"I started training bjj regularly in 2011 when I was in my early 30s. Initially I focused on butterfly and X-guard, which was such an elegant game that worked at the highest levels both gi and no gi. But I found that my younger and more athletic training partners would just blow past my guard and I didn't have any answer. I did ok in tournaments, but same thing, I couldn't contain the quicker guys and was always losing scrambles. I'd medal but not often gold, and I felt like I was over the hill and saw more and more younger guys passing me up.
I liked half-guard since my first few months of training because I could slow people down, and because unlike closed guard I could get there from even the worst positions (mount, back, side control). But I didn't have any reliable sweeps - until I learned Bernardo's game. He came to my academy when I was a blue belt and taught us his deep half guard game, and I started sweeping everyone. Not getting lucky, but sweeping guys that I had never swept before, several times in the same round - even after they knew what sweep I was going to do. If you wound up in my deep half guard, you were going to get swept. Even in no gi, where his lapel controls disappear, Bernardo had techniques that turned half guard from a single-leg wrestling position to a true sweeping position.
My tournament turnaround was even more dramatic. I never won an ibjjf gold in two years as a blue belt, but as a purple belt I won gold in every tournament I entered, even in absolute divisions against guys who outweighed me by 100lbs. Two weeks after getting my brown belt in mid 2015 I won open weight gold in my first tournament (an IBJJF Pro), and in November of 2016 won my first IBJJF No Gi World Championship in Master 2 Middleweight.
What changed? Did I quit my job, ditch my family, get on TRT, and start training every day? No, no, no, and no. I kept working 60hr work weeks, taking care of my three young kids, and I was still a 6' middleweight with 15% body fat who trained a few nights per week and on Saturday if my wife let me. What changed was my game. I modeled it after Bernardo's, who will be the first to tell you that his game does not require athleticism, flexibility, or thousands of hours of drilling. It only requires a combination of technique and the gritty determination that you see in every one of Bernardo's matches. I'm not saying it's easy being on the bottom of a heavy cross-face in deep half guard, but when you're confident you'll sweep and go right into a pressure pass, the discomfort is totally worth it.
You might not be lucky enough to train under Bernardo personally, but his DVDs cover so much detail around his game that you can learn it from them. I remember getting the Faria Guard DVD, watching it, and coming to class with a whole new set of details that he'd never actually taught in class but showed on his DVD. The same thing was true of all his DVDs (and yes I bought them all).
So - if you're an experienced competitor and want to take your bjj game to another level, one that works against opponents regardless of how much bigger or more athletic they are, try Bernardo's game. And if you're a white or blue belt still early in your bjj journey, what a great time to choose a style for yourself that has unlimited upside, but is practical regardless of your physical characteristics."
Jeffrey Holman, Brown Belt