Though known as a ground fighting system, each BJJ exchange begins on the feet. You may wonder what type of techniques athletes utilize to advance to the ground and does BJJ teach takedowns?
BJJ originates from judo and includes different types of throws, trips, as well as wrestling takedowns. But due to the rise of sports BJJ which emphasizes ground fighting, having a top takedown game is not prioritized in the learning curriculum.
In fact, many academies dedicate only around 10–15% of training time to standup grappling with the rest focusing on what’s happening on the ground.
This opens up a question, how skilled are BJJ fighters in executing or defending against takedowns?
Does BJJ Teach Takedowns?
Each BJJ exchange begins on the feet where the main goal is to advance to the ground. To achieve this, practitioners use various takedowns and throws adopted from conceptually similar martial arts such as Judo and Wrestling. Though the emphasis is on ground fighting, all BJJ practitioners must have a solid defensive and offensive understanding of takedowns.
Practitioners who train in a traditional Gi style of BJJ rely more on using judo techniques. On the feet, they can grab onto the opponent’s gi uniform, secure a strong grip, and use it to manipulate their weight, balance, and take them down to the ground. They have more grips available so they do not rely too much on explosive wrestling moves.
No-gi style is different because practitioners do not wear a Gi which means fewer grips. There is no manipulating the sleeves and lapels of the opponents’ gi to get a takedown. As a result, wrestling takedowns such as single or double legs are among the most common methods of taking the opponent down. They still utilize trips and throws, but not as much as in a Gi style.
Regardless of the style, takedowns do not fall into a group of primary techniques. In fact, students in most academies worldwide spent around 10% of the 90-minute training session on standup grappling, while the rest is done on the ground.
So if you want to develop a strong takedown game, you would have to cross-train in wrestling or Judo to learn more.
Why Takedowns Are Not Too Important in BJJ?
In modern times, most BJJ schools focus on teaching sports variations of the system. The entire learning curriculum is designed to be in line with the official rules of the competition and to prepare you to win matches, not how to fight.
According to these rules, takedowns and throws do not bring you as many points as techniques on the ground. In fact, takedowns are at the bottom of the list when it comes to points across different rule sets. For the purpose of this article, let’s look at the IBJJF point scoring:
- 2 points — Takedown, throw, sweep
- 2 points — Knee on belly
- 3 points — Guard pass
- 4 points — Back control, back mount, mount
The real action and point scoring happen on the ground. As a result, both parties want to get to the ground as fast as possible, without wasting much time and energy on explosive takedowns and getting only two points. Some competitors might decide to pull guard and advance the exchange to the ground without losing/winning a point.
The second reason is the emphasis. When the Gracie family designed BJJ, they wanted to differentiate their system from other grappling arts by switching the emphasis to ground fighting.
While judo and wrestling heavily rely on standup grappling and limited groundwork, the concept of BJJ is the total opposite. The main focus is on maneuvering into a dominant position, escapes, transitions, and finishing the opponent with chokes and joint locks.
BJJ practitioners utilize dozens of different takedowns, throws, and trips to take the opponent down, with each one having many variations. Following is a detailed explanation of the 5 most common ones, used both in gi and no-gi grappling.
Double leg takedown is one of the most popular wrestling techniques adopted by many martial arts, including BJJ. Though it may look easy at first glance, double leg requires a lot of skill, perfect timing and explosive force to be executed the right way. But with consistent practice and repetition, you will master it in a reasonable time.
- Get in close enough and place your shoot leg between your opponent’s legs. Drive forward with your back leg.
- Lower your level to secure a strong balance and make it harder for the opponent to counter.
- Wrap your hands around their legs and bring the back leg forward to place it outside of the opponent’s leg.
- Step with your trail leg, get to your feet, and drive the opponent down to the ground.
Single-leg takedown is another popular wrestling technique, highly effective in any form of BJJ. As its name suggests, the key is to manipulate one of the opponents’ legs (with both of your hands) to take them down.
This specific technique has a few variations like the “low single” and “high crotch”. In BJJ, practitioners have to be extra careful with single legs as they can easily get countered and end up in a guillotine choke. Here is how to execute it the right way without much risk:
- Get in close range, make a penetration step, and wrap your hands around the opponent’s lead leg.
- Drive your forehead into their chest and be sure to keep the back and head straight. To further increase stability, keep both elbows close to your sides.
- Lift the opponent’s leg and place it between your thighs to secure strong control.
- Push your body down or pivot to the side to disrupt their balance and force them to bend the knee of the other leg which will secure you a takedown.
Ankle pick is a popular move where the main goal is to literally lift the opponent’s ankle from the ground to disrupt their balance and take them down. Sounds easy but requires skill and perfect timing to execute. BJJ practitioners love it because it carries a lower risk than a single/double leg, and also does not require much energy.
To set it up, an ankle pick is often used in combination with fake Uchi Mata or fake guard pull. There are many variations of these moves out of which the following is the most common one:
- Ankle pick is usually done from the collar tie or same-sided lapel grip
- Start pivoting to the side while pulling your opponent in a circular motion.
- Take a step back and drop down to one knee to break their posture and force them to bend over which will bring you closer to their front leg.
- As they are losing balance, quickly grab their ankle while still holding onto their collar.
- Pull the ankle back to finish the move and take them down.
BJJ practitioners often use Ouchi Gari takedown both in gi and no-gi styles. This move is also known as the “inner real throw” and it falls into the group of easier judo techniques which makes it popular among beginners. Here is a detailed explanation of how to execute it the right way:
- Secure the lapel grip with one hand and the bicep or tricep sleeve grip with the other.
- Take one step with your left/right leg toward your opponent and face them belly on belly.
- Place your head on the opposite shoulder of the reaping leg to maintain a strong balance.
- Slightly bend your knees and put your calf behind your opponent’s calf to reap the leg.
- At the same time, twist their upper body toward the 45-degree angle off the reaped leg to finish the takedown.
Does BJJ Teach Throws?
BJJ originates from Judo and the two arts share a lot in common when it comes to standup grappling techniques such as throws.
Although BJJ focuses more on the ground fighting aspect, athletes also engage in standup grappling so every practitioner must be skilled in executing different throws to take the opponent down and get into a dominant position. Some of the most popular are:
- Uchi Mata
- Ouchi Gari
- Osoto Gari
- Harai Goshi
However, BJJ practitioners are not as advanced in executing these throws as judokas. This is because takedowns are not heavily rewarded in competition, or not as much as ground fighting. In contrast, a single well-executed throw wins you a match in judo while in BJJ, it brings you only 2 points (lowest on the point scoring list).
Final Thoughts on Takedowns in BJJ
Although BJJ is primarily recognized as the most advanced ground-fighting martial art, standup grappling exchanges are also important. In the end, each BJJ exchange begins on the feet and all practitioners must know how to execute or defend against different takedown techniques.
The majority of takedowns used in BJJ come from judo and wrestling. Judo throws, trips, and sweeps are highly effective, notably in the Gi style, while wrestling takedowns such as single/double leg are popular in the no-gi style.
Overall, BJJ as a concept primarily focuses on fighting on the ground and students spend around 15% of total training time working on improving takedown skills. As a result, they are not as proficient in standup grappling as judokas and wrestlers.