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Grips, Setups, and Takedowns

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Grip Fighting

Grip fighting is a key component to success in grappling. Grip fighting is a fundamental tool to success in control, distance management, takedowns, submissions, and offense and defense. In essence, grip fighting is a dynamic skill that encompasses a wide range of techniques and strategies. A strong understanding of grip fighting contributes to overall success.

Takedown Setups

The key to effective takedown setups lies in the artful combination of strategic use of grips, distance management, and timing. Grapplers seeking successful takedowns must master the skill of reading their opponent's movements and capitalizing on openings.

  • Grips play a central role in establishing control and initiating offensive maneuvers. The art of grip fighting involves not only securing advantageous grips but also disrupting the opponent's attempts. Skillful manipulation of the opponent's posture through well-placed grips can create openings for takedowns, making grip fighting an integral component of the setup process.

  • Controlling the distance is another critical element in takedown setups. Grapplers must skillfully navigate the space between them and their opponent, closing it strategically to launch attacks or maintaining it to thwart counterattacks. Proper distance management enables the execution of well-timed entries into takedown attempts.

  • Timing is paramount, as the initiation of a takedown must exploit the precise moment when the opponent's balance is compromised or their defensive posture is momentarily weakened. Capatilizing on openings is dependent on adaptability and an understanding of one's own strengths and the opponent's weaknesses. Grapplers must be adept at transitioning seamlessly between different setups based on the opponent's reactions. By incorporating feints, misdirection, and a diverse array of gripping techniques, a grappler can keep their opponent off-balance, setting the stage for effective takedown attempts.

Set Ups: A Quick List of Options

  • Hand Fighting: Engaging in grip fighting to control the opponent's hands and set up openings for takedowns.

  • Wrist Control: Controlling the opponent's wrist to limit their defensive options and set up takedowns.

  • Arm Drags: Pulling the opponent's arm across their body to disrupt their balance and create opportunities for takedowns.

  • Collar and Elbow Tie-Up: Establishing control by gripping the opponent's collar and elbow, setting up various takedowns.

  • Snap Downs: Controlling the opponent's head and snapping it down to create openings for takedowns.

  • Circle and Angle Changes: Moving laterally and changing angles to disrupt the opponent's balance and set up takedowns.

  • Level Changes: Alternating between high and low stances to mislead the opponent and create opportunities for takedowns.

  • Feinting Shots: Pretending to go for a takedown, causing the opponent to react, and then capitalizing on their response.

  • Fake Guard Pull: Pretending to pull guard to provoke a reaction from the opponent, then transitioning into a takedown.

  • Fake Throws: Initiating the motion of a throw to prompt a reaction from the opponent, then transitioning into a different takedown.

  • Using Striking to Set Up (MMA): Combining striking with takedown attempts to create openings and distract the opponent.

Pay attention to how some of these techniques are applied in the follwing videos:


Arm Drag to Takedown: My personal favorite. This technique involves pulling the opponent's arm across their body to disrupt their balance and creates opportunities for takedowns. (My personal favorite takedown is an armdrag to an inside leg trip, shown in the video below, I find it to be effective, low risk, and easy to learn.)

Snap Downs: Controlling the opponent's head and snapping it down to take the opponent down or create openings for takedowns.

Double Leg Takedown: A classic wrestling takedown where the practitioner shoots in and controls both legs of their opponent before driving them to the ground.

Single Leg Takedown: Involves grabbing one of the opponent's legs and lifting or driving them to the ground.

Knee Tap: Utilizes creating an angle and tapping an opponent's knee to unbalance them, causing them to fall to the ground.

Foot Sweep (Deashi Harai): Sweeping one or both of the opponent's legs with a quick motion of the practitioner's foot.

Hip Throw (O Goshi): A Judo throw involving getting hip-to-hip contact with the opponent and throwing them over the practitioner's hip.

Shoulder Throw (Ippon Seoi Nage): A Judo throw where the practitioner lifts the opponent onto their shoulder and throws them forward.

Ankle Pick: Reaching down to grab the opponent's ankle and disrupting their balance to bring them to the ground.

Sacrifice Throw (Tomoe Nage) A judo throw that utilizes falling backward with foot placement on the opponent to throw them over and onto the ground. (Note: I also do a version of this using both feet on the hips and follow my body with a backwards roll which lands me in a mount position over my opponent.)

Other Sacrifice Throws:

Scissor Takedown: Involves scissoring the legs around the opponent's standing leg to bring them down. (Note: Imanari roll takedown is another personal favorite of mine.)

Fireman's Carry: Lifting the opponent over the shoulder and taking them down to the ground.

Propping and Lifting Pulling Leg (Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi): A Judo technique involving lifting and propping up the opponent's leg.

Guard Pulling can be effective in various situations, and practitioners often use it strategically for different reasons. the effectiveness of guard pulling depends on the individual practitioner's skill level, their preferred style of play, and the specific context of the match. While guard pulling can be a valuable tool in a BJJ practitioner's arsenal, it should be used judiciously and strategically based on the practitioner's strengths and the demands of the situation. I personally reserve guard pulling in my game to when outmatched in takedown capabilities or when energy levels are taxed.


There is a lot to learn in regards to takedowns and a lot more options to employ. Remember that effective takedown setups often involve a combination of feints, misdirection, and timing. Developing a diverse set of setups and being able to chain them together can significantly enhance a BJJ practitioner's ability to secure takedowns.

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