BJJ DVD Review: Rafael Lovato JR Guard Mastery

Rafael Lovato JR Guard Mastery DVDs Review:

Short Review: This is a sport gi jiujitsu set. This is not universal for no gi, self defence or MMA. Having said that, it is an excellent one at that. If you are brand new beginner, this set will be overwhelming. I personally think this is a great set for the competition oriented purple or brown belt or even higher but not necessarily the first set to buy as a white / blue belt grappler.

Disc 1: 1hour, 25 minutes

The DVD starts with Rafael explaining how he morphed from a strong guard player to the pressure guard passer, raised under the prodigees Saulo and Xande Ribiero, that we now know him to be. This is a much appreciated segment as viewers get to see a different side of the black belt and not just technique after technique. We get a sneak peak into the mind and the evolutionary journey of this jiujitsuka.

1. Xande Sweep: Xande used this flower sweep to defeat Marcelo Garcia at the 2004 worlds. Rafael does a good job of sharing all the grip-hip-move-timing details that are so vital to jiujitsu.

2. Follow-up: Rafael acknowledges that posting isn't always enough to stop the sweep, but nonetheless shows how to take advantage of the post and shows a very smooth back take and a bonus mount technique. The grip he uses is not NoGi friendly, but adjusting it shouldn't be too difficult. The instruction is, ala Saulo, very detail rich.

3. Arm bar: Building off the opponent's natural reactions to the danger of the back take, Rafael shows how to isolate and lock the opponent's nearside arm. Again, I'm very impressed with Rafael's ability to articulate everything he's doing. Jiujitsu instruction extraordinaire.

4. Pendulum Sweep: 2008 Pan Ams. Rafael Lovato Jr v Roberto Tussa Alencar. If you haven't seen it yet, watch it:

Changing direction is the heart of kuzushi (balance breaking) in Judo and, naturally, in jiujitsu. This combination of the Xande / flower sweep and the pendulum sweep is a fantastic demonstration of just that.

1. The underhook sweep: vs a standing opponent. Rafael's breakdown of grips and timing for this sweep is second to none here!

2. Omoplata follow up: Sweep them with the shoulder lock. Struggling to finish this sweep? Ask yourself: What's elbow doing?

3. X-guard transition: Rafael is tall. Very tall. Just check him out standing next to me instructor Eddie Kone:

but in this segment, it's really cool to see how he methodically transitions into the X-guard and fits right under his opponent's hips off of them posturing up against his omoplata attack. True to his attacking nature, Lovato isn't just looking to pull X-guard, but rather attack with a sweep immediately. The other side of the coin is that he's always preparing you for opponents that like to attack with submissions so his triangle prevention after the sweep is much appreciated.

1. From closed guard to Spider guard: Rafael discussed when and how to open the guard and transition to the spider guard. Rafael also links the transitional positions he moves thru with the same positions from the guard passing point of view. Once the grips and shins are in place for the transition position, Rafael then shows you EXACTLY how to move to the classic spider guard structures with the feet are on the biceps and the leg lasso. The open guard, of which the spider guard is a variation, depends on distance management and Rafael Lovato Jr shares great understanding of that in this segment.

Bonus: Not only does Lovato show how to set up your grips, he shows you how to grip fight a knowledgable opponent who's trying to prevent you from doing so.

2. Omoplata attack from spider guard: Starting with aggressive grip fighting strategies, Lovato teaches you how to get set, ready and go! The way Lovato sets the posture break for the omoplata is modern and very effective, not just for this shoulder lock, but for other attacks from guard.

3. Triangle attack from spider guard: Where there's an omoplata, there's a triangle not too far. Lovato shows the necessary adjustments to finish the triangle choke from a spider guard set up.

4. Omoplata from the lasso: This is some serious jedi mind trickery. By knowing what to hold on to and what to let go off, Lovato guides the opponent along the path to getting caught with a very sneaky omoplata off the spider guard lasso.

5. Grip break to armbar: Jiujitsu is the gentle art of non-resistance. Or rather, of miss-direction of resistance. Opponent gripping your pants for dear life? Lovato shows here how to release that grip intelligently and land them in a very tight armlock with the inside of your knee. This is one of my favourite submissions from the guard.

6. Omoplata to monoplata transition: starting with the mechanics of breaking the opponent's posture in the omoplata position and increasing the pressure until they rol and give you the sweep, Lovato shows how elbow control facilitates following them to the top and finishing with the very technical monoplata or a hyper extended armbar.

7. Armbar counter to counter: This is a relatively narrow situation where the opponent counters your previous monoplata attack and you switch to a nearside armbar. Narrow, yet very useful and effective nonetheless.

