Marcelo Garcia’s SLX to X-Guard Transitions, and a few X-Guard Sweeps to go with them.


So in my first breakdown of Marcelo Garcia’s Single Leg X-Guard (SLX) I covered some of his basic sweeps, grips, counters and leg positions when in the position. In this article though I’m going to cover when he switches out of it, or more importantly, the WHY. And because the reason he switches to X-Guard gives him a que for a specific set of sweeps, we’re going to cover those too.

We’ve already shown how dominant the position can be on it’s own, so he has to have some clear reasons on why he switches to Full X-Guard, from the SLX. So what are some the ques that let Marcelo know when to switch?

Firstly, Marcelo tends to go SLX > X-Guard, not so much X-Guard > SLX. He also usually starts in SLX to being with. I attribute this based on the fact that SLX is much easier to gain in the first place. He also usually starts with the overhook, I’d also attribute that to it being easier to get.

In our first GIF, (which is too small for text unfortunately) Marcelo is facing Renzo Gracie at the ADCC. Renzo attempts to counter Marcelo’s SLX by grabbing the back of his head with both hands,  keeping his hips forward, low and keeping his opposite leg out of reach. By driving his hips forward, it makes it much more difficult for Marcelo to keep his outside leg on the hip, the position has become a very uncomfortable stack for Marcelo. Since Renzo has both hands free, he is able to base forward if Marcelo were to try and send him over the top by letting go of Marcelo’s head. Renzo is also keeping his base slightly to his left away from his trapped leg. From this position it would be very difficult for Marcelo to execute any of the SLX sweeps we showed previously, over-the-top or the basic sweep. So what Marcelo does with his outside leg is brings it inside for the X-guard position on Renzo’s opposite leg.  He did this by keeping pressure on Renzo’s left leg with not only his hand but also his butterflied leg. This keeps his legs wider and easier to slip his outside foot in for the X-guard position. My favorite part of this sequence is when Marcelo then lifts Renzo up EVER so slightly using both his arms and his legs (by extending them upward) which causes Renzo to step in with his foot that had been generally pretty far away during this sequence. Marcelo catches the ankle with his right hand, gets his right leg butterfly hook high on Renzo’s thigh by lifting his hips (Marcelos foot is right below Renzo’s hamstring) and creates tension with his ankle grip. By pulling the ankle to him, driving forward with his right shin, and extending with his left leg Marcelo causes Renzo to fall backwards and Marcelo uses the momentum from the sweep to bring himself up and pulls his legs underneath of him to be able to come up for the sweep. Note that Marcelo during the entire sequence was blocking Renzo’s SLX’d leg either with an overhook or the inner part of his arm.


In our second GIF Marcelo pulls off any amazing sweep against Andre Galvao, but only after recognizing that he needed to make the switch to full X-guard from SLX. The video was kind of cruddy, so hopefully I can explain it well. Again, an opponent is stopping the SLX by pulling themselves into Marcelo, squatting low and trying to base out to the opposite side, keeping their leg out of reach. Andre keeps his leg behind him instead of up and to the side like in the GIF with Renzo, so Marcelo uses a different option. When Marcelo rocks himself up by extending his legs and then falls back bringing his legs in he is changing his “structure” or frame against his opponents body. Ryan Hall talks about this concept in his Inverted Guard DVD Series. It’s a great tool for manipulating momentum and changing your opponents position. You’ve provided a support to an opponent and kept the pressure on, and then when you want to remove that support, it unsettles your opponent. It’s an excellent tool from the bottom for sure.

Key differences in Andre’s defense compared to Renzo’s: Andre is farther back with his hips much lower to the ground than Renzo and keeps his leg much farther back when Marcelo moves to full X-guard, even going down to his knee on it. Andre’s free arm is really the only thing stopping Marcelo from sending him straight back. Marcelo takes Andre over his (Andre’s) right shoulder because he has no available posting opportunities at that angle.


Here is the same exact sweep, on a Rickson Gracie Black Belt (whom I believe is Brandon Hetzler?). Except this time he changes the angle to take his opponent to the side (almost over the top) of the underhooked leg based on the fact that his opponents base is weak to that side because he’s leaning towards it. He again has the “two birds” grip with the underhook on the leg and sleeve grip on the same side. You can get a much better view of his feet position and how he switches them to execute the sweep in this GIF. This Black Belts defense was something we’ve seen before, to pull into Marcelo, base to the opposite side and keep his leg back. It stopped the SLX no problem, but allowed Marcelo to easily transition to X-Guard. This opponent is a bit taller than his other two which can make getting the SLX difficult unless you’re whole body is virtually up in the air.



