Rodrigo Pagani – The Gangster

Rodrigo Pagani is an OG Black belt from the Saulo Ribiero Jiu-Jitsu team. He is also the Director for the RJJA in Brazil and the creator of both the Magretti choke AND the Curu Curu Guard!

Years ago I played competitive chess and there was always a sense of esteem attached to a player who had an opening named after them: The Nimzovitch defense, The Steinitz defense, The Ruy Lopez…Fast forward, and BJJ players like Ricardo De La Riva, invoke the same sense of awe in me for their forward thinking vision. With so much history behind the game of chess and the game of BJJ it is awe inspiring when a player pioneers a new technique. Such is also the case with Rodrigo Pagani and the Cur Curu guard.

I got an e-mail from one of my sponsored athletes, Daniel Sawmiller, telling me that there was going to be a special team seminar with Rodrigo Pagani at the Lima BJJ Academy in Lima, OH. So……I put in a call to school owner and head Black belt: Professor Jeremy Harris (an all-around good guy with whom I have a good relationship). I told him that Daniel had given me a heads up and just asked if I could wrangle an invite. Fortunately for me, the answer was yes 🙂

This seminar was my first introduction to the Curu Curu guard. I hadn’t even heard of it before, but after asking a black belt at my school I was informed that it was getting pretty popular on the tournament scene and that Professor Pagani had “created” it.

This turned out to be a GREAT seminar for me since the Curu Curu guard is closely related to the X-Guard, which I had been playing with for about two years at that point.

For those who haven’t had any experience with it (like myself prior to this seminar) the Curu Curu is a variation of single leg X-guard where, instead of scooping under the opponents leg and placing the ankle at your shoulder, you keep the ankle in your armpit (like a straight ankle lock) then you use your foot, placed strategically on the large tendon of the groin, to extend and raise the opponent off of the floor, almost guaranteeing the sweep! ( (The video below was shot at the exact same seminar I was attending. Partnering with “The Gangster” is Professor Jeremy Harris, who happens to be wearing the YoloBJJ ProComp 450)!

In the video, Rodrigo states that the benefit of Curu Curu -vs- X-Guard is that, with X-guard, you only have the opportunity to sweep in one direction where as with the Curu Curu you can sweep in any direction. I will say that I am not sure what he meant by “you can only sweep in one direction with X-Guard” (paraphrased), since you can easily sweep in at least two directions (forward and backward) but, he probably meant that you can sweep, mainly, on ONE AXIS whereas, with Curu Curu, you can sweep in virtually any of 180 degrees, depending on how your opponent moves to try to balance himself. Balancing yourself, by the way, when your adversary has secured the Curu Curu, is virtually impossible unless you have the legs of a giraffe!

One of the really cool things that Professor Pagani did was to line us all up against the wall at the beginning of the seminar (after warm-ups) and invite us each out, one-at-a-time, to try and pass / not get swept by is Curu Curu! We started with him on his back with the Curu Curu secured and then just went, as long as it took, to sweep everyone in the room, including Professor Harris!

We spent the better part of two hours working three variations of the Curu Curu. Each of them focused on a “what-if” scenario where “if” your opponent tries to “sit-down” on the guard we executed one sweep. If your opponent tried to reach out and base with his far hand, we executed a different sweep. And, if your opponent tried to base with his close hand, we executed a third sweep.

I have to say, I REALLY like the intuitive nature of the sweeps from Curu Curu. I felt like, once I have my opponent elevated, I can sweep him regardless of which direction he tries to move!

Personally, since I began working on X-guard much sooner than Curu Curu, I currently use Curu Curu as a “fall-back” in the case that, for some reason, I am just having a lot of trouble getting one of my X-sweeps. It really works well on super long legged guys, who normally are super difficult to sweep for me (with my short legs).

No doubt, this was a great seminar! And, if you like playing off your back, and especially if you are familiar and looking to expand your X-Guard game this guard is an excellent add-on and, obviously stands on its own as well!

*Note – Special thanks to Todd Shaffer and White Belt BJJ for the video!

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