23 Effective Bjj Takedowns | Including 3 Top Judo Throws
You know the stereotype of a typical BJJ match. It goes like this: slap, bump, and sit down on your butt as fast as possible. Maybe both competitors sit down on their butts and begin playing the double guard pull game.
While this stereotype is not as prevalent as many imagine, there’s still a degree of truth behind it. While takedowns have never been BJJ’s forte, the rulesets, both IBJJF and the increasingly prevalent ‘sub-only’ rulesets, de-emphasize its importance.
So are BJJ takedowns still important? The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why.
The Importance of BJJ Takedowns
Let’s not forget the roots of Brazilian jiu jitsu; self-defense and vale tudo. In both scenarios, takedowns are of huge significance. In a self-defense scenario, takedowns allow you to make a quick escape or give you the opportunity to apply your ground fighting skills.
Having good takedowns also means having good takedown defence; which is a very important part in a self-defense scenario; particularly if there are multiple opponents involved.
As another often repeated phrase goes “the ground is the last place you want to be in a street fight”. And while BJJ training will give you a powerful advantage if it does go to the ground, ideally you want to avoid it and make your escape as quickly as possible.
In MMA, one needs only to look at the dominance of wrestlers today to see the importance of takedowns. The most common issue high level Brazilian jiu jitsu artists face when transitioning to MMA is getting the fight to the ground in the first place.
Look at BJJ’s MMA hero, Demian Maia; he only really started succeeding against high level competition after extensively working on his wrestling .
From a competition perspective, it is true that many rulesets do not reward takedowns. They are pointless in sub-only rulesets and in IBJJF tournaments are only worth 2 points; plus they can be negated by your opponent pulling guard.
However, consider that in competition, takedowns:
- Are absolutely necessary in rulesets where guard pulling is penalized, such as the points portion of the prestigious ADCC Championships.
- Allow you to dictate whether you wish to begin the match from a top position.
- Can surprise your opponent, given their increasing rarity in competition.
The message here is simple: don’t neglect your takedowns, they’re important for more than just BJJ competition. And even there, they can give you a distinct advantage. White belts: read that once more.
This section will briefly lay out some key concepts for executing a successful takedown. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of every takedown related concept. That would be impossible to do, especially considering how many grappling arts they are that are ONLY focused on takedowns!
With that being said, here are four fundamental concepts that will help you.
If you have a jiu jitsu journal you might want to note down some of these fundamentals.
Attack the Weak Plane
Imagine a line connecting your two feet. Your center of gravity lies somewhere on that line. The weak plane that can be exploited for takedownsis a point that can form a triangle with said line. Example: if your opponent is standing square with parallel feet, his weak plane is directly forward or backwards.
The weak plane may be constantly shifting but it can never disappear. As you get more proficient with takedowns, you will automatically get a feel for where your opponent’s weak plane is and the optimal direction for your takedown at a glance.
Break Their Balance – Kuzushi
It’s very difficult to takedown an opponent who is in perfect balance. You need to off-balance them first; known as kuzushi in judo. This can be done by things such as snap downs, drags, or simply pulling the gi to make them step.
This concept works in tandem with the one above; kuzushi is used to expose the opponent’s weak planes. Making your opponent step in a certain direction can make his weak plane more easily accessible for you, in addition to also being used to expose his leg.
Get Under Their Center of Gravity
Think about forward hip throws or a double leg. In those takedowns you want to get your center of gravity underneath your opponent’s center of gravity. This enables you to use maximum leverage to lift them off the ground.
Consider a failed double leg takedown, where your opponent is sprawled on top of you. His hips (his center of gravity) are forcing your shoulders down while your hips (your own center of gravity) are nowhere near to his. And then think of a successful double leg, where your hips are under your shoulders, which are under his hips. Even if he tries to sprawl, you would still be able to lift him up and complete the takedown.
This is probably something BJJ guys struggle with the most, even after learning the technical details of takedowns. It’s really more of a mindset. For most takedowns to be successful, especially against higher level opponents, you really have to fully commit to it.