8. Quick monoplata: Shortcuts! With the correct positioning, a light opponent will feel heavy as a mountain. Lovato shows here the correct positioning with his knees which will allow your opponent to move into the trap and, more importantly, nowhere else!

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Disc 2:

1. Hammer sweep: Spider guard sweep. Key? Distance and momentum. Lovato shows how to stretch and fold your legs to manage the distance and generate enough momentum to unbalance your opponent with the classic spider guard sweep.

2. Follow ups: Triangle and omoplata: If the opponent bases out with their weight or their elbow, be ready to follow up and submit them with a triangle or an omoplata.

3. Hammer sweep with the DLR (De La Riva): As soon as you put your foot on the biceps of an experienced jiujitsu player, it is very likely they post their opposite leg. Lovato shows the momentum and timing to transition to the De la riva hook and take deep delariva sweep. Differently to any other instructional I've seen on this sweep, Lovato takes great care to descibe how to follow up safely to the top and pass the guard.

4. DLR to the other side: Using inward pressure from the DLR hook, Lovato changes directions and takes his opponent down to the opposite side.

5. DLRX: This is a combination of the De La Riva guard hook and the X-guard. Imagine you have a deep DLR hook with your left leg. Now weave your right leg below your left into a crossed position against your opponent's left thigh. Lovato first shows how to set the position then he shows a multitude of sweeps and finishes. Yes, he shows submissions from this position.

6.  Shin hook: If there's no space behind the opponent's shin in the combat base they use against your spider guard biceps control, Lovato shows you how to go ankle to ankle and make them fall into your triangle and omoplata attacks.

7. Terere sweep from spider guard: the hook for this guard is similar to a reverse DLR. Once in position, Lovato counter pushes with the left foot on the biceps to spin the opponent to their back then follows with the knee cut pass.

8. Omoplata attack from spider guard against standing opponent: "The omoplata is a constant attack that I'm always looking for". By his own admission, this version is often more of a sweep than a submission but it's still a great way to attack the standing opponent. Lovato share a small detail on the open guard that I learnt from Rickson Gracie on one of his Invisible Jiujitsu seminars. Very effective and barely noticeable.

9. Foot in biceps sweep: Big boy sweep. One foot in biceps stretches the opponent while other foot facilitates the scoot under their hips to get the motion forwards. I've always struggled with thsis sweep and Lovato shows a very important half-step that you do to ensure their balance is compromised.

10. Spider guard to Z guard: This transition happens when the opponent has such great balance and steps over your leg to counter the foot in biceps sweep from the previous technique. Rafael transitions into a position that looks like you got your legs wrong from X-guard (picture below). It immediately reminded me of a sweep that I learnt from John Will which his instructor Rigan Machado called "First Cab off the Line" because of its immediacy. This is not an exact copy of that sweep which is a backwards sweep, but rather a forwards topple using either the knees or the feet. Very effective. Again, Rafael explains how to sit up properly afterwards and how to pass safely.

11. Z guard to backwards sweep: This is another sweep that works beautifully in partnership with the previous one. This one is much more similar to the "First Cab" sweep mentioned above. The idea is to topple the opponent backwards when they resist being toppled forwards. Using the foot to transition to a tight leg drag pass at the end is very neat.

12. The figure 4 sweep: What if the opponent sits their knee down next to your ear? You're now basically in deep half guard territory. Rafael shows how to change the underhooks to a nice, smooth rocking chair sweep and a safe over-under guard pass to follow.

13. Z guard to 1-legged-X-guard: This is a very obvious transition because of the geography of the legs. However, I don't quite call this position a 1 legged X guard, but rather an X guard. The reason being it looks a lot like an X guard and nothing like what Marcelo Garcia terms the 1 legged X guard. Again, Lovato shines in his before-during-after the technique teaching. He's a great performer, but just as good a teacher.

It just hit me here that this is a very advanced combination of techniques. This is very cool and very good but it's not something a white / blue belt needs to spend any time repping just yet.

14. Spider guard sit up sweep: Nice intro on how to transition from spider guard to DLR and then immediately to a sit up sweep. The grips in this sweep are a science onto themselves but they afford you total posture control. Caution: The amount of control you will have over your opponent's posture means they can easily fall very hard so be careful and gentle with all your training partners.

15. Inverted DLR Pe De Pano: Absolute BJJ world champion Pe De Pano was a wizard with this back in the early 2000s. Imagine what Saulo calls the sit-up guard but you miss getting your foot on his far knee. Lovato shows you how tightness and body movement can allow you to load the opponent's weight onto your shin and propell them forward and off you so you can get up to a tight side smash position.