So when should you switch to X-Guard?

Well, Marcelo does it when guys are putting a lot of pressure into him (typically pulling on his head or collar), with their hips heavy into him, and when he can’t control their non-SLX sleeve. He does it when they are based off to the non-threatened side and keep their leg back. He does this regardless if he has an underhook or overhook.


 Key Points:

  • Marcelo likes to block the far side knee with both his hand and his butterfly hook to ensure he has enough space to get his other foot in X-Guard position from SLX.
  • He will transition to X-guard even if he doesn’t have the underhook on the SLX’d leg.
  • He applies pressure just so he can release the pressure later and take the available space in a different way. AKA changing your structure.
  • He controls two limbs with just one limb, by underhooking the leg and grabbing the same side sleeve.
  • With the X-guard Marcelo has sweeps available in a 360 direction around you, depending on what you throw at him.
  • His transitions to X-guard from SLX are not spur of the moment decisions. They are part of a system that gives him signals when confronted with certain situations. He knows exactly what he’s looking for and knows exactly how to make his opponent give it to him.
  • Body types definitely change up the SLX game. I know when I’m facing a really tall guy I really really have to get my hips off the ground. It seems Marcelo will only momentarily hang out in SLX against an opponent with a good base, throw a couple SLX sweep attempts, but then switch to X-Guard.

To learn from the man himself, check out, Marcelo’s personal online training platform.  He covers the SLX and X-Guard on his website and touches on a lot of these points, as well as a lot of points we haven’t discussed.



One of the reasons I like doing breakdowns is because it really forces me to be a dedicated observer. These are just the distinct transitions and sweeps I observed in his highlight footage, there could very well be other ques and options involved, and knowing Marcelo, I’d find that highly likely. Anyone can do this by playing the same clips over and over. And the more people who are doing it the more observations people will make. I may not see what someone else sees, and we may see some of the same things, but not all. This is all part of breaking down the huge puzzle that is BJJ, but the more “eyes on” we get, the better off we’ll be. I cannot tell you how many times my BJJ game has taken gigantic leaps from someone pointing out something drastically obvious or on the other side of the coin pointing out something so small that it made the difference between being able to sweep blue belts to being able to sweep black belts. I’m not trying to cover “this is SLX guard” or “this is X-Guard”. I’m trying to point out things that correlate. Showing one sweep is fine and good, but seeing how it relates to your opponents ques is much better. Moves in BJJ do not exist in a vacuum nor in isolation, they are all a part of something much larger going on. It’s a chess battle with all the pieces moving at the same time. Having an answer for every defense, submission attempt and position is truly the ultimate goal, and although it will never happen, it doesn’t mean we can’t try.


Rafa can literally berimbolo you from anywhere but I was still surprised when I saw this sick counter on a video of him rolling with a Brown Belt named Jason Vigil in Hawaii.

With his opponent vying for a solid deep half position Rafa pushes his opponents knees away using a grip on the side of his opponents right knee. At the same time he scoots his left thigh in to block his opponents head. Then he takes his left hand which had been acting as a post and grabs the side of his opponents right leg where his right hand had been.

From here, he grabs the back of his opponents pants (at the waist) with his now free right hand and does a tuck and roll, being sure to clear the head and to swing his left leg out far enough to clear his opponents legs. His trapped right leg acts as the pendulum for forcing his opponents back to show itself.


Summer New Gear Roundup

Posted: July 3, 2014 in Gi Review

I’ve been pretty busy the last 2 months, I moved into a new house and even changed gyms. Newer still is a few BJJ clothing items I picked up recently.

One of my favorite BJJ brands is Underoath BJJ, I currently own 5 of their shirts. Two of those shirts I just got the other day and are pretty sweet. One of the reasons I love their t-shirts in particular is the extremely durable printing method they use on the T’s. Paired with solid designs and a comfortable t-shirt, you’ve got a recipe for awesomeness.

The PAPA, my favorite out of the new two I picked up:


The “Chix”:


I also was able to pick up a Gawakoto Kalabaw rashguard from Beyond having some really good deals on gear overall, they also have a 60 day Warranty on Gis, even if you’ve washed or rolled in it. That’s pretty sweet. Especially considering how hard it can be to find a gi that fits just right. Not only that, but it’s free shipping and 2 day air shipping for Gis. BOOM. As far as distributors go these guys are doing it right. I’ve heard (correct me if I’m wrong) that Scramble makes Gawakoto’s rashguards, so if those fit you well this could be another good option for you.

