The famous berimbolo technique is making its 14th anniversary since it was first spotted on a major tournament at the black belt level. That competition was the IBJJF World Championship, and the match was the light featherweight final between Samuel Braga and Gabriel Moraes, Braga’s debut on the pro scene.
Unlike what many followers of our sport/martial art may think, it was Braga who developed the position during his purple belt days, hitting it many times at the lower belt categories, before his 2005 black belt debut. “Ever since I was a white belt, I have always done De La Riva, and I used to do well sitting up and sweeping forward“, said Braga of the development stages of his berimbolo, “guys started stepping back to defend so I started rolling while controlling the arm, out of pure instinct“. As is the case with the most effective systems, the position came from a long line of trial-and-error stages on the mats and when one “new” answer was created, a rebuttal followed, “I started inverting and rolling with their arm but when they became cleaver to this and hid their arm, I would get stuck, spending most of the roll inverted trying to find the limb. Then, as a purple belt, I started kicking forward to expose the back and had lots of success. No one expected it“.
A breakthrough moment for Braga and his berimbolo was at the final of the 2002 World Championship when purple belt Samuel Braga used the berimbolo and almost got the back control, conquering instead the advantage points for his effort. From then on, he drilled the position to exhaustion and “As a brown belt, I won every major match with this position. At the time no one paid attention to the lower belts, and it was only when I arrived at the black belt division that people started looking at what I was doing, but the berimbolo was fine-tuned in the previous belts. Years of drilling.”
When inquired about what was the name of the position prior to its Berimbolo label, Samuel explains. “In Brazil we never coined positions, we would just explain them, especially at the time. In the USA people name everything and it was here that the name stared, after the Mendes used it around 2010” (more on the birth of the ‘Berimbolo’ name here).
But for Samuel Braga, the big evolution of the game came by way of the Miyao Brothers, a huge endorsement from one of the world’s best: “In 2011-2012 the Miyao’s broke out. They really got my attention not only for modernizing the berimbolo but also for adding the Crab Ride and the Twister Hook. These things really pushed the game to the next level“.