16. Shin to shin hook sweep: Again, trouble shooting off the sit-up sweep. Move your butt back and secure a shin to shin (or rather an ankle to ankle position which you will then lift for a tight butterfly sweep.

16. Shin to shin to backwards sweep: Shin to shin, lift and release. Where does their foot step into? Right into your armpit. With hip curl and knee placement, you're immediately set up for a backwards sweep

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Disk 3:

1. Basic X-Guard sweep: Not only does Lovato show how he moves his body around to achieve the X-Guard position from the shin-to-shin guard position, he also discusses the invisible details such as pressure and weight distribution. The first sweep is off the spread of the opponent's legs apart and Rafael spends a decent amount of time explaining how to correctly finish the sweep, drag the opponent down and take his back successfully.

2. Backwards sweep from the X-Guard: I love this recurring theme of tying in technique with strategies and timing! Lovato discusses here how the backwards sweep and the previous one (the basic X-Guard Sweep) fit with each other timing and energy-wise.

3. X-Guard to the back: This is a personal favourite of mine. Lovato's method of manuevering his head under and behind the opponent is different from the one I learnt from John Will, but it's a beautiful alternative when you don't have both hands free.

4. X-Guard variation: by moving the top foot to the opponent's nearside hip, Lovato introduces a good option that allows you to elivate the opponent better.

5. Overhead sweep from X-Guard variation: if the opponent is giving you a low body weight, take advantage of that and roll them over your shoulder and just follow their momentum. Rafael advises to follow up with a quick knee slice pass to side control.

6. Submission attacks: This, shallower, foot positioning means you can shoot off into an omoplata (or a triangle) easier.

7. Reverse X-Guard: I first saw this demonstrated by Carlson Gracie Jr and it's my prefered method as it folds the shin away perfectly toppling the opponent forwards. Instead of going to the top with your second foot, you use it to block their ankle instead. The rest is the same as the basic X-Guard sweep.

8. Reverse X-Guard to back or sweep: If they try to re-align their weight onto you, reach back and peel their foot away from your shoulder infront of your face then slowly "build yourself up" as you take their back. I love that expression: "Build yourself up". The other option, if the opponent blocks your back take early by pummeling for an underhook to pass, Rafael shows a well timed hip movement and a kick-up combo that sweeps them onto their back, putting you into the leg drag position.

9. Inverted kick sweep: If, before you set your X-Guard hooks up on the far leg, the opponet drops to that knee, Rafael shows you how switching to the single leg x-guard allows you to effectively push them to generate the momentum for the basic X-Guard sweep. The second option is an upward / inverted kick that flips the opponent and sets you to pass right away.

10. Single leg X-guard against a standing opponent: This looks different from from what Marcelo Garcia and Emily Kwon refer to as the Single X. It's a very effective placement of the shins to topple the opponent backwards after you've controlled both legs.

11. Curu Curu sweep: If the opponent is bent over, taking them backwards is hard. This is where Lovato replaces his hook that's under the opponent with his second foot pushing which gives him a ton of leverage to lift and flip the opponent.

12. The Leandro Lo Sweep: Setting up from a bicep push off the spider guard, Lovato gets under the opponent, controls both feet and pushes the opponent backwards with the back of his leg then follows to the top half gaurd.

18. Lo entry to transitions: Having rocked, but not swept, the opponent with the Lo Sweep Rafael shows how the biceps push opens entries to a variety of positions (Z-guard, X-guard, Curu Curu...etc.)

19. Dealing with headquarter position: The HQ position is a term Rafael uses, refering to a strong and dominant guard passing position. As with any position, there are counters to what the opponent does. Advanced practitioners will find many of these movements reflexive and natural. They probably don't even think about doing them, which unfortunately makes them difficult to break down and teach to students. Fortunately, Rafael has done that job for us.

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Disk 4:

1. Inverted DLR from Spider guard: Threading one arm around the front of your opponent's ankle (under your own inverted DLR hook, Rafael shows how to maneouver to the opponent's back. Hard to describe so you need to see this slick transition.

2. Inverted DLR to reverse X-Guard: Off the same entry, Lovato looks at a slightly different transition, depending on the opponent's posture, where he spins under the opponent to the reverse X-Guard (where the second hook lands infront of the ankle and not infront of the far hip). The nice thing is that his head ends up behind the opponent's leg so he's already ready to sweep / take the back.