Many BJJ guys try one takedown and when that gets defended, reset back to a neutral position. Or they don’t commit 100% to a takedown. This may come down to the methodical nature of Brazilian jiu jitsu ground fighting, where positions can be slowly and methodically obtained. However, stand up grappling is far more dynamic. When you go for a takedown, you have to go all the way.
The Complete List of Takedowns
Every takedown comes with many variations, so it would be impossible to list them all. The table below lists 23 of the most common takedowns you will encounter, variations and combinations not included.
23 Bjj Takedowns
1. Double Leg
2. Single Leg
3. Fireman’s Carry
4. Ankle Pick
5. Low Single
6. Seoi Nage (Shoulder Throw)
7. Harai Goshi (Sweeping Hip Throw)
8. Uchi Mata (Inner Thigh Throw)
9. O Goshi (Major Hip Throw)
10. Tai Otoshi (Body Drop)
11. Duck Under
13. O Soto Gari (Major Outer Reaping)
14. Ouchi Gari (Major Inner Reaping)
15. Kouchi Gari (Minor Inner Reaping)
16. Foot Sweep
17. Sumi Gaeshi (Corner Reversal)
18. Tomoe Nage (Circle Throw)
19. Collar Drag
20. Knee Tap
21. Rear Body Lock
22. Double Underhooks
23. Lateral Drop
The 5 Most Effective Gi Takedowns
While you should definitely spend time learning takedowns, the reality is that overly focusing on them is not the optimal route for BJJ.
We mentioned the same thing when using Yoga to improve your BJJ – focus on a few poses, not many.
1. Collar Drag
This is a takedown you only see in BJJ, as it leaves takes your opponent down face first, which doesn’t score in judo. Also a common guard sweep, this can be applied standing as well. It is easy to learn and thus should be part of every BJJ practitioner’s arsenal.
- Start by getting a cross collar grip on your opponent. Assume your right hand is grabbing the collar.
- Step your left foot to the outside of your opponent’s right foot.
- Slide your leg in between your opponent’s legs as you drop your right hip to the floor. Imagine pulling half guard.
- As you slide your right leg and hip in yank his collar toward the ground as hard you can. Your momentum will be stopped by your elbow hitting the mat.
- Finish the takedown by getting to your knees and driving into your opponent if necessary.
The reason the collar drag is so easy to learn for BJJ practitioners is that:
- It doesn’t require getting under your opponent’s center of gravity.
- It does not require much off balancing.
- The motion is much like pulling half guard.
- Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners are likely already somewhat proficient at performing this move from the guard.
The main challenge in hitting this move is getting a strong cross collar grip on a standing opponent. Once you have that, you can hit the move anytime your opponent has a bent over posture, which is very common in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Unlike many takedowns, this move is also low risk. If you fail, it’s no different than pulling guard. Further, even a failed collar drag takedown can be used to immediately set up guard attacks such as loop chokes or single legs.
2. Kouchi Gari to Ankle Pick
This used to be a high percentage move in judo competition. However since leg grabs in judo are now considered as deadly as knee reaping in the IBJJF, this move has sadly fallen by the wayside. Nonetheless this move is fairly easy to learn and most BJJ practitioners should have no problems picking it up.
- Get a standard collar and sleeve grip; assume your right hand is grabbing the collar.
- Watch for your opponent planting his weight on his right foot, either by him taking a step or you pulling his sleeve as you step back with your left leg, forcing him to step.
- As you see his weight shift to his right leg, slight your right foot behind his right heel and sweep it out in the direction of his toes.
- As you do so reach down with your left and pick his ankle; almost ‘passing’ his ankle to your using your foot.
- Finish the takedown by pulling the ankle toward you while driving him forward and down using the collar grip.
While it is theoretically true that the kouchi gari should be able to work by itself without the ankle pick, it plays out quite differently in live training. Pure foot sweeps are deceptively difficult; taking years to master even for judo players. Most Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners will simply not have enough hours put in to get the timing right.
