab/control the far hand of the passer. This variant of the sitting guard/sweep is useful because the far hand is typically the posting hand that will stop an overhead/sideways sweep. Once he can thread this hand through he has shut down posting and is free to react and sweep sideways/overhead depending on how you react to the primary sweep (backwards).

The video shows most of his typical “plan b” sweeps so do study it. I suppose it’s natural his multi-directional variant has come about given that he encounters both smashers and retreaters/scramblers his division. Because the two extremes are not here typically (heavy smasher/super scrambler), his “medium” speed variant is workable in that he has time/space to achieve that far side sleeve grab without having to deal with a heavy committed smash/immediate scramble. (ps Otavio is one of the few to have swept Leandro Lo by shutting down his active posting hand and driving him back, even when Lo had the underhook on)

Not much else say, sit up guard has many permutations/options but in the video I try show some variants that are tried and tested at the highest levels. Let me know if you scout other sit up guard strategies that are money!

Not sure when I can post again this month so Happy Halloween early everyone!

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20 comments On Positional Studies: Sit Up Sweeps (Cobrinha, Otavio Sousa, Rodolfo Vieira)

  • Awesome!!!
    Do you guys ever break down the actual moves?

  • hey thanks! Breakdown like in instructional style? Not really, there is a lot out there you can youtube to learn though. The goal of these “edu-lights” is more to illustrate strategies and concepts rather than actually teach moves…most of the moves are “basic”, but elite player’s have specific set ups and sequences which are revealed from video study imo

  • Due, you rock, and I mean that sincerely. I am a conceptual learner and everything you post hits buttons with me. I love your stuff. Keep em coming!

  • that’s great! thanks for the kind words. Yep I think most people learn from “generalizing” from the “specifics”. Sort of how you teach math concepts by first showing specific examples rather than the axioms….

  • I think it’s a bit more than that, because BJJ is a constantly fluctuating battle. There is no way that two opponents can be exactly the same, so you must be able to adapt dynamically all the time, whilst staying true to the core of the technique, Lo is a great example of that, using his dynamic posting and knee slide pass. The bottom player will often try all sorts, but he sticks with his principles and adjusts around them. I think your vids are great at pointing those principles out. Again, love em!

  • ah yes I get what what you mean. What I was trying to say is that imagine asking Rickson Gracie what his secret was and getting the answer “Flow with the go”. That’s the equivalent of answering the question of what’s the key to Lo’s passing with “oh he’s hard to sweep”. I personally (and I suspect for many) find it easier to learn by seeing many specific examples of how he is hard to sweep and then from there “generalizing” to the concept from the specifics. So the(bad) analogy to math learning was that everybody learns the concept of addition by actually seeing 1+1, 2+1 etc etc (ie actual addition in action), rather than starting from the actual foundation of math (which are the “axioms” – propositions that are self evident without proof)… Ok I”m far afield now.. Anyways thanks for reading/watching!

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  • Absolute brilliance.

    More Cobrinha!

  • Thanks for your work, you really are the new voice of intelligent online bjj instruction/commentary! You filled the void that Jiu Jiutsu Lab left quite expertly (I’m sad he doesn’t have the time for posts anymore). Anyway, I have two scouts on my wishlist for you:

    Bernardo Faria – You once mentioned most competitors have laser focused games with only a few moves. This guy comes across to me as an extreme in that category, basically always fighting for the same DHG sweep (and doing it successfully to most people not named Rodolfo or Buchecha). I’d like some thoughts on his game and if it serves him well enough in getting to the highest levels (maybe he’s too one dimensional)?

    Guys with very varied games – In the same laser-focussed games discussion, I’d like to see some analysis of people who come across as quite varied, or at least not pigeon-holed into one strategy in the eyes of most. Guys like Andre Galvao, Buchecha, Caio Terra, Tanquinho etc. Maybe it’s just me (and others) that haven’t studied them closely enough to see that they in fact have a well defined game, or perhaps, that actually are well rounded and prefer to play to their opponents weaknesses rather than their own strengths. I feel like I’m not skilled enough to make that judgement, but maybe you are.

    Anyway, just some suggestions. Keep up the good work!

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  • hey thanks! Yeah he ha some nice moves to study, the drag/situp is one of his key combos but he has some other nice ones…maybe in the future…I got someone else in mind for a long study though

  • hey thanks for the kind words, Jiujitsu Lab is an amazing site, I remember reading it when it first came out and thinking to myself “damn brother from another mother”… He I really like the fact that he tries to be an accurate historian of the “origins” of moves …especially things like the leg drag

    Thanks for the suggestions, Hmm Bernado …I want to cover someone in the lighter weight next (i have some ideas for the next one)..the thing about those other guys is that they are already so well known/researched I’m not sure what else I have to add..especially if they have training sites/DVDs…then the best thing would be to go check those out….I have a preference to cover the lesser known ones who are “innovaters” but for some reason don’t get the coverage, even though they are world champions (BJJ can be strange)…sort of like Lo, he was crushing everyone for 2 years straight (including wining mundials before) and most people sort of just were “ho hum”… you should try check out the google search analytics for “leandro Lo” around May (when the site was launched)…pretty funny see how how it exploded

  • I’m sure you’ll find time for Faria some time down the road, I agree with it being fun to spread the love across weights. Sure, the guys I mentioned are well known, but I wasn’t really looking for a breakdown of their individual games, more like some musings on having a “varied game” so to speak. Maybe that’s something very hard to “break down”… Anyway, thanks again, can’t wait for the next entry! The only problem I find (which is the same with JJlab, is that for each new video I want to start to emulate the guy being scouted because they have such a cool coherent style! I feel schizophrenic in my bjj right now because of it…

  • Great stuff as always. I’ve used your Leandro Lo videos as the basis for my DLR passing game, and it’s working great. Something I’d be interested in seeing your take on (because I’ve been researching it a lot myself lately) is the open guard style of Braulio Estima and Romulo Barral. They have very similar styles, both super effective, and I think it would be interesting to see a comparison of the Gracie Barra MHW open guards.

  • That could be interesting, I do think galvao would be a good subject because he is such a chameleon but he already has a DVD and training website so… Who knows I’m sure there are others to explore… Cool, glad you find the vids interesting, I learn something new myself everytime I make a new one too!

  • thanks for the feedback, glad to know it’ working out for you. I think I might look at either one of those 2 at some point. they have some interesting aspects for sure

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  • Hi, seems the first video on this page has been made private. The rest are great though, thanks.

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