In this article you’ll find the definitive answer to the question: are grappling dummies worth it?
More importantly you’ll find out:
WHEN are grappling dummies useful.
How to make grappling dummy drills work.
Which is the best grappling dummy for YOUR goals.
How not to waste your money.
[We’ll also bust some grappling dummy myths]
Here we go:
Grappling dummies are worth it to close the gap between YouTube and drilling
If you’re anything like me you watch YouTube videos (or buy online courses)
But here’s the thing:
It’s almost impossible to take what you’ve learned online and put it into practice the next time you’re rolling…
…especially if you’re trying to learn more than 1 or 2 techniques at once
You only retain 20% of what you’ve learned from video after 2 weeks
So an ideal learning pathway would like look like this:
- You get an awesome demonstration and discussion of a technique that fits your current needs
- Drill it on a non-resisting partner UNTIL you’re familiar with all of the key steps
[HINT: This should be more than 3 or 5 reps each]
- Refine and problem solve with your drilling partner by gradually providing more and more resistance
- Master the technique on fully resisting opponents of a lower skill level than you…
- Then someone of a similar skill level…
- Then you win the world championships with it
[Well, maybe not the last one, but you get the gist]
You wouldn’t be reading this article if you have access to training like that!
You’re reading this because you can’t get to training as much as you like and you want to know how you can train BJJ at home.
How to use your grappling dummy for learning new techniques:
- Watch videos from a decent online course or YouTube (about A technique… not 5-10)
[I personally like Gustavo Gasperin’s teaching style and recommend the MMA Leech courses]
- Make notes in your training journal on all of the steps, the key points, and mistakes to look out for
- Spend some time visualizing how you will perform the technique
[Sounds woo-woo, but the science shows this works!]
- Use your grappling dummy to put what you’ve just learned into practice
It’s here that they come in useful:
Unlike when you’re with a training partner…
…you can do hundreds of repetitions of things like far-side arm bars
But don’t forget:
This is just a single step… to make a grappling dummy worth it you must still…
- Drill it on a non-resisting human partner to get your head around any differences
[It’s more like revision now]
And don’t forget the last few steps from above:
Here’s a great video from Professor Tom of The Grappling Academy:
[See the grappling dummy he recommends here on Amazon]
Grappling dummies are worth it even if you only use them to retain what you’ve learned in class
“Hey, remember that technique we learned in class a few months ago?”
If you learn something from your coach that fits your game:
1. Make notes in your training journal as soon as you can
2. Make a date with your grappling dummy to revisit this new skill
Just make sure you do it while it’s still fresh in your mind
In 2-weeks… 50% of it will be gone!
Are grappling dummies worth it if you can’t drill the WHOLE technique? Yes, for part-practice!
To be honest:
Grappling dummies are NOT useful for some techniques…
…and they’re only useful for some parts of some techniques
So drill those parts.
Some examples of part-practice:
- Popping up into Knee Ride from Side Control
- The pull and turning in for a Shoulder Throw (Seoi Nage)
- Stepping around for Toreando Passes (both left and right)
Just don’t forget:
The real benefit from part-practice is when you also drill the whole movement
Focus on grappling dummy drills that relate to your grappling goals
Want to know the best way to make sure your grappling dummy ends up gathering dust?
Search for “best grappling dummy drills” on YouTube or Google…
…and then just do random drills that their algorithm has chosen for you.
[You’ll get bored VERY quickly]
The secret to stopping grappling dummies being a waste of money?
Do grappling dummy drills that relate to your current training goals
[You’ll magically find time and motivation to use it]
My current BJJ training goals all revolve around mastering Guard Passing…
…so for now ALL of my grappling dummy drills are focused on Guard Passing
This means I can get in hundreds of reps on things like:
- Toreando Pass
- Leg Drag
- Double-Under Pass
- Single-Under Pass
- Knee Slides
In other words:
‘The 10 Best Grappling Dummy Drills’ are the 10 that YOU need for YOUR game
You don’t have any BJJ or Judo training goals?
I’d highly recommend checking out this book: Master Jiu-Jitsu Master Life
Grappling dummies are only worth it you choose the best grappling dummy to help you achieve your training goals
Haven’t bought a grappling dummy yet?
So you don’t waste your money…
…here’s some questions to ask yourself to make sure you buy the best grappling dummy FOR YOU:
1. What are your training goals?
The best grappling dummy depends on whether you want to improve your:
- Ground game for Judo,
- Ground game for BJJ, or
- Throws and takedowns.