Hence, adding an ankle pick to the mix really boosts its probability of success as you do not have to get the perfect timing required for pure foot sweeps. Plus, this move is also very low risk. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza was well known for using this move.
3. The Fake Guard Pull to Ankle Pick
The fake guard pull to ankle pick is a very BJJ-specific move, in the sense that it would work only in the context of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition. The reason for this is that it relies on your opponent’s reaction to a perceived guard pull; something that doesn’t really exist in other grappling sports. That said, in a BJJ competition, this move has proven its mettle time and time again; it’s high percentage and easy to learn.
- Get a standard collar and sleeve grip; assume your right hand is grabbing the collar.
- Fake the guard pull by raising your right leg toward your opponent’s hip as you drop back slightly.
- When your opponent reacts by dropping his weight in return, drop your right knee back behind your left foot.
- Drive off your right foot as you change levels and pick his right ankle with your left hand.
- Finish the takedown by getting back to your feet, picking his ankle off the ground, and steering him in a circular motion toward your left using the collar and ankle grip.
Note: You can fake the guard pull with either leg, just remember that that leg becomes the ‘driving’ leg.
The fake guard pull to ankle pick is often hit right at the beginning of a BJJ match, where the other person is already expecting a guard pull. And because he sits his base lower to counter a perceived guard pull, his weight is already moving backwards, making the ankle pick easy.
This is a great move for guard players since your opponent is already expecting you to pull guard. Surprise them with this move instead. Notable users of this move are Gui Mendes and Sergio Moraes.
4. Uchi Mata
This forward throw is one of the staples of competitive judo for a reason; it has a devastatingly high percentage.
Unlike a normal hip throw, in which all of the lifting action has to be done by the hips, the uchi mata adds in the leg as well. Not only does this make the lifting component easier, but it allows the thrower to ‘chase’ down the uchi mata by hopping on the base leg.
- Break your opponent’s balance toward you by pulling forward and upward on the collar and sleeve. Assume your right hand is grabbing the collar.
- Step your right foot in between his legs and bring your left leg in as you pivot, so that you are both facing in the same direction.
- Both your feet should be between his feet and there should be hip to hip contact.
- Lift his left leg up with your right leg, keeping it straight, while lifting his hips with your hips.
- As you are lifting with your hips and leg, rotate him over with your grips to finish the takedown.
Here are some common ways you can use the uchimata in a more BJJ context:
- The uchimata can be used to counter a single leg as the leg is already in position; you just need to pivot and throw. Keep in mind that your opponent may attempt a re-counter by getting a deeper grip on the single and picking you off the ground.
- When your opponent is in the standard ‘hips back arms outstretched’ BJJ defensive posture, you can use a snap down to make them posture up and then hit the uchi mata.
- Advanced practitioners can chain the uchi mata entry with rolling kneebars and leg scissors attacks.
5. Seoi Nage
This is another staple and high percentage judo technique. Many top level judoka use this throw as their main scoring attack.
There are two general variations, morote seoi nage and ippon seoi nage. The former keeps the standard collar and sleeve grip while the latter has you place your shoulder in your opponent’s armpit.
- Break your opponent’s balance toward you by pulling forward and upward on the collar and sleeve, focusing on really pulling the sleeve upwards to lift the elbow up. Assume your right hand is grabbing the collar.
- Step your right foot in between his legs and bring your left leg in as you pivot, so that you are both facing in the same direction.
- As you step in you can either keep the collar grip and lift your opponent’s arm up using your elbow in the crook of his armpit (morote) or let go of the collar entirely and place your shoulder into his armpit, making a hook around his upper arm (ippon).
- To lift your opponent you can either opt to bend your knees and then lift using hip to hip contact or drop both knees to the ground as you finish the throw.
In BJJ, it is not a good idea to constantly attack seoi nages as in judo. This is because this throw exposes you to the threat of a back take if unsuccessful.
