GTR Archives 2000-2019


Why Rickson Hates Berimbolo

 (and 50-50)

By Roberto Pedreira

Posted June 12, 2017

On July 10, 2015, Revista Tatame asked Rickson Gracie for his thoughts on the berimbolo. Tatame explained, for those who hadn't heard, that berimbolo is a position that occurs when the guardeiro (the guard player) turns and inverts and thereby attempts to desequilibrar (destabilize) the opponent. Having done so, he will then, in principle, have accomplished a raspagem (shave, or sweep) and will have a chance to take the adversary's back.

Rickson spoke up: "It is a specific technique, which aims only at winning a medal. What is the application of berimbolo in Vale-Tudo or self-defense? Positions shouldn't be used to stall the action. The purpose of Jiu-Jitsu is to be better than the other guy on the mat. In my entire career, I have never won by points. Never. That would have been a loss for me. Thanks to God, I finalized (submitted) all of my opponents. Rarely, an opponent lasted 8 minutes with me. Actually, it only happened once."

Rickson also talked about the 50-50, that terrible position which had become the topic of tremendous polemics in the BJJ community. Many people believe that the 50-50 serves no other purpose than to stall the match (amarrar o duelo).

Rickson didn't like the 50-50: "What is the purpose of this technique? To finish the guy? If not, I'm not interested.  What I'm interested in are positions that lead to submissions. If I'm in the guard, I want to pass. If I pass, I want to mount. Continuing, step by step, to take the foot, the arm, or the neck. It is a ladder leading to death. Anything that slows the pace of the fight to rest or to force the adversary to use strength, doesn't demonstrate the aim of a hunter to kill (or capture) the prey. And a fight is like that, the hunter versus the prey".

How do the Brazilian fans and stylists think about Rickson's opinions?


"This guy (Rickson) is a sport nut but when he opens his mouth nothing interesting comes out. This family thinks they own Jiu-Jitsu. Berimbolo is just a technique." (Berimbolo é pura tecnica).


"Berimbolo, yes, but 50-50 is a crap position.  It is a shit position exactly as he (Rickson) said, to stall the fight and get points while staying in the same position. If the opponent doesn't escape, the match will go on for 10 minutes like that. I have seen many matches like that."


"Obviously, it's just a technique, but in what context? In case you didn't understand, the master (Rickson) was talking about self-defense and MMA. You need to understand the interview and then explain the meaning and then explain the meaning of the meaning...". 


"Rikian, if you think a moment, my friend, a  guy who can impose the berimbolo knows how to fight on top, the question of self-defense is going to be different, and for MMA, he is going to adapt his technique to the requirements of the situation. Or do you think that no art can be adapted for MMA? You are a retard wanting to win like that but you don't know how to say so directly, you son of a whore!"


"Exactly!! BJJ is the hunter versus the prey. ....Can you do a berimbolo on asphalt? Can you do a 50-50 on a prey with 150 kg?"


"'Concluded the Samurai' what?"


"Judas Coyne, saying 'o cara domina o berimbolo tambem sabe lutar por cima.' You have no idea what you're talking about. If we apply an analogy to the principle of Pareto, we can say that even to dominate the berimbolo would be a waste of time in self-defense and MMA."


"Where is my comment, Revista Tatame?"


"His (Rickson's) interview was emphatic in saying that neither berimbolo nor 50-50 are useful for self-defense. GM (Grand Master) Helio Gracie ALWAYS emphasized that JJ should be for self-defense and not for scoring points in a tournament. Someone who lives to score points is a seamstress. A practitioner of JJ lives to finalize."


"I have nothing but respect for Rickson, but I totally disagree with his opinion. First, he should consider the era in which he began his Jiu-Jitsu career. Those were times when the Gracie family dominated the gentle art (a arte suave, i.e., jiu-jitsu).  It isn't that way anymore. It's like comparing the futebol (soccer, football) of Pelé with the futebol of today. In my opinion, Pelé would not be the King of Futebol  and wouldn't have scored more than 1,000 goals if he were playing today. [Marcos  digresses on the subject of old versus new futebol, while interesting, it is omitted here for the sake of brevity.] "In my view, the problem is that the Gracies think that jiu-jitsu should stay like it was in the old days. They think that everyone should fight like they did in the old days. I can't agree with that."


"What master Rickson said is true. I don't have the patience to watch jiu-jitsu championships, they have lost the essence [of jiu-jitsu]. Jiu-jitsu matches are disgusting, just stalling."


"It's ludicrous. Rafael Mendes and Miyao take the back of many people and finalize. Now that his son (Kron) doesn't manage to win anything, he is just flapping his gums and seeking attention. Everything in life evolves, including jiu-jitsu. The important thing is not only to finalize the guys in the championship. That's old jiu-jitsu!!! End of story."


GTR's opinion is that finalizations are good and probably everyone wants to get them. But they are hard to get, because defense is easier than attack, and people have good defenses these days. Or possibly, they want to avoid losing more than the want to win. And also because their priorities have changed. Winning by any means, whether by submissions or points or referee decision, is rewarding. Competitors respond to incentives, and there are incentives for scoring points, therefore if competitors can't finish the opponent, winning by points is the next best thing. They probably think strategically as well (as in, "I have a 10% chance of finishing X with a 30% chance of losing the match if I try, whereas I have a 55% chance of winning on points, if I play more conservatively".  A lot of competitors will opt for the strategy with the larger potential pay-off, defined as the value of the outcome discounted by the probability that it will happen). As in the manly art of boxing, people who go for the big attacks also expose themselves to big counter-attacks (sluggers "field a lot of leather", as boxing commentators say). Thus, playing it safe and avoiding danger is a valid tactic, although demonstrably less fan-pleasing than swinging for the fences in pursuit of KOs or submissions.

There are two other issues here. One is that even in the old days, most fights did not end with submissions. Submissions are hard to get. They always have been. Rickson has said on several occasions that "if there is no submission, it is because there is no technique".  But according to his dad, Helio Gracie, and his nephews, Ryron and Rener, there is technique in defense as well as attack. In fact, they seem to agree that the real essence of jiu-jitsu lies in "surviving the attack". Not losing is winning, they say. 

Rickson may have won every match by submission, but no one else did.

And what if the opponent is just as technical at defense as you are at attack?

The second issue is practical. Tournaments are marketing tools. Competitors want those medals. Tournaments are elimination-style. That means that every match has to have a winner. Since as a matter of cold hard reality, submissions aren't going to be happening that often, there must be points and competitors will respond to incentives and seek those points. Because they want to avoid being eliminated, they will sometimes forego chances to finish rather than risk losing out on points (and a potential win by points).

A small irony here is that Rickson's dad, Helio Gracie, was, during his first ring career (1932-1936), one of those people who aimed at boring defensive matches (which fans hated). It was Helio's older brother George who took risks and went for the submissions (which fans loved). George got more submissions and pleased the fans, but he also lost more. That's the way it works. George and Helio both went for submissions when circumstances were favorable, but George went for them even when circumstances should have counseled greater defensiveness.  George wanted to win by submission, Helio wanted to avoid losing (for details see Choque vol. 1)  

More interviews with 

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

Rickson Gracie

Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie 

Helio Gracie

Rener and Ryron


(c) 2017, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.






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