I’m 5’10 and a luscious 215lbs since my surgery so I got the rashie in an XL. It fits great. I’ve had some really bad issues with certain brands in the past in regards to fitment and quality and this Gawatoko rashguard was great all around. The sublimations look beautiful and it fits like a glove. I’m a bigger fan of long sleeved rashguards but it’s summer right? Suns out, guns out.


Since I mentioned it, I wanted to give reasons why I dislike the NOGI, Kaizen and Manto rashguards so much. The NOGI and Kaizen were clearly made by the same people (Budovideos owns NOGI AFAIK) and the lettering came off in one wash and it fit like crap. The Manto didn’t have that issue (I bought the TapCancerOut rashguard) but it’s neck opening is seriously wide and the body was definitely made for someone with a super long torso.

A trailer was stolen from Charles Gracie Truckee, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym, on Friday June 6th, at 9pm. According to the owner of the gym the truck used for the crime probably has California plates. The trailer contained some very expensive grappling mats and tournament equipment, seen below.

The perpetrator himself is a white male, 5’11”, 170 with a shaved head. He also likes to wear shirts that scream douchebag.

The vehicle (to me) looks like an eighth generation Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Sierra. Probably late 70s to mid 80s model year.

Here are some pictures posted by the owner of the gym of the asshole who stole the trailer, the equipment that was inside the trailer, the trailer itself and the perpetrating assholes vehicle:

Anyone with any information should call the Truckee, CA Police Department  530-550-2323.


asshole asshole2 asshole3 assholestruck assholetruck2 stolenequipment stolentrailer

Flexible Guards, and how to deal with them.

There are many notable exclamation points on our BJJ timelines. One of those points that I found massively annoying and unforgettable is the first time I came across a persons guard who seemed to me, at the time, impossible to pass. As you exert all of your energy while flying in every direction you can think of, they have this smug look on their bastard faces:

Smug flexible guard player, Gumby.


That son of a green bitch.

No matter what you throw at them their body just pancakes and squeaks away.

But as with all things, we evolve. At the highest levels of competition massive amounts of flexibility is still a major nuisance for guard passers, but their tricks are being decoded even as I type this.

For this breakdown and analysis I’m going to show how two of the best guard passers (in my most humblest of opinions) in the BJJ world, Rodolfo Vieira and Rafael Mendes, pass a flexible opponents guard using basic principles to isolate an opponents hips. It’s not intended to be a step-by-step tutorial of the passes they are executing and basically I am just focusing on the principles of their passes. Check it out, and see if you can implement some of these principles into your guard passing game. You’ll note that Rodolfo deals with spider guard much more and keeps his hips away before bringing them back in, as to where Rafa is dealing mostly with DLR and open guard so quite often stays in a squat like position before going for his passes. I believe it’s better for someone to understand the principle of something than to know a technique out of the blue, because that way people will develop their own methods for deconstruction something.

Let’s start with the Pressure Passing King and Supreme Chancellor of Leg Drags, Rodolfo Vieira and Rafa Mendes, respectfully.

Rodolfo Vieira & Rafael Mendes

A flexible opponent can often bring their opposite side leg across your chest which helps them square up. Or they will bring it under your arm and attempt to invert. Rafa and Rodolfo attempt to solve this problem by doing a number of things and there’s many intricate things going on in these clips but what I feel are the main points are:

1. Turning their opponents hips AWAY from them but not allowing them to turtle.

2. Using their heads as a wedge to divide their opponents legs from their torso.

3. Gripping the upper back of their opponent.

4. Blocking the far side leg, either with their leg or their arms. (typically the shin)

5. They stay at the lower body and controls the hips, not the upper body of their opponent like traditional side control.

6. Often times, their passes aren’t just one smooth movement, they’ll settle into each step comfortably and slowly.

7. Stack, then dive for the leg drag position with another stack.

In the video below, I point out some basic observations that I mentioned above.

Passing flexible people is all about controlling their hips and taking away the space for them to rotate. If you grab a flexible guys leg, he can still spin his hips around. Try pinning a leg with your shin and then reaching around their hip or wedging your head in but all the while trying to control where their hip is and what it is facing. When you stack, try and get them on their neck or they can still swivel on their shoulders. Don’t just try and stack them into oblivion and force them away from you, try and keep them attached to you. Pull their upper body into you while pushing their legs away with your shoulder so they can’t turtle. So much of it is about tightness. When Rodolfo stacks he tries to stack them on their neck, not on their shoulder blades. He mitigates how much they can move by gripping the back of their collar (pulling towards him) and gripping their pants at the butt (pulling up).