Therefore, in a BJJ context, this throw is best used judiciously. Do not spam this throw but rather wait for the opportunity when your opponent’s posture is leaning forward. The reward for this throw is high; often landing you right in side control and setting you up for an immediate armbar submission.
The 5 Most Effective No-Gi Takedowns
While judo style takedowns are the king in the gi, wrestling takedowns are what you need for no-gi. Here are the key no-gi takedowns every BJJ practitioner should have in their no-gi arsenal.
1. Double Leg Takedown
This is a must know takedown. While there are many levels and variations to a double leg, every BJJ practitioner should know how to do a basic double leg.
- Assume you are leading with your right leg. Check your appropriate distance; your left hand should be able to touch your opponent.
- Change levels and get a good penetration step. Ideally you want to step your right leg in between his feet and drop your knee to the ground behind his feet. Grab behind his knees with your hands at the same time as the penetration step.
- Bring your left foot up to the same level as your right knee. Make sure your hips are under your shoulders (which should be touching his hips) and your head is up.
- Step your right knee off the ground and place your right foot outside his legs; his feet should now be between your legs.
- Finish the takedown by driving to your right as you lift his right leg with your left hand and chop his left knee with your right hand. Use your head to exert driving pressure as well.
The most important skill for BJJ practitioners to learn here is level changing and deep penetration steps. In addition, finishing a double leg also requires a high degree of commitment. Double leg takedowns will teach BJJ practitioners how to fully commit to their takedowns.
In a BJJ context, many people get surprised by a fast double leg shot right off the bat. The key to a successful double leg is really just commitment and a certain degree of explosiveness.
2. Single Leg Takedown
The single leg takedown may be one of the most important takedowns to learn in BJJ. It is also a wrestling staple, being easier to set up compared to double legs. In BJJ, especially in no-gi, many sweeps end up with you in a single leg position. Hence, the ability to (at least) finish a single leg is crucial for no-gi grappling.
- Change levels and hook your left arm around your opponent’s right knee as you pivot to your left.
- Connecting your hands and keeping your elbows closed, pick his leg off the ground.
- Make sure the top of your head is driving into his chest; his leg should also be pinched between yours.
- Running the pipe: Drop your weight down on his leg as you spin him toward the trapped leg, dropping him to that hip.
- Double leg takedown: Take your right hand and reach for the knee of his base leg and drive to finish the double leg.
- Foot sweep: Using either foot, sweep out his base leg.
It is impossible to list out every single leg variation and finish; there are simply so many. Truly one of the most versatile moves in all of stand up wrestling. Instead of trying to learn every variation and finish, just focus on a few and get really good at them.
Since many BJJ practitioners like to set up the single leg from the guard, this is a good way to train your single legs during practice. Start by focusing on sweeps that end up with the single leg, and as your finishes get better, you will feel more confident in setting them up from the feet.
3. Double Underhooks
Not only is this a basic wrestling move but it is also a staple part of the BJJ self-defense curriculum. The takedown portion of this move is actually quite easy; it is getting the double underhooks that is the main challenge.
- Pummel and obtain double underhooks, making sure to lock your hands together.
- Bring your hands down to your opponent’s lower back and pull in.
- At the same time drive his shoulders backward by stepping in and using your head.
- Finish the takedown straight into mount by hooking your left leg around his right leg as you drive in (or vice versa).
- Make sure your head is on the opposite side of the trip or you risk hitting your head on the ground.
As you can see, the takedown itself is simple, which is probably why it is an essential part of the self-defense curriculum. Getting the double underhooks is the main challenge; however this can also be set up from the guard, namely butterfly guard. As a final note, be careful of the lateral drop counter to this move; do not let your opponent get double overhooks on you.
4. Arm Drag to Inside Trip
This is the no-gi version of the kouchi gari to ankle pick we explained above. While not as low risk as the gi version as you have to get in much closer, this is still a high percentage move with fairly low risk. Further, because arm drags are also commonly used from the guard, this skillset transfers over well.
- Grab your opponent’s right wrist with your left hand and swing it across your center line. Alternatively, you can bait for him to grab your left wrist with his right hand and swing it across.
