What do fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Josh Barnett, and Jacare Souza have in common? For starters, they’re all submission artists in their respective grappling disciplines. What they also share is the uncanny talent for executing takedowns.
The skill for takedowns is what allows grapplers to take the fight where they want it to go — to the ground. The legendary Masahiko Kimura and the iconic Kazushi Sakuraba are proof of this.
Takedowns are as useful on the mats as they are on the street. Whether a student is learning BJJ to compete or for self-defense, BJJ takedowns are a must.
There are a plethora of BJJ takedowns. Here are some of the best takedowns to include in one’s BJJ arsenal.
These BJJ takedowns and throws will be easy to incorporate into an overall BJJ toolkit — even without D-1 credentials.
Every grappling discipline has some version of a double-leg takedown. For the most part, double-leg takedowns are staples in freestyle wrestling — and it’s easy to see why.
This takedown is as intuitive to execute as it is effective. To perform this takedown, all a grappler needs to do is change levels, scoop the legs, and drive either forward or to the sides. It resembles a football tackle when executed correctly.
The best thing about the double-leg takedown is adaptability. It’s useful in street fight situations, mixed martial arts, and BJJ. This makes it one of the most used of all BJJ takedowns.
In addition to its adaptability and simplicity, the double-leg takedown is an option for grapplers regardless of the attire. This takedown remains effective in any sort of match — gi or no-gi.
The double-leg takedown is one of the best takedowns to master first. For its adaptability and simplicity, it’s one of the best BJJ takedowns to be used in both BJJ and MMA.
Here’s another takedown from freestyle wrestling. The outside single-leg takedown is another simple yet effective takedown to one’s BJJ arsenal.
The execution of the outside single-leg takedown mimics that of the double-leg takedown. The only difference is that the athlete shoots in to control one leg instead of two.
By controlling one leg, the athlete can move an opponent in many directions. Since the opponent will be standing on just one leg, finishing with the outside single is easier.
For many grapplers, the outside single-leg takedown is easier to execute compared to the double-leg version. Part of the reason is that it takes more energy and speed to finish the double-leg takedown.
With an outside single, the target leg is already near. All a grappler needs to do is change levels, grab the leg with both arms, and drive either forward or to the side. To ensure the finish, a grappler can also trip the balancing leg.
The inside single-leg takedown is a progression from the outside single. The inside single-leg takedown will have a grappler’s head against the opponent’s midsection while finishing the move. Since the head is against the midsection, the head is “inside.”
Shooting for the inside single can be challenging for most BJJ athletes. For this reason, the inside single-leg takedown is plan B when the outside single fails.
The inside single-leg takedown has the same benefits as the outside double when it comes to ease and effectiveness. One thing it has over the outside single and even the double-leg takedown is protection.
With the outside single-leg and double-leg takedowns, the grappler leaves the head on the outer hip. This renders the athlete’s shoulder and back susceptible to the opponent’s sprawl. Worse yet, the head’s position makes it vulnerable to a guillotine choke. In fact, members of Team Alphamale set up their one-arm guillotines after opponents fail the outside single or double-leg takedowns.
The Tomoe Nage comes from Judo. Right off the bat, this is good news since Judo also uses the gi. Needless to say, the Tomoe Nage requires the grappler to use the opponent’s gi for this throw.
The Tomoe Nage setup begins when the grappler grabs the opponent’s wrist lapel and belt. From here, the grappler places the foot on the opponent’s waist and falls backward. Falling backward, the BJJ athlete drives the opponent’s waist upward, using momentum to flip the opponent.
The throw finishes when the grappler scrambles to secure either side mount or the full mount. One variation that has been in use in BJJ is pulling on the opponent’s wrist lapel and belt while falling into butterfly guard.
Unlike the earlier mentioned takedowns, the Tomoe Nage doesn’t require much strength and power. As long as the athlete has a good grip of his opponent’s belt and times the throw, the throw will be successful.
Another benefit of the Tomoe Nage is that there’s little chance of falling into the guard position. With the double-leg and outside single-leg takedowns, a grappler may end up in the opponent’s guard. Even if a grappler scores the takedown, an opponent with an excellent guard game can still sweep or even attempt a submission.
The Kouchi Gari is a sleeve drag that finishes with an inside trip. The trip is a takedown finish that involves trapping the heel to take off an opponent’s balance.
The Kouchi Gari setup requires deception and timing. While standing, the grappler needs to trick the opponent into pulling back. One of the ways to do this is by pulling down on one of the sleeves.
Once the grappler senses that the opponent is shifting their weight backward, the grappler should quickly drag the sleeve. As the grappler drags the sleeve, they should shoot and trip the opponent using one foot. The Kouchi Gari often finishes in side mount or half guard.
There’s a no-gi version of this takedown. Instead of grabbing the sleeves, the athlete can opt for an arm drag. With one hand on the tricep, the athlete can drag the opponent to the side before shooting in.
Most takedowns are effective when an opponent is standing upright. In competition or the academy, most will be hunched over protecting themselves from throws, ready to sprawl.
The ankle pick is one of the best BJJ takedowns for such opponents. Executing this takedown requires grabbing the opponent by the lapel. As with the Kouchi Gari, the ankle pick requires deception and timing.
Grabbing the opponent by the lapel, the grappler must get the opponent to shift his balance. As soon as the opponent steps forward with one foot, the grappler needs to drop and swiftly tug the opponent’s heel.
The ankle pick also has another setup from a failed Kouchi Gari. When the opponent’s feet go too far for the inside trip, switching to the ankle pick is the next option.
The best BJJ takedowns are the ones that athletes drill over and over.
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