The tripod sweep is one of the most basic BJJ moves people learn as a white belt, except many of them probably stop using it at some point.
If you need a quick reminder of what the sweep is like, check out this 2-minute video featuring Renzo Gracie.
This standard version of the sweep can be difficult to pull off against skilled opponents, though it does work just like any other basic techniques in BJJ if you know how to make it work.
Another way to go about using the tripod sweep is to modify it a little bit so you can make it work against such opponents.
Samuel Nagai’s tripod sweep variation is perfect if you like to use the de la riva guard. Nagai’s technique also illustrates an excellent example of using your opponent’s expectations to your advantage. On that note, let’s take a look at how Nagai does it against Sebastian Serpa. Watch this 15-second video excerpt.
Step 1. Let’s start this sequence from the closed guard. Nagai is in the blue gi. Serpa is in the black gi.
Step 2. As soon as Serpa stands up, Nagai sets up his de la riva guard and initiates some de la riva attack pressure to his left. Nagai grabs Serpa’s right ankle and he doesn’t let go throughout the sequence.
Also, this step plays a crucial role because Nagai sets Serpa’s expectations here. In other words, Nagai makes Serpa think that Nagai wants to go for berimbolo or something similar. Serpa expects this potential attack and gets ready accordingly.
Step 3. Serpa breaks Nagai’s grip, backs off, and creates some distance so he can avoid getting his back taken.
If Serpa stayed close to Nagai’s range, Nagai could start going around Serpa’s leg and expose Serpa’s back. At least, that’s what Serpa seems to think here.
Step 4. This step is interesting because Serpa is not trying to improve his position, and Nagai isn’t chasing Serpa either. But I bet this works in favor of Nagai after all because Serpa probably thinks he is safe enough in this position.
Step 5. Serpa fends Nagai’s gripping attempt. Nagai doesn’t really seem to be trying hard. After that brief exchange, Serpa’s posture comes up slightly and he retracts his arms closer to his hips a bit. Nagai responds to these cracks right away and makes his move.
Step 6. This is where the actual tripod sweep happens, and it happens fast. In one motion, Nagai extends his left leg and uses his right foot to hook Serpa’s calf area. There are a couple of notable differences compared to the standard variation of the tripod sweep.
a) Nagai doesn’t place his left foot against Serpa’s stomach, but instead, he hooks his foot on Serpa’s hip and extends his leg over Serpa’s knee. In other words, Nagai is creating some downward pressure on Serpa’s right leg instead of pushing Serpa.
b) With the standard variation of the tripod sweep, you essentially do a regular sit-up as you retract your hooking foot, pulling your opponent’s leg. With Nagai’s variation, he moves his upper body closer to Serpa’s left leg and gets up in a circular motion. Not exactly, but it’s much like how you get up with the technical stand-up.
Step 7. Nagai gets up, chases, and tries to grab Serpa’s left leg. Again, he doesn’t let go of his left grip the whole time. Nagai secures the top position and scores two points for the sweep.
If you like using the de la riva guard, try using Nagai’s variation of the tripod sweep and see how it works for you. You force your opponent to make the reaction you want them to make, and you go for the tripod sweep exactly when they make that reaction.
The key is to threaten your opponent with your attack/s on your de la riva side and switch to the other side when your opponent backs off.