5 Fundamental Takedowns Every Grappler Should Know

Learning to throw and be thrown is an important part of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stand up game. Photo – Instagram: @journowynne

Ideally every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner should have at least a few takedowns and throws in their BJJ arsenal, and should therefore be able to start a match from standing. Of course, pulling guard is an option at the gym and in competition, however when it comes to being able to incorporate your BJJ knowledge for a self-defense situation (let’s be real the self-defense side of grappling is a big bonus to learning the sport) you need to be able to get your opponent to the ground or know how to grapple from standing in order for it to be effective. Are you going to pull guard in a street fight or an attack? Not likely.

When it comes to throws and takedowns there are copious amounts, but you don’t need to learn them all, you just need to have a few that work really well for you; as Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Below are five fundamental takedowns every grappler should know; all of which are applicable to both Gi and No-Gi jiu-jitsu.

Double Leg Takedown

The double leg takedown is a very popular takedown in both BJJ and MMA. The double leg is similar to a single leg, except with the double leg you want to have a deep penetration step and to have hold of both legs. An extremely effective takedown but shots have to be quick and well-timed to prevent getting sprawled on.

The double leg is a fairly straightforward move – you do a level change, step in, and you grab your opponent’s legs behind their thighs and you drive into them or pick them up and drive them perpendicular.

How to do a double leg takedown:

  1. Observe opponents current standing position. If you are close enough that you can touch them then you should be close enough to shoot.
  2. Lift their arms to make room for your entry.
  3. Take a small step forward with your lead leg and lower your level to set up your shot.
  4. Drive forward as you shoot in, making sure that your posture is straight.
  5. Grab behind your opponents with one hand behind each leg from the outside and drive the opponent as if you are cutting a corner to finish the takedown.

If you don’t fully commit and you shoot from too far away, or with poor timing, there is a danger of getting sprawled on by your opponent. Once you’ve finished the takedown you also need to make sure you don’t get trapped inside of the opponents guard, and jump off to the side once you’ve finished the takedown.

There are lots of different variations for the Double Leg. Often, the biggest differences between these variations include head position (the head to the side or in the middle of the chest) and whether you drop down to your lead knee as you shoot (the penetration step).

Watch multiple time world champion and IBJJF hall of famer Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida and Bernardo Faria explain and show the double leg below,

Single Leg Takedown

The high crotch single leg is arguably one of the best takedowns to learn in BJJ because it is simple but high percentage. The single leg high crotch can be done from a number of setups, but one of the most common and best setups is from the inside step and for this to work, you only need to grab one of your opponent’s legs.

How to do a single leg takedown:

  1. Push partners shoulder to bring the leg forward
  2. Take a small penetration step with your lead leg.
  3. Lower your stance but keep your posture upright as you shoot in, grabbing high up on their thigh with both of your arms.
  4. Your head will usually land on the side of their hip and rib area (be careful of guillotines!).
  5. Use your shoulder to push and rotate your opponent diagonally into the direction that’s unsupported by his leg.
    This will result in your opponent losing balance and falling down.

This is usually one of the safest takedowns if done correctly (your hips are in, back straight, and head looking forward). Due to the similarities, single legs can be turned into double legs, and double legs can be turned into single legs depending on your opponent’s reaction. The single leg also beholds many variations so there’s options for counters depending on your opponents reactions (low single leg, lift leg high and sweep free leg etc..).

Do note that for BJJ and Submission Wrestling you have to be careful about putting your head to the outside of your opponent’s body (or let him force it to the outside) because a) it’s illegal at white belt in IBJJF competition, and b) it does expose you to the guillotine.

Watch five-time IBJJF world champion Andre Galvao display the best single leg for BJJ below,

Body Lock

The body lock entry is usually created through a pummeling exchange. Like all of the takedowns on this list, there are many variations. From entry to finish, the body lock leaves you relatively safe from counter-attacks and reversals. However, be aware that there is a chance that you may end up in the opponent’s half-guard after a leg trip. A knee bump will leave you in a better passing position. You can also work a back take from the position.