3. Roleta Sweep: Roleta swept everyone back in the day. This is a great transition from closed guard once your opponent stands up to open your guard. Off a double sleeve control, feet on hips and knees wide, Lovato wants you to let the feet shoot through the hips, taking the shins togewther to the armpits. Then, he punches the hands down propelling the opponent in an overhead roll. The beauty of this sweep is taking advantage of an opponent's natural reaction of pushing into your feet.

4. Plyer sweep: Another alternative when the opponent stands in your guard off the double sleeve control but they keep their knees close together and try to back away from you, is to release your legs and pinch their knees with the inside of your knees. Lovato also shows a great way to pincer their legs when they are slightly bent. The finish depends on the opponent's reactions but Rafael shows how crossing the opponent's wrists gives you a head up once they hit the ground, especially progressing straight into a side smash pass position.

5. Cross collar and sleeve omoplata: going from the closed guard to the cross collar and sleeve game (which looks a lot like a scissor sweep position), Lovato shows what the opponent can attempt to slow you down and what to do about it. From this position, which compromises the opponent's posture and control, Lovato shows strong entries to the omoplata by pivoting his hips and using the inside of his knee and the hand in the cross collar to break the opponent's posture. Not only to break the posture down, but to use the hand / fist in the collar to maintain correct distancing.

6. Cross collar and sleeve triangle: Posting the right foot against their biceps, Lovato shows how to time the triangle beautifully when they re-pummel their other elbow inside the leg. He also shows the importance of shooting the hips high to prevent any counters / escapes the opponnet might attempt.

7. Super Scissor Sweep: Anything titled "Super" has to be good, right?! Lovato shares his secret to the scissor sweep: Being at an angle that gives you more momentum as a sweeper than the defender. The way Rafael creates this angle is similar to what Saulo shows in his fantastic gi DVD series - Jiujitus Revolution 2: Get on the elbow then shoot yourself back making them leaning into you. The main difference is that Saulo creates more of a sideways angle and actually reverses his grips on the sleeve (the two go hand in hand as the grip switch afords him more of an angle).

8. Face Plant: If you liked the name of the previous technique, you're going to love this one. Again, this is similar to a technique from Saulo's DVD series, which is understandable as Saulo and his brother Xande Ribeiro are Rafael's main teachers since his black belt days. Lovato's starting structure for this is not the scissor position but rather what I call the single butt cheek butterfly position. He proceeds from the starting position by moving his support hand sideways, follow it with his same side foot then follows that foot with the same side hip and kicks his opponent's knee open. This is arm-drag-like motion propells their face into the mat and allows you to either jump to the back or, the more likely scenario, take them over to a great passing position. Again, Rafael's level of detail of exactly where to move your hips and limbs and the mindset behind the techniques is really what sets these instructional BJJ DVDs apart.

9. Follow ups: This type of teaching is my favourite - "What ifs". The first one is "Garcia Roll" where the opponent is trying to transition straight into half or deep half guard. The mindset, Rafael explains, is to keep his chest glued to the opponent's back, like a human back-pack, and stay one step ahead the whole time, taking their back and shooting the hand in for the collar choke. Rafael Lovato is a finisher. He makes this very clear throughout the DVDs. He's always looking for the finish.

The next option is when the opponent counters your Face Plant pull with an underhook to prevent the back take. While this does indeed prevent the back take, it does spread and open their arm for an immediate omoplata attack. I say immediate because Lovato stresses how the energy flows in the same direction throughout the whole movement.

10. Simple backwards sweep: The opponent resists the pull by taking their body weight backwards. Riding the momentum, Rafael controls the knee and angles his shin across that thigh into a tight side control. From a competition point of view, Lovato clarifies that this is indeed a sweep but as you never really find yourself in their guard, there are no guard pass points.

11. Getting under from the cross collar: Using the hand in the collar, Rafael shows how to get under an opponent who counters forwards instead of backwards. He shows how important it is to use the heels to move your own weight forwards rather than trying to drag them onto you. Once you've lifted them up with your hooks and the cross lapel grip, the first option he shows is the single x-guard sweep backwards, but he also acknowledges the multiple factors that can affect your choice of follow-up.

12. Getting under to backwards sweep: Don't you hate it when the opponent crosses their legs around your ankles to stop all your attacks? That's the perfect time to do this move. Take them back far enough to give yourself room to get up, follow them and perform a variation of the Simple Backwards Sweep.

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Disc 5: 1hr 33min

1. Loop Choke: Picking up from the previous collection hand in the cross collar techniques, Rafael Lovato Jr moves into setting up chokes - The Loop Choke. Rafael shows the snap down all the way through to different versions to finish it. I had not seen these neck-cranking variations anywhere except on a seminar with 4th degree Machado jiujitsu black belt Mr John Will. The IBJJF doesn't allow spine locks without a choke, so these variations will indeed be legal!

