Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wrestling in BJJ - Takedown Defense (Part 1)

This post is an effort to clarify and organize my thoughts on basic takedown defense (especially things I need to work on). It is not meant to be a definitive guide but hopefully some of you might find it useful. (And as always if you disagree or have additional detail please leave a comment.)

Takedown defense starts well before the shot. It starts with posture, positioning, and grip fighting.

Let me say that again - Takedown defense starts well before the shot. It starts with posture, positioning, and grip fighting.


A little extreme on the posture guys.
Head up. If your head is down and your shoulders get in front of your knees you are vulnerable to a snapdown, other leverage/control of your head, or an armdrag/collardrag. You want to stay low by bending your legs - if you bend your back to get low your entire torso is weak (think low=your hips below his hips not bending your back to get your shoulders below his shoulders).

You might notice Judo guys taking a fairly high stance compared to the description above. This is because the current competition Judo rule set encourages "throws" and essentially gives no points to "wrestling" single and double leg takedowns (although they are traditional techniques - Kata Garuma anyone?). So, they don't need to defend the legs the same way. As a BJJ competitor you still need to know how to defend throws (also mainly with your hips) but you will see a lot more attacks on your legs.


I like the stance on the right.
I prefer a slightly staggered stance, one foot a few inches ahead of the other, it provides better offensive mobility than completely square (it makes the double-leg more difficult and you know which single leg he is going to go after). Elbows in - if your elbows flare out it gives your opponent access to your body. Lead hand low to protect the lead leg - the back hand is the one that initiates grips - reaching with your lead hand leaves your lead leg vulnerable to an ankle pick, low single, or snatch single-leg (among others). Don't stay directly in front of your opponent, use footwork to create angles. Let me repeat that - don't stay directly in front of your opponent. You can neutralize a lot of his attacks if you can change the angle. You have to be light on your feet, weight on your toes not your heels (not on your tiptoes, think being able to slide a piece of paper under your heels). The way to have freedom of movement with a strong stance is to use short choppy steps, never cross your feet.

Grip Fighting:

Your hands, elbows, and head are your primary lines of defense. You can't let your opponent control any of them. Nuetral grips (simultaneous collar and sleeve grips) get you nowhere. You want to have "two hands on" your opponent to his zero or one (you want to be at least one grip ahead of your opponent). You want to always think "two hands on" if you want to attack or actively defend.

Everybody focuses on the collar grip but the collar is more defensive (it allows you to keep your opponent away from you). You want the sleeve. Most throws use the sleeve grip to initiate execution of the throw, but even more important I want control of his power hand. You can grab his same side sleeve directly, cross grip it and deliver it to your same side hand, or wait for him to reach and intercept it. (and there are a ton of setups that are too detailed to include here)

If your opponent gets a grip first, don't panic, work on breaking the grip. Once you break his grip make sure you keep control of that hand/sleeve and secure your own grip on that arm.

To break a collar grip, grab his gripping sleeve with your same side hand at the wrist rotate your palm down and pull down to take out the slack - your other hand comes across and aggressively pops/pushes his hand off the collar at the base of his palm/wrist while your same side hand pops/pulls his sleeve at about a 45 degree angle from your body. You don't have to yank your body and shoulder way back - this takes you out of stance and leaves you vulnerable.

To break a sleeve grip, point your thumb toward your chest/head and raise your elbow toward your opponents face (this takes the slack out) and then explosively pull your elbow back down and past your hip. Again, you don't have to pull that side of your body way back - keep your stance and a balanced posture.

(Next up in this series - The Sprawl)


  1. Thank you. That is definitely a useful post!

  2. @fenix...you are welcome - I'm glad you found it useful. It was just a brain dump of all the stuff I am trying to remember to work on each week.