How to do a body lock takedown:

  1. Get double under-hooks from the pummel.
  2. Lower your stance while you push your head against their chest.
  3. With your arms around the lower back of your opponent, pull their hips in next to your hips.
  4. With your head pushing their chest and your arms controlling their lower back, they should look like they are leaning backwards.
  5. To finish the pass, you can buckle their knee by bumping it with your adjacent knee, or do a leg trip.

Professor Philipe Della Monica from Gracie Barra, Irvine, CA does a great job of showing the body lock inside hook takedown here,

Standing Arm Drag to back take

The arm drag can be initiated from a regular stance. You can also go into a single leg, double leg and inside trip (ouchi gari), ankle pick after the arm drag.

How to do a standing arm drag to back take:

  1. Control the their wrist or sleeve and pull it to your opposite side to expose part of their back
  2. As you drag the tricep, grab the side of their waist and step forward with your leg so that your foot lands behind your opponent.
  3. You are now on your opponent’s back. Take full control of your opponent’s waist with both arms.
  4. From this position, bump your knee on the side of your opponent’s knee. When you feel their knee buckle, simply bring them to the ground using your control around their waist to shift their weight down.
  5. Another option to finish is to slightly lift your opponent and use your knee to sweep their knee, or jump to a double shin hook behind their knee (crab ride).

There are also many more options from this position as you are behind your opponents back you can start to look for submissions ieven if you haven’t managed to take them to the ground yet. Although the arm drag isn’t necessarily a throw or a takedown on its own, it is a fundamental move that opens up a lot of takedown options, therefore we grapplers should be taking advantage of that.

The Wiltse brothers explain the arm drag concept very well here,

Harai Goshi

Harai Goshi was developed by judoka Jigoro Kano as a reaction to the Uki Goshi counter. Uki Goshi or hip throw is easy to escape especially if you create enough distance between your hip. Jigoro Kano developed the Harai Goshi as part of the 40 original throws of judo. Today, Harai Goshi has been developed as an individual move and not just a plan B coming from a hip throw or Uki Goshi. To use the Harai Goshi, you can start with a collar/neck (no-Gi) and a tricep grip.

How to harai goshi:

  1. Get your grips; one grip on the collar/opponents neck if no-gi and the other grip on their opposite elbow.
  2. You will have to off-balance the opponent towards one side and cross step.
  3. Your back should be glued to your opponent’s belly, no space should be left between you and your opponent, and make sure their heels are off the ground.
  4. Now you should be facing the same direction your opponent is facing.
  5. From this position, you block the outside leg with the same leg that you used to cross step. Continue to pivot using the other leg to finish the throw.

For anything that involves using the legs, you want to use it against smaller opponents or those who are of the same height as you. If not, you want to nullify the distance between your opponent’s hip and your hip.

Why are takedowns important in BJJ?

Takedowns are essential for BJJ. Having solid fundamentals with your stand-up game will give you more confidence, especially in competition. Being able to dictate where the fight will go will give you an advantage over your opponent.

According to a report by High Percentage Martial Arts, in the lower belt categories (white and blue), the most common attempted takedowns are leg trips, and single leg and double leg takedowns.

Learning the stand-up game should always be part of a jiu jitsu practitioners regimen and one of the best ways to supplement your stand-up game is to cross-train in both wrestling and judo. Learning both art forms will have a transformative effect on your jiu jitsu, not just on your stand-up, but in your ground game as well so get learning your throws and takedowns if you haven’t already!.

Lucy Wynne

BJJ Blue Belt from Southampton, England. I'm an avid writer, music lover and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) enthusiast. I began training BJJ when I was at university, and I've trained ever since. #OSS

Lucy Wynne has 147 posts and counting. See all posts by Lucy Wynne