Gordon Ryan’s High Step Pass vs. Reverse De La Riva

Published on
Updated on
3 minute read

Reverse de la riva (RDLR) is a tricky guard to pass.

​It’s a great counter guard position against the knee cut pass due to its structure. The guarder uses their inside leg to wrap around the passer’s near leg. The guarder’s outside leg works as an extra frame.​

It’s essentially a half-guard variation, but RDLR gives you more mobility.​

Although attacks from RDLR tend to be limited, their threats are real, and the passer needs to approach RDLR carefully.​

The most typical way of passing RDLR is to pin the guarder’s inside leg and deal with their outside leg so you can complete your knee cut pass. Against a good RDLR player, this is a tricky matter. They will off balance you and make you want to retreat. But when you take the pressure off from their RDLR leg and stand up, they can invert and take your back or attack your leg.​

So, what can you do? Well, you just need to get better at dealing with RDLR, developing your sense of balance, and improving your weight distribution. And that’s the only way, right?​

That was the case traditionally, but thankfully, BJJ keeps evolving — there’s a new, simpler approach to passing RDLR these days. While it’s not 100% fail-proof, you can disentangle your opponent’s RDLR more efficiently and set up other follow-up attacks even if this new approach doesn’t work.​

The new approach I’m talking about is the high step pass.​

Watch this short clip of Gordon Ryan doing the high step pass first. I’ll explain what exactly he’s doing in it and why this pass works.​

1. Capture your opponent’s RDLR leg with both of your legs.

​If your opponent wants to invert and take the back, they need to bring their head between your legs. When you capture your opponent’s RDLR leg by closing your legs, you will also close that space your opponent needs for inversion.​

2. a) Secure two points of control: your opponent’s far shoulder and shin. Use V-grip (a.k.a C-grip) and push these two points. Make sure to distribute your weight onto these points. b) Once you’ve secured these control points, change your angle so you will be perpendicular to your opponent. c) Lift your leg as if you bring your knee to your chest.​

​For any RDLR attack, the guarder needs to sit up and move their head. If you want to stop your opponent from doing this, your best option is to pin their far shoulder. When their shoulder is pinned, they cannot sit up. And if they cannot sit up, there’s no decent RDLR guard until they fix that pin problem. Similar reasoning applies to the shin control.​

In his recent match against Roberto Jimenez, Gordon goes for the high step pass without securing the shoulder pin. So I suppose it’s not absolutely necessary to get this control, but it would be better to pin your opponent’s far shoulder. In Gordon’s two high step attempts, Gordon fails to pass Jimenez with the high step pass itself, but he uses it more as a threat to create an opening. (Attempt #1 & attempt #2)​

3. Backstep and complete your pass. If your opponent simply accepts your high step pass, that’s great. If not, you will need to chain another pass together. But if you get good at high stepping, it’s a relatively low-risk move that can open up different passing options while making your opponent work harder to retain their guard.​

​I’ve been experimenting with this high step pass, and it seems like an excellent move to have in your guard passing arsenal. It will probably feel awkward initially, but you will get used to it. Try it and see how it works for you.​

p.s. The high step pass is more effective in no-gi, but you can use it in gi as well. And speaking of gi, Tainan Dalpra’s pass also utilizes a leg trap position effectively. It’s worth experimenting with this leg trap thing…