Improve Your Standup Game With 1 Simple Takedown

Improve Your Standup Game With 1 Simple Takedown

Taking it to the Mat

Whether you’re competing at a tournament or training at the academy very few things feel as cool as sending your opponent head over heels with a clean throw or take down. Over the last couple of months we have talked about controlling the hips and the shoulders to maintain control in the mount and back control (back mount), respectively. The stand-up game is no different. We can use the same ideas of position, control, and torque to put our opponents on the mat and get a quick two points!

No matter your style, the object of stand-up game (at least in Jiu Jitsu) is to take the fight to the mat. We’d always like to end up in an advantageous position be it guard or on top, but winning the stand-up game means making sure that we are in control once the fight goes to the floor. For now, we’ll focus on how to get to the ground in a top position and leave the guard pulling to, well, the guard pullers. As fun as it can be to throw someone, being on the receiving end can be less enjoyable (you can watch me go for a ride in this match from FIVE grappling at about the 1:14 mark). Usually, you’re behind in points, you’re in a crummy position, and your opponent just totally dominated you! Needless to say we’d rather be the tori than the uke (from judo “thrower” and “throwee,” respectively).

In Judo, the beginning of the throw is known as the “taking the kazushi” which means knocking your opponent off balance by controlling their center of gravity. We can do this a variety of ways- the snap down, the fit in, etc.- but the end goal is to create dependent rotation (sound familiar?). Remember all the way back to last month, when we talked about maintaining back control by keeping yourself attached to your opponent at the shoulders to make the rotation dependent. This required contact at the shoulders and pressure applied from both the front and the back (pulling the seatbelt into your chest). In stand-up we need to try to create those opposing forces in another way. After all, if your opponent lets you get to their back from standing and put the seatbelt on, they have bigger problems than figuring out how to take you down.

What grips should I have?

First thing’s first, what am I going to grab onto to make this whole “dependent rotation” thing easier? While preferred set ups may vary between Judokas (some like to grip the wrist, others the sleeve, and yes, even with these you may go for a ride!) but for us, we’d like to get as close to the shoulder as possible. So, we’ll take the lapel grip! There are many different ways to get this grip, and you’ll probably have to be creative with how you get there, but your target should be the lapel just above your opponent’s collar bone. Personally, I like to be able to punch my opponent in the face while I’m holding their collar. You will want this grip on the same side, meaning you don’t want to reach across their body for the “cross-collar” grip. Again, a cross-collar grip isn’t wrong, per say, it’s just not what we want at the moment. At this point, your other hand is basically free to hang out and defend, but as always, there are some places where this hand is more useful than others. Take your free hand and use a monkey grip to cup over your opponent’s bicep so you’re holding onto the back of their arm. With this grip your forearm should be tracking your opponent’s elbow and you should be in control.
Now we’re all gripped up (that was exhausting!), we have to figure out how to get inside and create pressure on opposing sides of our opponent and attach to create dependent rotation.

Getting inside!

All of that grip work was to enable us to get close to our opponent and attach to their shoulders. To this end, we need to create space. So, using the forearm that is tracking my opponents elbow, I shuck their arm up to expose their side and pull their collar while circling into the space I just created, forcing them to step. The goal of this circling and spinning motion is to get my opponent to place all of his weight on the stepping foot, which leaves the back foot weightless and ready to be captured. Confused? Let’s take a more detailed look.

It’s all about rotation.

The “Arm shuck” uses a rotational force to expose the side of your opponent. This exposed side (empty space) is your target. After seeing all of that area, you need to move in that direction to get in. Darting in a straight line may work some of the time, but following a straight path allows slack that we just worked so hard to remove back into the system. Following a circular path to get in allows us to maintain torque on our opponent. Circling toward the space and pulling your opponent’s lapel exhibits a rotational force on their other shoulder serving two purposes: 1. They cannot close the space you just created with your arm. You’re effectively pulling them away from their defensive position. 2. Their back leg becomes weightless and ready for you to grab to initiate the takedown. While you’re rotating, snatch that leg up with your shucking arm. The crook of your elbow should be biting on the back of their knee.

Starting the rotation is one thing. Now that you created all of this space and have walked right into it, it’s time to finish creating the pressure that encourages dependence! Continuing to pull on that lapel (elbows in!) you can place (read: slam) your forehead into your opponent’s armpit, firmly attaching yourself to their shoulders. Congratulations, you’ve made the rotation dependent!

Don’t get too comfortable though, it’s time to finish the take down!

Finishing the Takedown.

Attached at the shoulder, it’s time to work to the hip… this is starting to sound really familiar. While you’re still pulling the lapel, you can continue to rotate behind your opponent. As you rotate, though, you can begin to switch the nearside pressure from your head to your shoulder that is behind them (if you’ve rotated to your left, this should be your left shoulder). Use this shoulder to pressure your opponent’s hamstring (still pulling their collar? Good!). By this time, if your opponent isn’t eating the mat (they should be!) continue to rotate, pressure, and pull!
If you can’t quite get your opponent to fall yet, don’t worry! The most important part of this sequence is setting up and creating the initial dependence. Small adjustments will allow you to finish more easily. If you’re having trouble at the end, try rotating further behind your opponent and drive your shoulder into the hamstring closer to their glutes.

Happy Takedowns!
Coach Drew


Do you live in the Santa Monica area?  Want to get better at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, or build more strength?  Come try a free class at Robot Fight and Fitness, the best martial arts studio and fitness center in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.  We have over 3,000 square feet of mat space as well as a full strength and conditioning area.  Try out a free class and begin training with us today!