Thursday, December 3, 2009

takedowns - there may be hope yet!

Just like so many other people, I've not been mad keen on takedowns. Not very good at any of them, not very successful and not confident. Not sure if the lack of confidence led to lack of success or the lack of success (from lack of skill) led to a lack of confidence. Probably it's a bit of a vicious circle. Particularly shooting for a takedown wasn't working. I had the grace and the success rate grace of a drunken gorilla....

So I will admit I was secretly very glad that we usually start from knees or in some sort of open guard at BJJ. I know that a lot of people poo-hoo that, but I suits me just fine :-)

Both in BJJ and PFS, we have been working on takedowns for some time. So I know a variety of takedowns for both gi and nogi situations. I know how to do various versions of singles and doubles, how to do entries by shooting or from clinch. I also learned a hip toss, some foot sweeps and a sacrifice throw. And of course I've been taught how to fall so I don't break my head or my limbs.

All the same, usually when I hear the word takedown, I cringe, and if I had half a viable excuse, I'd do something else. On the other hand, I don't like guard pulling in BJJ, to have half a chance against the bigger guys, I can't start off on the bottom.

I notice now that here and there something positive is happening. Sometimes when we drill takedowns, I pull one off nice and sweet. That must have given me a bit of heart which means now I'm that little bit more committed which in turn means I have more success.

Last Wednesday, we did some free wrestling from standup, it was a small class and everyone had a turn with everyone else, so that was four fights for each of us. We had set out a little competition sized area and someone scored the fights. I'll admit right upfront that I cringed when I was told the plan for the day. The smallest of the four guys is probably 10kg heavier than I and he is a much quicker and more flexible at less than half my age (sigh...). The biggest of the guys would easily be twice my weight. Wrestling with these from a ground start is tough enough, but from standing??

I had the first fight with the young guy and he took me down. Don't recall how. It went for a while but I was mostly on the bottom defending until he isolated one of my arms. One of the fights I barely recall (goldfish brain ;-) ). I think I was looking for a takedown when he pulled guard, and then I was swept and then it went downhill from there to a submission I really can't remember.

On the really big guy I shot in on for a single leg. He put his weight on me, so I dropped down for a low single but still got flattened. Then I was systematically squashed until he had high mount and made me tap from a wristlock. Anyway, at least I attempted the takedown. The last fight was with another fairly large guy (probably 30kg heavier than I). I attempted a takedown again, not sure how he defended but I ended up with him in my guard from where we had a lively wrestle. It ended in another submission, after I fought off his choke attempts for a long time. Just can't remember the details.

But the relevant issue of the whole session was that for a change, I (yes, I!) went for most of the takedowns. Sensei noted that it was commendable that I took the initiative and that it would always be very difficult for me to take down big guys with more experience. I allowed myself to be very pleased with my little self ;-)

Last week we also had a PFS class where we worked on takedowns among other stuff. We learned a new version of a double, where you drop, step in deep, hug his knees with your arms, clasp your hands and bring them towards you while driving forward with your shoulder on his belly. As he goes down, your shoulder pins him to the floor, and you hold his legs together while your legs walk around to side control. The guy I worked with is usually very good at takedowns, but this one didn't work well for him. I think he had an off day (I know the feeling all too well). First, the takedown didn't work for me either, but we had the chance to get in a few reps and in the end it worked quite sweetly. So although we only drilled, it was another success for me.

In tonight's PFS class, we worked various combinations. Step and pivot to avoid a punch, and from there to either a kick, a combination of punches or a shoot. We drilled shoots from various positions, avoiding punches. At the end of the class, we briefly did some free sparring from standup, all allowed. In the past, I used to dread those because for the life of me I couldn't get a good entry for a takedown, so it would either just stay up or I'd get taken down to an inferior position. Groundfighting with punches thrown in.... I don't like to be on the bottom! The difference tonight was that I was the one who initiated the takedowns. Never mind the fact that I was idiotic enough to attempt a single with my head on the outside. I deserved the guillotine choke I had to tap to. Never mind I did the same damn thing again. At least the second time I defended the choke.

What I was pleased about was the fact that I initiated the takedowns. In the first spar I shot for a single when I saw an opening. In the second one, the guy really didn't want to be taken down, and tried to keep me away with kicks. But I snared his leg and got the single that way.

There is so much to be learned and so much of my technique to be tidied up and mistakes to be eliminated. But something in my mindset has changed, and that seems to be making all the difference. Believing I can do something is such an important step in succussfully doing something. The mind is a powerful thing, it needs training and developing, just like the body ;-)


  1. I'm with you on hating takedowns, although for me, it isn't just a lack of familiarity. Every time I've ever read up on judo in the long term, there has been mention of screwed up knees, shoulders, neck, etc: takedowns just seem to mess you up so much worse than BJJ.

    As I've only got the one body, I'd rather use it up on stuff I enjoy, like groundwork, rather than stuff I don't, like being hit with the floor. ;)

  2. Agreed, there is nothing gentle about takedowns. Today I'm sporting a bit of a sore neck, probably a combination of Thursday night's and this morning's sessions with lots of takedown drills. However, the clinch drills are hard on neck and back, too...

    In comparison (!!), wrestling from the ground is downright gentle for my old bones ;-).

    The worst that ever happened in a takedown was when I shot, the guy sprawled, and my right knee was ground into the mat sideways. Ouch. Grappling wasn't fun for a while, my knee really didn't like contact with anything and the bruising was spectacular.

    I sometimes wonder if maybe I'm a bit insane ;-). You are quite correct about only having the one body, and maybe I should be more conservative in how I abuse the one I have. Injuries are a pain because spare parts are hard to come by, you miss training and well, they are painful.

    Judo? No way. After reading The Pyjama Game with the lively descriptions of the flying phase followed by the splat on the mat, I think it's not for me :-).

  3. That is how I tore my MCL was doing takedowns. I'm not to keen on them either. But like you I just keep trying.