Here’s a simple takedown strategy for BJJ, that works

Takedowns are one of the things that don’t really get drilled in BJJ as much as they need to be. As Judo has taught us, you really need to drill takedowns over and over on a regular basis to actually be able to do them against resistance. Takedowns are weird like that. You need thousands of hours of repetition to make them work against pressure and resistance. Top Judokas usually have two or three throws they specialise in, like Uchi Mata or Seonage. They practice these over and over and over, every training session.

Sure, most BJJ classes usually start with some sort of technique done standing up, for the class to drill, but in a typical BJJ class we’re usually too busy working on all the other stuff we need to know because, frankly, that’s why we’re there. If all we wanted to know was takedowns we’d be in a Judo class. Most people in a BJJ class want to learn that magic thing that got developed to perfection in Brazil called ‘the guard’, and how to survive, escape and get submissions on the ground.

Obviously, when you compete in BJJ you start standing up. A lot of BJJ players go for the option of pulling guard, as it negates the need for a takedown and puts you straight into your strongest suit. The problem is that BJJ matches are short – sometimes just 5 minutes, and often the act of pulling guard can set you back, because against somebody good there may not be enough time to work your gameplan of submitting or sweeping the opponent off your back.

I find one of the simplest and lowest risk takedowns you can go for in BJJ is the single leg. It’s origin is from wrestling, but it used to figure in older Judo too. The move is currently banned in competition Judo because you’re not allowed to grab the lower limbs, but it’s perfectly legal in BJJ, and it’s very effective. From a Tai Chi perspective, it’s also a good one to go for in push hands (if you’re playing that sort of rough and tumble push hands game) as the lead leg in push hands is always available.

BJJ blackbelt Tom Barlow recently shared his strategy for getting the single leg:

I like it because he talks about grips first. This is so important in the stand up game – note how he takes the initiative then blocks the opponent gripping his collar with his elbow raising or lowering – I often find myself doing this intuitively whenever the opponent tries to get a collar grip, whether I’m on my knees or standing. Secondly, his method of getting the position that makes the single leg available isn’t very complicated – you just give them a pull to the side to change the angle. This might look a bit inelegant, but in the heat of battle it’s the simple plans that work the best. Secondly, his method for achieving the takedown is what’s often called ‘laying the piple’ and again, it’s very effective and makes use of leverage – you position them to fall into a space you step out to create. I sometimes like to add in a bit of leg torque (torque their leg, not your own, between your legs) to what he’s doing, but that’s a minor detail, and adds complication.

Everybody should know one takedown well, and I think it should be this one. Well done Tom Barlow of Masters Academy in Plymouth, UK  – I like your work! (And we share a surname). Tom also has a free PDF ebook about drilling strategies that’s worth checking out, so give that a look too.