- As you swing his arm across, your right hand should grab behind his elbow to make sure you get the full drag.
- As you are doing the arm drag, change levels and take a penetration step with your right leg.
- However, instead of dropping your right knee to the ground as per the double leg, keep your right knee up. Hook your right leg around his right leg, dropping your knee to the ground, keeping your foot flat.
- As you are doing the level change and the penetration step, your hands should shift from his arm to behind his knees like the double leg.
- Finish the takedown by simply driving forward.
Arm drags are a great way to set up takedowns. By getting one of your opponent’s hands out of the way, you negate the risk of guillotines and also clear the path for a shot. This takedown is commonly hit from the hand fighting stage of stand up grappling. The version of baiting your opponent to grab your wrist to hit the arm drag is also higher percentage.
5. Low Single
While it might be considered a single leg, the mechanics and technique behind the low single are very different compared to the regular single leg. This is a very versatile takedown, as it can be shot from far away, even before making contact.
- Change levels as low as possible and shoot for your opponent’s heel.
- Assuming it’s his right heel, you want your left hand cupping it. Both your knees and left elbow will usually be on the mat and your head should be between his legs.
- To finish the takedown, pull his heel in as you drive him forward and toward the left. Your right hand can cup behind the knee of his other leg.
Like any shot, there is some degree of speed and explosiveness required. However, the advantage the low single has over the regular single and the double leg is that you don’t have to penetrate as deeply. This is because getting your center of gravity, your hips, underneath your opponent’s center of gravity is not required.
The low single can be shot off standard tie-ups or even with no grips. In wrestling, the undisputed king of the low single was John Smith. In BJJ, AJ Agazarm is known for his use of the low single in competition.
The 5 Most Common Takedown Mistakes
Shooting From Too Far Away
Back during the Gracie Challenge days, Royce Gracie could get away from shooting a double leg with a stomp kick set up from 2 meters away. Not anymore. Shooting from too far away will either lead to your opponent avoiding your shot, blocking your shoulders with his hands, or sprawling on you.
It also sets your opponent up for a shot of his own. As you get back to your feet from your failed shot, there’s a perfect window for your opponent to shoot in on you.
Again, the point of fully committing to your takedowns must be stressed again. Not only will half-hearted attacks lead to many of your takedowns not succeeding, it will also open yourself up to counters. Attack with full commitment or don’t attack at all.
Not Fighting the Grips
How many BJJ matches do you see where it’s two people just holding on to the standard collar and sleeve grips on each other while standing? Contrast that to judo matches, where they fight the grips at all costs.
What’s funny is that most BJJ practitioners know to break and fight for grips on the ground, but due to lack of practice they forget it’s just as important when standing up as well.
Not Keeping Their Head Up During Shots
Many beginners think that keeping their heads down and chin tucked is the proper way to prevent a guillotine when shooting. This is absolutely wrong. Keeping your head down and tucking your chin will kill your own posture, and kill the power of your shot.
Further, keeping your head down exposes the back of your head which is a powerful control. The correct method is to keep a strong posture with your head up. This will prevent your opponent from being able to reach your throat with his wrist and give you the option to pick him up as well.
Attacking Without Set Ups
To takedown a skilled opponent, it is rare for your first attack to be the one that succeeds. A common mistake is to just try one takedown attempt at a time. Learn to chain attacks together; they don’t even have to be different attacks! A common sequence is a shot followed by a reshot.
The 80/20: What are the Most Effective BJJ Takedowns?
While the role of takedowns has been sadly minimized in most BJJ competitions, this does not mean that their utility as whole has been. They are still a vital component in being a complete grappler, not to mention if you want to transition to MMA or in a self-defense scenario. Learning the takedown game will also improve your coordination, balance, and explosiveness plus give you an attacking mindset.
Two great supplemental resources you can take advantage of is The Takedown Blueprint by Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens and Dan Gable’s Wrestling Essentials. All of these people have competed at the absolute highest level of their sports, and you can’t go wrong learning from them.