2. Cross collar and sleeve hook sweep: When the weight comes forward, Lovato shows how bending the frame arm and catching opponent's arm allows you to shift to your side and lift them for a hook sweep. The details Rafael shows you to prevent them crushing your knees together are a nice touch.

3. Hook sweep to single leg X-guard: As the opponent resists the previous technique by posting wide with their foot, Lovato uses his limbs and hip movement to enter under the opponent's hips and set up the single leg X-guard.

4. Hook sweep to Cross Choke: This is a beautiful technique shown in Saulo's book "Jiujitsu University" where multiple factors break the opponent's balance and drop his weight, neck first, into your cross choke. Super tight technique where you are slightly sideways.

5. Face Plant to ankle pick: A couple of small variations of the Face Plant pull adjusting to the opponent starting from a Combat Base position rather than off the knees. Simple and effective.

6. Cross collar shin to shin to X-guard sweep: That's a mouthful of a title. Lovato shows how his positioning sets him up to enter into the shin to shin position to lift the leg and set up the X-guard.

7. Variations when they stand against the cross collar grip: To counter the opponent's, now faster, circular motions Lovato shows how to adjust his positioning to keep the opponent in his guard. He follows that with options for ankle pick, face plant and finally shin-to-shin entries.

8. Cross collar omoplate from standing: Again, adjusting to a standing opponent, Lovato shows how to use the opponent's eagerness to grab your collar. He secures their grip then shoots his foot to the hip with tension and intention. How to prevent them from passing in the move? With correct angling and hip movement. This movement is branded as a simple variation of something already taught on this BJJ DVD series, but it has a wealth of additional information on angling and momentum generation and grip fighting to prevent the opponent from countering.

9. Cross Collar extension omoplata: If you are struggling to get the foot against their hip thanks to the opponent peeling it off with the outside of their elbow, Lovato shows you how to use the second foot to extend the opponent's base & extend the near arm, facilitating the kick-over omoplata. Correct use of momentum makes it near impossible to posture against this attack.

10. Transition to Deep DLR with options: Once you see how Rafael pushes the far thigh, you can see the angles and entries to the far leg De La Riva X-grip with a leg swing. From there, Lovato shows how the control affords him to scoot in, lift the opponent and throw them backwards by removing the leg that's behind them. Otherwise, he shows the option to swith to the double sleeve control and topple the opponent forwards instead. Both versions are finished off with side crush pass positions.

11. Short DLR with options: Lift the hips, load them up, lift and sweep. This is a beautiful expression of leverage and momentum.

12. Faking to the omoplata: The lift from the previous technique is very powerful and will disrupt your opponent's balance enough to force them to respect it and base out, giving you great options to swing back for the previous omoplata attack.

13. Setting up grips when not attached: The most important aspect of guard, according to Lovato, is setting your grips first and better than the opponent. "Don't start on the defence", says the world champion. The first scenario is from being on your back against a standing opponent. He highlights the importance of keeping your legs close to you so you can re-grip their grip and immediately block one biceps before freeing the opposite leg and posting against their hip and then freeing the first leg and entering the guard HQ position.

14. Scenario #2: Sitting up, backing away and starting from sit-up position. Priorities? Hand in the collar then the sleeve. Grip fighting is an art in itself and Rafael is a great teacher of this skill. Alternatively, Lovato shows you the correct order of play to enter into a double sleeve grip.

15. Review of the "Box" concept and the Guard HQ: The "Box" is what Lovato uses to refer to the torso. He highlights that his priority is always to dominate as many of the four corners (the inside of the shoulders and the two hip joints) of the torso as possible and he links this concept to a few different positions that he used throughout the DVD series. He also shows that he will constantly rewind back this position everytime the guard passer manages to free one corner or dominate against him. "My focus is to always be comfortable in the guard, before I start thinking about my next offense".

I was very impressed with this DVD series. Lovato is a great player and always portrays himself as a gentleman and, just as importantly, shows himself to be a very technical and deliberate teacher with great attention to detail and to concepts and not just techniques. The breadth of techniques and positions he covers in this series is enough to keep any jiujitsu player busy for years and years. He does not skimp on details nor on number of variations.

Disclaimer: This is a sport gi jiujitsu set. This is not universal for no gi, self defence or MMA. Having said that, it is an excellent one at that. If you are brand new beginner, this set will be overwhelming. I personally think this is a great set for the competition oriented purple or brown belt or even higher but not necessarily the first set to buy as a white / blue belt grappler.

I'd like to thank Mr Rafael Lovato Jr for being awesome and for sending me this set to review.



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