People often ask me what the easiest throws or takedowns are for BJJ competition.
My usual advice is that takedowns are great. They bring the fight to your opponent, score 2 points, set you up to pass the guard, and allow you to fight from the top. All of which are good things.
Now I love wrestling and judo, and think that takedowns are essential skills, but training them to a high level also takes a lot of time and repetitions.
For the casual practitioner this takes away time working on other skills you could be developing. And unlike your guard passing and guard retention skills which you’ll need throughout the majority of your BJJ matches, your dominant gripping and killer throw can be negated in an instant by your opponent pulling guard.
Also it’s undeniable that training and sparring with takedowns is inherently more dangerous than working on the ground.
The damage isn’t so much the throws themselves, it usually comes from the sudden impact on the mats at the end.
So many things can go wrong when two people are toppling towards the ground at high speed wrapped up together. Go watch a Judo tournament and see how many people get carted off to the hospital on spine boards compared to the average jiu-jitsu tournament; I think you’ll find it shocking. It’s no wonder that all old Judoka are orthopaedic messes!
So here’s my generalised takedown advice…
First, spend time working on your standing gripfighting so that it’s much harder for an opponent to dominate you on your feet.
It’s hard to overstate how frustrating it can be for your rival when he can’t get the grips he wants or needs. It can even be hard for him to pull guard effectively if you’re crushing him in the grip game. Plus many gripping strategies work just just as well in the guard and against the guard as they do on the feet, so your training in this area is double duty!
When you compete then getting a dominant grip won’t be that hard if you know what you’re doing and he doesn’t.
In fact just feeling you control his body with a solid grip usually convinces most opponent to pull guard right away, so be ready for that and be on the lookout to pass this guard during the butt flopping motion.
Next, spend some time developing two or three easy, simple, low amplitude throws.
Amazing high amplitude throws like Judo’s Uchi Mata or a suplex from wrestling (and others covered in Judo Throws for BJJ) that arc your opponent through the sky and crash him into the mat are undeniably cool. But these athletic throws take a lot of time to perfect, and are inherently more dangerous for you and your training partners.
The big throws also don’t score you any more points in BJJ competition that the most humble little trips or ankle picks.
For BJJ purposes work on the easier, lower amplitude throws which might include ankle picks, sacrifice throws, snap downs, single and double leg takedowns.
Don’t be predictable. Set your throws up with little fakes. Move, move, move, throw. Fake east, go west. Try your first throw, follow it up with your second.
And if all this fails, pull guard yourself.
And if you can’t get your grips then pull guard.
If your opponent gets a strong grip on you and you can’t break it right away, pull guard.
And if you have a great grip but can’t throw your opponent keep your grips, pull guard, and attack right away. Usually a great grip on the feet gets you off to a good start on the ground too.
The bottom line is that you DON’T want to spend 5 minutes bent over at the waist doing bad Judo. Live and die by your A game, which presumably is your jiu-jitsu. Don’t let the match get determined in an area that you’re not super comfortable in.
My Favourite Throwing Sequence
All this being said, here’s my favorite gripping sequence.
It was heavily influenced by what I learned from Oleg ‘The Russian Bear’ Taktarov, a Sambo practitioner and early UFC Champion. I once saw Oleg easily throw an entire room of Judo blackbelts, using this one grip and and the second throw (Yoko Sumi Gaeshi) from the video and article below, over and over.
Here are the the different options in video format…
Before the Throw: Getting the Across-the-Back Grip
The core of this strategy is to get the ‘across-the-back’ grip.
This is a position very similar to the two-on-one position in wrestling, but a little easier because you have gi material you can grab rather than just having to hang onto a sweaty arm.
(Incidentally this same sequence works brilliantly from the guard where it leads into all kinds of sweeps, backtakes, and submission opportunities!)
Here’s the sequence pictorially, and we’ll cover each step in a bit more detail below…
Step 1 – Bait with the elbow
This is the basic posture. It looks a bit ‘Kung Fu’ but it’s a trap. You’re inducing him to grab the nearest limb (your right arm) with a grip that won’t be very strong so you can then break that grip and get your own.
- Lead with your right leg and your right arm forward
- Bend your right arm back towards yourself so the cloth is stretched out tight over your elbow, making it harder to grab
- Your right hand is near your left collar, protecting that from his grip
- Your left hand is positioned about 10 inches below your right elbow, palm up
Step 2 – Secure the Cross-Grip
Your opponent grabs your right arm with his left hand. You respond and bring your waiting left hand into play, grabbing his left sleeve…
Step 3 – Rip Your Arm Free
Use a two-direction movement to break his grip. You punch his grip forward with your left hand while ripping your right elbow backwards as if hitting someone in the head with it behind you. This opposite-direction grip break is very hard to resist and you’ll probably be left with control over his left arm…
Step 4 – Drop the Across-the-Back Grip into Place
Simultaneously do a few things to get your across-the-back-grip…
- Your newly freed right hand comes over his back and grabs his far armpit area (some people prefer the belt, which sets up similar but different throws)
- Drop your right shoulder down on top of his left shoulder
- Maintain your grip on his sleeve and pull his left arm across your body – this applies a very mild Americana style armlock to his arm. It’s not going to tap him out but it will weaken the arm and make him uncomfortable
- Drop your weight down onto his body so that he has to carry you.
