The use of the lapel as an offensive and defensive tool in jiu-jitsu is likely to be as old as the sport itself, yet, there is no questioning as to who pushed for its advancement and application at the highest level, Keenan Cornelius. Ever since the Legion AJJ Team founder first revealed his Worm Guard System to the world back in 2014, at the IBJJF Pan American Championships, the lapel guard has exponentially grown into an almost infinite number of techniques.
Arguably the single “gi-game” in the sport with the most growth over the past 6 years, the Lapel Guard has led us to a new breed of athletes who “grew up” in a sport where this control is a dominant force. A “Geração Lapela” (Lapel Generation), if we may.
At the forefront of “Geração Lapela” is Rui Alves, of the Dream Art Project in São Paulo, Brazil. A purple belt who has made the Worm Guard and its variations a fundamental part of his game. In a short dive into Alves’ purple belt career, one we made at the 2020 European Open, we accounted for Rui using the lapel game in 64% of his successful point and submission maneuvers.
Although only 21 years old, Rui had a slight head-start over the average grappler of equal age. His father, Nilson de Melo Alves, is an accomplished jiu-jitsu black belt and it was he who initiated young Alves in the sport, back in his hometown of Carapicuíba, São Paulo.
“I began training in my home garage, with my dad. I only started training at a traditional academy a few months before being accepted by Dream Art. I was training with Professor Branco at Gracie Barra Cotia at that time, but that only happened because my father had changed jobs and could no longer train me.” Rui explained to BJJ Heroes in an interview taken on January 2021.
A natural talent, Rui is fortunate enough to have his parents’ backing in his efforts to become one of the top medium-heavyweights in the world, something he is on schedule to accomplish, and as soon as the international circuit re-opens, expect Alves to be in a leading role at the purple belt division.
On Alves’ sights are the two hardest tournaments in the sport, the World Championships and the Brazilian Nationals (Brasileiro). Although with equal levels of difficulty, Rui believes they offer different angles of hardship: “I believe the Mundial [Worlds] is the hardest, mentally speaking. It is everybody’s dream to conquer that tournament, the added pressure is one of the toughest barriers to overcome, but technically speaking – in the colored belts – the Brasileiro is probably the toughest. It has so many tough guys who cannot get a visa to compete in the USA for the World Championship. For them, the Nationals becomes the end goal.”
Despite the difficulties of these tournaments, Rui has managed to conquer both in 2019, a testament to the young man’s talent and hard work. These tools and his masterful lapel guard turned Alves into an open weight division boogeyman, counting gold medals at the IBJJF World Championships (2019 blue belt), South American Championship (2019 purple belt), and European Open (2020 purple belt), deeds he hopes to repeat when the international circuit re-opens.
Important Achievements by Rui Alves:
2020 AJPT Grand Slam, RJ – purple, 85 kilos – gold
2020 IBJJF South American Championship – purple, absolute – bronze
2020 IBJJF South American Championship – purple, 94 kilos – silver
2020 IBJJF European Open – purple, absolute – gold
2020 IBJJF European Open – purple, 88 kilos – bronze
2019 IBJJF South American Championship – purple, absolute – gold
2019 IBJJF South American Championship – purple, 88 kilos – bronze
2019 IBJJF World Championship – blue, absolute – gold
2019 IBJJF World Championship – blue, 88 kilos – silver
2019 IBJJF Brazilian Nationals – blue, 88 kilos – gold