You know you've made your mark on the BJJ world if you have a move named after you. I'm not talking about some random submission, but a move that has become a fundamental part of the art. The De La Riva guard is a position that you'll see over and over nowadays. Competitors like the Mendes Brothers, Samuel Braga, Michael Langhi, Keenan Cornelius, Cobrinha and countless others rely on this guard. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. De La Riva as he rarely comes to the states, but I sent a few quesitons down to my friend Lineu Oliveira who conducted the interview. Read, learn, and appreciate one of the legends of BJJ - Ricardo De La Riva - Carlson Gracie black belt, great competitor & instructor, and creator of the De La Riva guard!
1.Looking back at your competition career, what was your most memorable match?
DLR: All of my fights were very important for me. However, my first competition as a black belt was a watershed in my career as a competitor. I won both my weight class and the absolute division. It was good to realize Carlson [Gracie's] trust in me, as he chose a feather weight to compete in the absolute division. So, despite all my fights being important, since my blue belt, the fights I had in my first tournament as a black belt, especially those two against Royce and Rolker, were the most memorable ones.
2.And the fights against Royler, how do you describe them?
DLR: The first fight was very dynamic because none of us knew each other’s game. The following ones were more strategic. Before our first fight, Royler was still unbeaten and there was this atmosphere of revenge, since I had beaten other competitors of the family.. Anyone could have won. Even though I believe my first competition as a black belt was the most memorable, my fights with Royler helped me more professionally. I was already teaching classes at the time, but after that, I began receiving many more proposals to teach in other academies.
3.Recently you had a retirement match against Yuki Nakai. How did it feel to fight for the last time?
DLR: This last fight with Yuki is certainly among the most important in my life, not because of the result, but because of the moment, of what happened during the preparation and over there in Japan. It was so important because of the experience of having my whole family, together with my students, supporting me. Until then, my family used to feel my absence a little when I had to travel. But this time, it was different. We were all together, even during the training and preparation. So this fight was unforgettable, not because I fought well and won, but because it made us all, friends and family, come together in harmony. The support I received for this fight was different from every other fight I had before.
4. Do you refer to the De La Riva guard as "De La Riva Guard" when you are teaching?
DLR: 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”.
5.The De La Riva guard is playing a big part in many "modern guards". These days we hear about hybrid guards such as "De La Spider" and "Reverse De La Riva". What do you think about all of the ways athletes are developing jiu-jitsu nowadays?
DLR: I think it’s great. It’s a sign that the position is efficient, and that it opens many new possibilities. I always say that from it you can sweep to any side. So, people are taking advantage of the position to develop new moves. There are certain moves this new generation is doing that I, being 49 years old, find quite hard to do. But I try to keep up with them. I am always observing what they are doing and also trying to find new possibilities from those positions.
6. With competition no longer your focus, what brings you joy these days?
DLR: I’ve enjoyed teaching ever since I began. Even when it’s my day off, I go to the gym. I have great friends among my students which would never let me abandon jiu-jitsu. Today, my main goal is to spread jiu-jitsu. I have given seminars in many countries and I’m still looking for new places to go. Soon, I’ll be heading to Australia, and then, Finland. I like to be able to show my technique, the way I do the armbar or the hook. The financial aspect is also important, of course, but it isn’t what keeps me going. I could just stay in Rio or charge a very high price for seminars, so people wouldn’t invite me anymore. But I would never do that because my goal is to spread Jiu-Jitsu to as many places as possible. So today, teaching people, be it here or abroad, is what motivates me the most.
7. I see you are working in Japan sometimes. Why do you choose to work so much there?
DLR: I like the Japanese people. They are very serious, organized and dedicated. I have been going there for 14 years. There is a competition over there called De La Riva Cup. It happens every year and the next one will be it’s 10th edition. Teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the birthplace of traditional Jiu-jitsu is such an enormous honor for me. And the fact that there is a competition with my name makes me even happier. So, Japan is a place where I enjoy going. Even after the earthquake that happen a few years ago, while all the Brazilians were leaving, I went over there and I was very welcomed, as always. It’s pretty special.
8. What are your thoughts on the future of BJJ?
DLR: I think it will grow a lot. Jiu-Jitsu, unlike many other kinds of martial arts, gives you a possibility of improving the techniques. So you can never stop training. Here, for example, there are the light-weight training sessions, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are open to anyone, from any academy. That’s the opportunity I have to see what the new generation is doing and learn from them. Jiu-Jitsu’s evolution is infinite.
Want to learn the latest modern competition De La Riva guard? Check out Michael Langhi's amazing new instructional packed with 17 "must know" lessons on the DLR guard.