Another excellent tid bit is how Rafa will simply change his upper body angle to be able to reach with the arm he wants to reach with. He actually turns away from his opponent briefly so that his left arm can get to the left side of his opponent faster. Don’t be afraid to reach across your own body and grab the outside of an opponent. He always tries to find the shortest route to do something, which leaves no space available. Moving yourself is most of the time much easier than moving your opponent to where you’d like them to be. Like so:


A noticeable attribute with Rafa Mendes and Rodolfo Vieira is that they typically go around the legs, vice someone like Leandro Lo who goes through their opponents guard. Leandro Lo’s style of passing is excellent against flexible individuals, and paired with Rafa and Rodolfo’s excellent styles makes for quite an arsenal of BJJ guard passes. Check out Leandro Lo’s style via BJJ Scout here.

This is only a small handful of examples that are out there, don’t fear the guard! And my biggest recommendation is to just get right into someones guard and discover what is going on for yourself. You’ll never be able to execute passes if you don’t try. Look for a handful to start with (the Leandro Lo DLR counters by BJJ Scout is my favorite guard passing series in the world) and just step in and work your way through it. You might not get it perfect the first time (you won’t) but eventually you’ll have a great guard passing game.

Bottom Line:

– Control their hips. Control the direction their hips are facing and where the hip itself is. (On the ground, in the air, etc)

-Try new things, check out Youtube and try to implement what you can into your game at the gym. BJJ has a nice natural way of showing you what will and won’t work on the mat. Give it a couple tries and if it’s not working ask your friends and coach and if it still doesn’t work, shelf it and move on to something else.

-Stack them to their neck, not just their shoulder blades, then wedge your head in while controlling them with a collar grip and a back of the pants grip.

-Give intense pressure with your shin into their leg and then with the same side arm reach to the opposite side outside hip of your opponent and try and pull them into a post leg drag position.

-Generally speaking keep your hips extremely tight to your opponent. No space!

I almost got a headache trying to write out “De La Riva’s De La Riva’d leg” a bunch of times, but it was worth it. This is actually a very viable sweep. I even got to try this out in class today with great success. One of my favorite aspects of De La Riva’s style is that it’s very efficient. It’s all about taking away the opponents ability to post and exploiting that hole, not with strength, but with craftiness.  I made this GIF from a video BJJ Library recently shared on Youtube. (BJJ Library is Saulo and Xande Ribeiro’s Online Instructional Website).  You can check out all of his amazing double De La Riva sweeps HERE, for free, on Youtube.

I’d like to add that I think too many people use DLR just to solely attempt berimbolos which gives them a very skewed view of the position as a whole. If you want an awesome De La Riva game, you should be studying Ricardo De La Riva especially.  A lot of people I know have great berimbolos, but a terrible DLR game. There’s tons more goodness out there from the DLR position. Just go find it!

GIF Magic!



Team Kool Katz

I was doing photography work for the USBJJ Grappling Tournament back in August of 2013 when I first moved to Wisconsin and I met a young man who really stood out to me. His name was Alphy. He came up to me and asked if I did jiu jitsu and when I said yes we talked for a few moments about jiu jitsu and grappling in general. I told him about my association with and eventually we became Facebook friends. I noticed that anytime I was at a tournament doing photography, Alphy was there. His facebook page was loaded with pictures of him on the podium of multiple local tournaments.  When I saw him at the Combat Corner Grappling Championship tournament a few months later, he talked about all of his friends that were at the tournament with him. If there was someone enthusiastic about Jiu Jitsu, it’s Alphy.


Then one day I noticed something on his Facebook page I hadn’t noticed before. Alphy had started a BJJ club out of his garage for people who couldn’t afford to train at a regular academy. They gave their team the name “Team Kool Katz” and got matching shirts to wear to local tournaments.  Alphy didn’t do any of this for fame or recognition, but simply because he has a love for grappling and wanted others to be able to love grappling too.

Their team was in need of some logo love so I messaged Alphy one day and said “hey man, this is for you”, because I think a lot of the times we should just help people simply because we can. He’s doing a great service to people for free, so why shouldn’t people support him for free? BJJ’s very essence is about helping people right?


I wasn’t the only one helping out Alphy and his team though… a Gi brand named Quantum Kimonos offered to sponsor Alphy’s team when a local tournament organizer reached out to them and explained their situation.


Alphy has a wrestling background and has been training for a few years. Despite being a teenager, Alphy has no problems tangling with the Adults and earning his spot on the podium. So not only is he an awesome person, but he’s also an awesome grappler.

