Getting the fight to the ground is the first step to jiu-jitsu practice since the ground is where we can neutralize our opponent’s strength and size advantages.Takedowns, thus, are an essential part of learning jiu-jitsu. The truth is; however, most people are quite uncomfortable with takedowns. Falling hurts, especially when you do not know how to fall properly. As odd as it may seem, learning how to fall is a skill that is acquired by falling. As it is not the most fun skill to work on, far too many jiu-jitsu practitioners much prefer to “start on the ground.” I am not a fan of this philosophy because in an altercation, one cannot simply ask his or her attacker to “start on the ground”, so from a self-defense standpoint, takedowns and the ability to train them and implement them is important. If you are uncomfortable practicing them, it may be best to put aside some of that discomfort and in the very least, learn how to hold your own on your feet. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts of practicing takedowns.

Do’s

Practice your takedowns diligently

You must be comfortable practicing your takedowns, particularly for the purpose of self-defense. In the unfortunate event that you will ever have to defend yourself or your family, the fight will likely start on your feet. Practicing takedowns with people in your school who know what they’re doing is great training for the real world where most people, including someone who is trying to assault you, has no idea how to grapple effectively. Learn how to hold your own on your feet. While you may never become proficient with your takedowns compared to your training partners, your ability to be comfortable standing up and getting the fight to the ground effectively can go a long way in a self-defense situation.

Pay extra attention to mat space

Training takedowns can be a lot more precarious than strict ground-work. Make sure you are keeping an eye on where the mat space ends and where other students are on the mats so you can avoid throwing someone into someone else. Accidents are much more common when the awareness is lacking because students will zero in on hitting a takedown properly. This tunnel vision inhibits the awareness you’ll need to throw your partner in a safe place, away from concrete, furniture, or other people. Safety is more important than your throws; maintain good awareness and never sacrifice someone else’s well-being for that beautiful Uchi-Mata you’ve been working on.

Cross-train in Judo and Wrestling

Most jiu-jitsu instructors are well-versed in takedowns and are quite proficient, but getting the pure perspectives of a Judo black belt or former wrestler can help substantially as you move into the world of takedowns. If you have the time and resources, consider visiting a judo school or taking private lessons with a former wrestler. If your academy has specific programs with these classes, enroll in them if you have not already. Another discipline to cross-train in is Sambo which has its own unique brand of takedowns and grappling. These can all serve to help your jiu-jitsu but also substantially improve your take-down game.

Don’ts

Tense up 

Never tense up. Learn how to break your fall. People don’t like to fall so our natural inclination to falling is to tense up and reach for the ground. These are very harmful reactions. Many injuries happen as a result of people being too scared to fall. Once you’re on your way to the ground, immediately resign yourself to the fact that you will fall; there is nothing you can do to stop this fact. At this point, relax, tuck your chin, and break your fall accordingly. Your instructors should be showing you the proper way to mitigate the likelihood of injury. Practice your breakfalls diligently to help you relax when you actually do take a tumble at the hands of a training partner.

Carelessly Hurt Your Partners

Takedowns can be intimidating. Again, people do not like to fall. Be mindful of your training partners sizes and limitations. In the world of takedowns, it is very easy to forget how much more size, strength, and leverage advantage you may have causing your smaller or weaker training partners to hit the ground with so much force that they will be crushed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Take care of your training partners; let them down gently and keep the flow of your sparring round going after it hits the mat. Practice is not a self-defense situation where you are looking to incapacitate your opponent with an Ippon.

Spend Your Entire Sparring
Round on Your Feet

Remember, this is a jiu-jitsu class, not a judo or wrestling class. Unless you are working specific wrestling or judo takedowns, you need to get down to the ground before you squander the entire round. It happens a lot when two training partners are working takedowns and the timer hits zero before any groundwork has been done. If you cannot get a takedown, consider pulling guard. Get the fight to the ground and practice your jiu-jitsu.

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