There’s hardly a single position is Jiu Jitsu (except maybe the 50-50 guard) that garners more of a LOVE vs. HATE dynamic than the Berimbolo. Some people understand the technique in it’s finest detail, while others believe that any time someone goes upside-down, they’re “Berimbolo-ing!”
Those on the side of “Love” see the Berimbolo as another important development in Jiu Jitsu, another innovation that makes the game deeper, more interesting, more dynamic. They see something new and powerful in competitive Jiu Jitsu as just another element to add to – and sweeten – the giant mixing pot that is the Art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Those on the side of “Hate” see the Berimbolo as a monstrosity of the martial art itself, as a breaking from “self-defense” origins of Jiu Jitsu to some kind of fancy pajama-flipping circus, where weird little games get developed to win sportive competitions that don’t represent the art.
Personally, I can respect both sides of the argument, but regardless of what side you’re on, you’d better get used to seeing this technique, and seeing it performed at the highest levels. My tendency is to see it as another step in the ever-deepening overall art of grappling, but even to those who despise it – learning to deal with it is probably a necessity. My goal with this article is to not claim “right” or “wrong” on either side, but to explore the details of the move than matter for EVERYONE who wants to understand it more thoroughly.
So here I wanted to start with the athlete best known for his Berimbolo skills, Multi-Time World Champion Rafael Mendes. It is argued as to whether or not he “created” the Berimbolo (Samual Braga is known to have hit the technique in 2005), Rafa is certainly the one using it most – and best – in competition today. Below is his VERY popular “Real Berimbolo” video – which I believe any serious modern game practitioner should be taking notes on:
Hearing it from the horse’s mouth makes breaking down the technique a lot safer in a blog post! In addition, this 10-minute video includes a lot of details that one might not pick up from scattered highlight footage. I wanted to take the time to point out the details that I see most of my own students miss the mark with:
The highlight below is credited to BJJHacks. When in Rio last year I was fortunate enough to meet Hywel Teague of BJJHacks – but was not fortunate enough to either pronounce his first or last name properly. Seriously. Very nice guy, and this work below is one of his exceptional works – featuring a highlight of the now-brown-belt Miyao brothers, who’ve taken to the Berimbolo more famously than anyone other than the Mendes brothers. In my opinion it makes sense both to see the “instruction” side and the “how to goes down in REAL competition” side – and here you have the latter:
In teaching and exploring the Berimbolo, I’ve come to the conclusion (albeit all by myself out here in Rhode Island) that teaching the few initial Berimbolo movements works well from a one-knee-up position. The video below ended up getting more popular that I would have thought, and from the feedback I’ve gotten – everyone likes learning this “fancy modern stuff” in a way that’s digestible. Here’s my take:
At the end of the day, the Berimbolo technique is that’s continuing to show up where most people thought it never would – like blue belt divisions and heavyweight divisions (most notably almost between Marcus “Buchecha” and Roger Gracie the the first Metamoris tournament).
At present I’m actually giving away a copy of my own fundamental Berimbolo video (which basically goes over the basics of the setup – created for white and blue belts) with a free trial of my “David vs. Goliath” members program which is all about how to beat bigger / stronger opponents (it involves high-level lightweight breakdowns, exclusive interviews / articles with the world’s best lightweights, and more). I’ve got a hundred-and-something folks who trust me to be their analyst of the lightweight game and distill the ideas to them – and if you’d like to check it out you can either get the download or have it yourself for just the price of shipping if you’d rather have the M4V DVD in your hands physically. You can check it out here.
Either way, hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little collection of the best Berimbolo footage I could get my hands on – and there’s plenty more to explore. I wanted to give a big thanks to those out there evolving the modern game every day (Caio Terra, Rafa / Gui Mendes, the Miyao bros, Keenan, etc…), and I hope you guys had fun reading.
Be well and train hard – see you on the mats!
Coach Daniel is the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.
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