So you got to the across-the-back position? Awesome!!
What happens next? It depends on how your opponent reacts and what he gives you…
3 Easy Throws from the Across-the-Back Grip
When your opponent is caught in the across-the-back grip he knows he’s in a very vulnerable position. He’s almost always going to react and try and fight his way free.
Let’s take a look at the most common reactions your opponent will have and how to take advantage of them to throw him and take the BJJ match to the ground!
First, each of the options in pictures, then more detail in writing below…
Option 1 – Take the Back
If your opponent is totally asleep at the wheel then you can move from the across-the-back grip to the rear bearhug grip. This is a very unlikely transition so I’m not including it as one of the three main throws and takedowns, but you should be aware that it can happen.
If you do win the lottery and end up here then I hope you’ve had a look at Four Ways to Take a Fight to the Ground from the Rear Bearhug!
Option 2 – Single Leg Takedown
If you’re doing the across-the-back grip correctly then you’re putting a lot of weight down onto your opponent. He has to do something to keep his balance.
One way to keep his balance is to bring his left foot forward so that the weight on his left shoulder is supported by a pillar (his leg).
This brings his leg within easy reach of your arms. Fake east, go west; move him, shake him, then release your grips, drop your body and snag that leg. Now elevate it and prepare to finish with whatever version of the single leg you prefer; my favourite is running the pipe or switching to a high leg finish (which is shown at about 3:05 in the video above).
Option 3 – the Yoko Sumi Gaeshi Throw
This is the throw that I saw Oleg Taktarov go through a whole room of Judo black belts with! He truly is a master of this technique.
To set this up your opponent needs to be basing out with his right leg, not his left leg as in Option 1. This creates a wide, stable base, but unfortunately for him it also gives you a path to get under his center of gravity.
Hop forward and bring your right leg up, hook the inside of his far (right) leg.
Now sit down on your own heel, fall back, and kick him over you.
Then turn to face him and stuff his arm (which you still have control over) down to the floor so that he can’t roll away.
It might seem like a complicated move to hear it described this way but if you watch the video I put near the top of this page from about 3:15 point onwards a few times you’ll see that it’s actually pretty easy.
This technique is called Yoko Sumi Gaeshi in Judo and it’s classified as a ‘sacrifice throw’. This is a category of throws in which you go to the ground first to generate momentum and good leg positioning and then launch your opponent over your head for the takedown.
Sacrifice throws are particularly appealing for BJJ practitioners because if the throw doesn’t work you end up in the guard, which is probably an area of comfort already.
Option 4 – Double Leg Takedown
One other common reaction is for your opponent to fight like crazy, straighten up, and to turn in to face you.
If this was all he was doing – raising his center of gravity and turning towards you like a robot – it would be very easy for you to level change just a little and take him down with a double leg tackle.
Unfortunately his straightening and turning is often combined with pushing your head and face away with his free hand.
This type of ‘face washing’ is illegal in Judo but perfectly OK in BJJ. And it’s irritating, disrupts your posture, and makes it hard to hit that double leg.
Unless, of course, you use it against him…
At the 4 minute mark of the video breakdown above I show you one of my favourite double leg setups – it makes you look like a superstar!
Basically you’re going to let him push your face with his right hand and switch your grip so that BOTH of your arms are controlling his left arm (a 2-on-1 wrestling position)
Then you use that left hand to clear his offending arm, knocking it UP and OVER your head.
At the same time you drop your body down bit (i.e. level change) and hit the high or low double leg, whichever you prefer most.
When I first saw this move I was like, “Yeah, right, that’ll never work.” But then I decided to give it a try (in MMA sparring of all things, against a tough fighter too) and it worked like a charm. That built my confidence with this move and it’s been one of my go-to’s ever since.
Want Some More Takedowns?
I hope you enjoyed the tour of my favourite takedown strategies in the article, pictures and video above.
But if you’re serious about developing this area you’re not just going to read one article…
To help you with your quest here are some more (and very relevant) takedown and throwing articles, techniques and videos on Grapplearts.com…
1, The Top 10 Throws and Takedowns for BJJ. This title might suggest that the article contains almost identical material to what you just read, but that’s not at all true. This other article on my site includes takedowns and techniques that come from wrestling as well as some BJJ-specific moves you should also learn about.
2, Best Takedown against a Bigger Opponent? If a BJJ world champion like Brandon Mullins, who competes at 118 lbs, starts telling you which takedowns work best against bigger opponents then you should probably listen to him, right?
3, 4 Takedowns from the Rear Bearhug. Getting behind your opponent puts you at a huge advantage IF you know how to capitalise on the position. Here are 4 relatively simple ways to take your opponent down when you have him in the rear bear hug.
4, The 2 Easiest Takedowns for Submission Grappling and MMA. Friend, MMA fighter and former training partner Denis Kang joins me to discuss the two easiest ways to take someone down when there’s no gi to grab onto.
5, Judo Throws for BJJ. Judo was my first martial art. Although there are a lot of silly rules and it’s a rather dangerous sport I love it still. Here are some of the better Judo throws that you might want to investigate further.
6, How to Throw Defensive, Stiff-Arming, Bent-Over Opponents. One of the frustrations people run into if they’ve been training in Judo is the bent-over and stiff-arming posture that BJJ practitioners tend to adopt. Here’s exactly how to deal with that posture!
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