The 5 Most Popular Takedowns Used In BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specializes in ground fighting, so it’s only natural for practitioners to be well-versed in taking opponents down. You can’t showcase your cool submission skills if you can’t even get your opponents on the ground. Most takedowns taught in BJJ are taken from other grappling-based martial arts like wrestling and Judo

One of BJJ’s most apparent drawbacks is that many BJJ academies don’t stress takedowns enough. Many factors are responsible for this. For starters, instructors don’t want students spending most of their rolling (sparring) time trying to take each other down, as would be the case in wrestling or Judo classes. Students are typically instructed to start their rolling matches from their knees, so most of their training sessions are spent on the ground practicing their ground techniques. 

Also, takedowns are generally rougher on the body, so some BJJ instructors limit their use. You can’t accidentally slam a training partner to the ground if your rolling sessions start from your knees. It’s a safety issue that makes a lot of sense.

That said, the average BJJ student is more than capable of taking opponents down. Their takedowns might not be as good as a wrestler’s, and their throws might not be as impressive as a judoka’s, but the average BJJ student can take an average person down with relative ease. 

The early days of BJJ, when the Gracie family often challenged fighters from other styles tests their skills, showed how effective the takedowns taught in BJJ are. Every member of the Gracie family had no problem taking their opponents down. Royce Gracie won three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments by taking all of his opponents down and submitting them. 


The Most Popular Takedowns Used In BJJ

BJJ, like Judo, is a derivative of traditional Jiu-Jitsu, so it’s not much of a surprise that BJJ schools teach a lot of throws that come from Jiu-Jitsu. However, throwing an opponent to the ground won’t win you matches, as is the case with Judo. You only get to score a couple of points for the takedown, whereas a perfectly executed throw wins you the match in Judo. 

Some of the more popular Judo throws used in BJJ include the Ouchi Gari, Kouchi Gari, and Uchi Mata. BJJ competitions always start with both fighters on their feet, so students who plan to compete should be well-versed in executing throws and takedowns. 

Many classic takedowns used in wrestling, like the single-leg and double-leg takedown, are also taught in BJJ. Greco-Roman wrestling techniques and countless trips are also taught in BJJ. BJJ fighters who compete in no-gi settings often favor wrestling-style takedowns over throws since those techniques are easier to execute without a gi to hold on to. The same goes for BJJ fighters who compete in mixed martial arts. 

Now that we’ve gone over the origins of the takedowns used in BJJ, let’s take a look at some of the more commonly taught ones:


1) The Single-Leg Takedown

The single-leg takedown is a popular technique with BJJ players, and it involves grabbing onto only one of your opponent’s legs as you look to take them down. Some would say the technique is a little more complicated than the double leg since more subtleties are required to finish it. 

Here’s what the technique looks like:

  • Take a penetrating step and change levels as you grab one of your opponent’s legs (typically their lead leg).
  • Place your opponent’s leg between yours and use both hands to control it. Keeping tight control of the leg displaces your opponent’s balance.
  • Pivot while driving your body downward to finish the technique. Remember to keep your head facing forward or up the entire time to avoid getting caught in a guillotine choke.


2) The Double-Leg Takedown

The double-leg takedown is one of the most commonly used takedowns in BJJ, wrestling, and MMA. The technique was once legal in Judo, but it’s been banned since 2010 to force Judo competitors to use the throws unique to the sport. 

The double-leg takedown attacks both of your opponent’s legs, and it’s effective in gi and no-gi settings. Here’s how to perform a double-leg takedown:

  • Change levels and take a wrestling penetration step between your opponent’s legs.
  • Grab the back of your opponent’s knees as you drive forward with your legs. Keep your spine straight and your head facing forward or up. Keep your head tight on your opponent’s torso and use it to drive into them.
  • Keep driving until your opponent is on the mat. Remember to grab on the back of your opponent’s knees since that’s what prevents them from replanting their base as you drive them backward.


3) The Uchi Mata Throw

The Uchi Mata is one of the most used throws in Judo at all competition levels, and it’s almost as popular with BJJ players. It’s a great way to get aggressive grapplers who love to push on their opponents to the ground. The technique tends to be more effective when the target is wearing a gi, but it can also be used in no-gi settings. 

Here’s how to perform the Uchi Mata:

  • Pull on your opponent’s sleeve and collar as they drive towards you. Replace the collar grip with a whizzer and the sleeve grab with an underhook in no-gi environments.
  • Take a step toward your opponent so you end up between their feet with your hips under theirs.
  • Turn 180 degrees and lift your opponent with your heels while sweeping with your non-support leg. Pull on your opponent the entire time when executing the technique.


4) Ankle Pick

The ankle pick is another takedown that can be used with or without the gi. It’s a highly effective technique when you get the timing right. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Establish a lapel and sleeve grip on the same side. Use a collar tie in no-gi settings.
  • Take a few steps back diagonally as you pull on your opponent. This unbalances your opponent.
  • Once their weight shifts forward, drop down and grab their ankle while holding on to their collar.


5) Foot Sweep

Most of the foot sweeps used in BJJ are taken from Judo, with many different variations. Foot sweeps are an effective way to take opponents down since they require less energy than most takedowns. These techniques require precise anticipation and timing so drill them relentlessly if you want them to be effective for you.

Here’s how to perform a basic foot sweep:

  • Grab onto your opponent’s sleeve and collar and take a step in either direction. We’ll use our right side for this example. Pull on your opponent as you take the step.
  • Sweep your opponent’s leg once they shift their weight to the leg closest to you and pull them to the ground.


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