2. Does your grappling dummy need arms and legs?
I’d argue that the answer to this question is always ‘YES’…
… otherwise you’re just buying an overpriced punching bag
3. Do you need a grappling dummy that can be put in a kneeling position?
The best grappling dummies can be put in a kneeling position:
[A MUST if you want to drill anything from Guard]
Check on Amazon: Fairtex Maddox Grappling Dummy
4. Do you need to put a Gi on your grappling dummy?
If you train in the Gi, then the best BJJ dummy for you…
…is one that you can get a Gi on!
[Pretty obvious, but sounds like it’s a common mistake]
Check on Amazon: Buster 5’10” Grappling Dummy
5. Does your grappling dummy need feet and hands?
Only train Judo?
Check on Amazon: Combat Sports Grappling Dummy
You can get away with not having feet.
[Until you start BJJ and are drawn to the darkside of leg locks]
Already train BJJ?
Get a grappling dummy with feet.
“Why would you ignore 50% of the grappling dummy body?”
[See what I did there]
Check on Amazon: BJJ 9000 Jiu Jitsu Accelerator
6. Can you put a grappling dummy into standing to practice throws and takedowns?
Whether you’re a Judoka or BJJ’er then one that gets pretty good reviews on Amazon is the Combat Sports Grappling Dummy (4.3 stars from 90 reviews)
MythBusters: Are Grappling Dummies Worth It?
A lot of people hate on grappling dummies.
Here’s some comments I’ve collected…
MYTH #1: Grappling dummies won’t help you if your technique isn’t already on point
Here’s the thing:
The BEST time to use a grappling dummy is when you’re learning a new technique…
… because you’ll be able to get in way more reps than you would in class.
And, you can do little and often.
A grappling dummy will help you get your technique “on point” faster
MYTH #2: If you use a grappling dummy you’ll develop bad habits (that are harder to break)
First of all:
Who says you’ll develop bad habits?
Here’s the thing:
With a grappling dummy you’ve got more time to explore each step and make sure you get it right.
[Plus it’s not like grappling dummies are the whole learning process… they‘re only one step in it]
I’ve never met a coach (in ANY sport) that hasn’t recommended doing unsupervised solo practice
“Don’t practice free-throws by yourself bro, just wait until next week’s training bro, we’ll get to do 10 of them with coach watching”
And then there’s this:
“But Brosicle, it takes longer to fix bad technique than just learning it properly first”
I call BS on that.
This is one of the worst myths about skill-development that’s out there.
All the research shows it’s much easier to correct and refine an existing technique than learn it from scratch.
[There’s a whole field of science around motor learning and neuroplasticity… it used to be my job!]
Let’s look at the Triangle Choke as an example:
What do you think is easier?
a) Teaching the whole thing from the beginning?
b) Reminding someone (who already knows all the steps pretty well) about a single step that they’ve messed up
Or even better:
“Hey Bro, you shouldn’t let your toddler try to walk and talk like that, they’re just reinforcing bad habits”
MYTH #3: Grappling dummies don’t react like a human opponent so they’re no good for developing muscle memory
When you first learn something in class you do it on your partner who isn’t reacting
[They’re like a meat-filled grappling dummy at this point]
Saying grappling dummies are a waste of time is the same as saying that:
- Solo drills are a waste of time
- Hitting a heavy-bag is no good for boxing
- Dribbling around cones is no good for ball handling
- Target practice is no good for soldiers because they don’t shoot back
They can be a great tool to familiarise yourself with a movement as long as you:
- Set realistic goals based on the type of grappling dummy you have
- Use them as one step in the learning process
Otherwise this crazy logic would apply:
“There’s no point practicing hip escapes or bridging because no one is top of you!”
PLAUSIBLE: You’re much better off turning up to training an hour early and just drilling with someone
You know what?
This checks out.
This IS way better… if:
Your gym opens early.
You can get there early.
Someone else has the same flexibility.
They’re willing to let you armbar or choke them 100 times.
If you have this option… awesome.
You don’t need a grappling dummy.
CONFIRMED: Grappling dummies don’t replace going to class
Rolling around with a resisting partner is what sets grappling arts apart…
…you HAVE to get on the mats and pressure test what you’ve learned.
If you only practiced with a grappling dummy?
You’d be like one of those 11 year old Black Belts standing in lines to kick and punch air.
A grappling dummy is a great tool you can use as:
- A step in the learning process
- A revision tool to cement what you’ve learned in class
Summary: Are grappling dummies worth it?
Yes, as long as you choose the right one. If you understand their limitations, a grappling dummy can help you retain what you’ve learned in class, learn new techniques faster, and help you reach your grappling goals a lot quicker.
After reading this do you think grappling dummies can be a useful tool for YOUR training?