Eventually, his skills were recognized by his referee at Combat Corner who just so happened to be Justin Morris from Third Heaven Jiu Jitsu in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Justin is a Black Belt under Marcello Monteiro, a fourth degree Black Belt under the legendary Ricardo De La Riva. Justin invited Alphy up to his school after the tournament and promoted him to Blue Belt, officially bringing Team Kool Katz under Justin Morris’ watchful eye for their grappling development and promotions.


I sat down with Alphy and asked him some questions about his motivation to start the team and where he would like to end up with it.

1. What’s your grappling background? How long, what styles?

I started wrestling in sixth grade for my grade school, Stanton Middle School located in Fox Lake. I continued wrestling for the next six years. Summer of ’08 I started Jiu Jitsu at a local gym which was called RFO (Respect, Focus, and Obedience) owned by Randy Otto. I trained there for about a month under Master Daniel Wanderly who is currently at Roufusport. After a month of training and learning my closed guard techniques I was informed the gym was closing due to the bills not being paid. I have trained bjj in my basement, ever since.

2. Why did you start TKK?? Who are the founders?

Back in ’08 a buddy of mine named Noah Drabek and myself were going all over the Midwest competing in many grappling tournaments. But at every tournament we always signed up as independent. After a while we got tired of being no namers and we knew we didn’t have the money for a gym so we decided to make up our own team, Team Kool Katz, and that is were it all began at a C3 tournament in Gary IN. The other reason I started Team Kool Katz is to help the kids who can’t pay every month for a top notch gym, for the kids that want to learn but don’t have the resources, and to help kids get off the streets and out of trouble. We may not have had a black belt until just recently but we have a solid team that works hard for what we want. No cost. No catch. No problem.

 3. Where is TKK located?

TKK is located in Inglside IL at 35737 Watson ave. My uncle Lenny Miles has been Generous throughout all theses years and supportive to let me have my gym at his house.

4. Describe an average session at TKK for me, who leads? Is it typical class style?

Our classes are your typical BJJ class, we go over technique in the beginning on class and end off with a round robin rolling session. Sometimes we get creative and have a mini tournament to help the nerves of new competitors. Typically I do lead the classes but I like to show that we are all on the same level and no-one is better. But also from time to time I let the assistant coach Ronny Uribe go over technique due to that fact that his submissions are very solid.

5. Where do you find the knowledge that is shared in class?

Throughout my life I have been invited to many different gyms all over and I have always capitalized and gone to each gym and learned multiple types of technique, also YouTube is a great help.

6. How did you go about getting sponsored by Quantum Kimono’s?

The way that we got involved with Quantum Kimonos was all thanks to a close buddy of mine Mark Stevenson who runs with Badger Land Ju Jitsu and also runs a great tournament called King Grappler. Mark actually went out of his way and talked to them for me and later I was contacted by them and we have been working together ever since and for that I am greatly thankful to Mark and Quantum.

7. How did you meet Justin Morris? Can you tell us about your experience at his academy?

I met Justin Morris at a local tournament called Combat Corner, he was actually my ref for my NOGI and GI matches and right before we walked out of the tournament at the end of the day he came up to my team and asked me why I didn’t have a blue belt. After talking for a couple minutes he invited me to come out to Beaver Dam, WI to test for my blue belt. I immediately took the offer and went out there that Wednesday. I got to his gym at 6:45 and didnt leave until about 10:30 and I can assure you that every minute there was not wasted and I was introduced to a whole new side of BJJ.

8. What do you think the major differences are for your team compared to a regular academy?

The major difference between my academy/club and anyone else’s is I truly do care about all of my competitors as if they were blood. I am not in it for the money what so ever and I show that by never charging anyone a dime and even helping many of our guys pay for our tournaments. I just see so much potential in every kid it would be a shame to let it go to waste. We’re also at a disadvantage because many gyms have the money and power to have pull in the BJJ world and then you have my team just making a name for themselves.

9. How does it make you guys at TKK feel seeing so many people try and support what you’re doing?

Truthfully I have never been in it for the attention. I did not realize that people actually took us seriously, for the longest time people laughed at my idea but now I feel like what I am doing is really helping the kids and my gym is very glad people do support us



Can you do more for the BJJ Community?

I don’t ask the question because I wan’t people to feel guilty, but rather because I want people to question whether there’s new ways they could help the community that they hadn’t considered before. You may surprise yourself. No one HAS to help anyone else, but people really appreciate it when you do. People who do BJJ have tons of different skills that can be used to strengthen our community. I think BJJ is inherently about helping people, and even in the smallest ways everyone can help someone else. Just showing up to class is helping someone get a training partner, just keep your eyes peeled for those moments you can give back.