How to Throw Defensive, Stiff-Arming, Bent-Over Opponents

Judo throws vs defensive, bent over opponents

A reader writes…

Question: Hi Stephan,

I’m looking for a way to incorporate some of judo take-downs into my BJJ game, but I’m having a lot of difficulty finding throws that work with the low center of gravity that is so central to the jiu-jitsu defence against throws.

The defensive bent-over posture makes it nearly impossible to get good access to their hips, or even their legs while grappling, and the front throws that seem to remain are mostly what I’d call sacrifice throws, which include the risk of leaving your opponent in a superior position.

The low center of gravity, and the willingness to go to ground make even these throws a high risk proposition for me to attempt on any but the newest jiu-jitsu grapplers.

Any suggestions for attacking this kind of defensive posture?


Answer: Hi Sam,

That’s a totally valid question; a lot of people have that same problem.

In fact if you go to any BJJ tournament you’ll see a ton of bad judo: guys bent over at the waist, desperately stiffarming their opponents, mixed in with occasional feeble leg grabs.

This type of fighting is tiring, ineffective, and just plain isn’t good for the sport!

So let’s talk about some very effective attacks you can use against this sort of bent-over posture.  (Note that most of my suggestions today are coming from a gi-based BJJ point of view).

People bend over like this because they think it’ll keep them safe from getting thrown.

Standing like this lowers their center of gravity.  Their hips are further away, making it harder for you to use many of the classic judo throws.  Plus they’re trying to block your route to their legs, making it harder to successfully attack with single and double leg takedowns.

It’s a super-defensive game, which can be very frustrating if you’ve come there to fight!

Judo players, by contrast, train and compete in a much more upright posture.  But this is only because posture and gripping in Judo are enforced by an elaborate system of rules and penalties.

If you bend over and defensively stiffarm your opponents in Judo competition then you’ll quickly get dinged with a whole bunch of match-losing penalties.

But BJJ has far fewer rules about posture, gripping, and stiffarming…

And that’s why competitors who aren’t comfortable on their feet tend to instinctively adopt this stance.  They’re not going to be able to attack from there, but on the other hand they’re also relatively safe from getting thrown.

Or so they think…

Standing bent over like this is NOT a good idea for your opponent because you DO have a bunch of good solutions to this problem!

First Major Option: Jerk Him Down Repeatedly

Here’s one really simple answer given to me by Yasuhiro Yamashita, who is arguably the most successful Judo competitors in the history of the sport.

Yamashita said that if someone bends over into defensive posture then you should simply grab their gi, circle backwards, and repeatedly jerk them down towards the ground really hard.

Getting shaken up like this is extremely tiring and uncomfortable, and most opponents will straighten up right away, at which point you can go to your conventional throws.

This seems like simple advice, but I’d take it very seriously.  After all, there’s a reason that Yamashita had an unprecedented 203 consecutive victories at the highest level of Judo competition…

Second Major Option: Go for the Over-the-Back Belt Grip

But let’s say that Yamashita’s strategy doesn’t work for you…  If your opponent stays bent over and doesn’t straighten up then you can still throw him using an unorthodox gripping strategy.

You see, by using defensive posture to protect his legs and his hips he inadvertently exposes a different target: the back of his body and his belt!

So try this: grab a lapel, jerk him forwards, and immediately go over his shoulder with your other hand to grab the back of his belt.

Once you have this over-the-shoulder belt grip you can toss your opponent with lots of different of Judo and Sambo throws.

Just to get you started, here are a few options to throw people with this particular grip. I’ve included links to videos for each throw, so if you’re serious about this topic then make sure to click on each link, OK?

One popular throw is called ‘Obi Tori Gaeshi.’  Although it’s often shown as a counter to a double leg tackle you can use it any time you get this grip.

Here’s one way to do Obi Tori Gaeshi as taught by Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki, one of the greatest sacrifice throw artists in Judo:

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A related throw is called ‘Yoko Sumi Gaeshi.’

I once watched Oleg Taktarov, one of the great early UFC fighters, toss about 10 judo black belts in a row using this exact throw, so you know it’s good.

Oleg had a very strong background in Sambo, and his basic gripping strategy was always to control one arm, move it out of the way, and then get a grip on the belt by going around the side of his body.

I don’t have any video of Oleg teaching this throw,  but you can see some examples of this same throw – Yoko Sumi Gaeshi – at these two links here:

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Now both of these first two throws (Obi Tori Gaeshi and Yoko Sumi Gaeshi) look and feel a bit like guard sweeps… And this is a good thing from our perspective.

Because they’re not high amplitude they’re also not too intimidating for BJJ players.  This makes them them good techniques to start with…

But if you’re feeling athletic (and want to get some footage for your highlight reel) you might consider training a Russian high amplitude throw known as the ‘Khabarelli’ from the over-the-shoulder grip.  Ouch!!

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It’s important that you understand that these are just starting options!  In addition to these three throws (Obi Tori Gaeshi, Yoko Sumi Gaeshi, and the Khabarelli) there are LOTS of other techniques and variations from that over-the-back belt grip in Judo and Sambo.

But let’s say that you get the belt grip but now his base is too good and you just CANNOT manage to throw him.

What can you do?

Try this…  Get the same grip, rest your weight on him, keep your legs out of grabbing range, jerk him around, and don’t worry too much.

Even if you can’t throw him you ARE controlling him with that grip and he’ll still freak out.  He’ll burn a lot of energy trying to fight off your grip and get back upright, at which point you can attack him with more conventional throws.

But What About No-Gi?

Let’s say that you’re sparring no-gi. Obviously in a no-gi context you can’t grip the belt…

But you can still take advantage of the hunched-over posture by continuously hunting for the guillotine and/or the front headlock and/or snapping his head down and running around behind him.

You can see a no-gi example of that in the second half of this video here:

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If you harass him with these attacks long enough he’ll eventually straighten up, at which point you can shoot in low for your own takedown.

Or he might just decide to pull guard, so make sure that you remain on alert for that too!

Now obviously none of my advice can possibly replace getting some proper instruction in a formal Judo, Sambo, or wrestling class.

But if it’s too hard for you to make it to a good takedowns class there are a few good resources for you online.  Then grab a partner and start drilling the throws (carefully!).  A few thousand reps later you may just have a throw that works for you against those pesky, super defensive opponents!

I hope that this was of some use to you!

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