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How Beginners Can Get The Most Out of Mixed Martial Arts Takedowns for Self-Defense

Updated on September 16, 2016

Takedowns and Throws for the Street

How can you perform successful takedowns in a self-defense situation if, well, you aren't really all that great at them?

Improve the takedowns you have learned in your submission wrestling, BJJ, and MMA classes through employing practical experience combined with realistic drilling. Anyone who is not training extensive in judo, Greco-Roman, or freestyle wrestling on a regular basis is going to suffer from a longer learning curve to develop good takedowns. That said, working very hard to make your takedowns successful - albeit maybe a little bit sloppy -- might be fine as a short-term goal.

Why Mixed Martial Arts Takedowns Are Important

"Why do I need to know takedowns if I do not want to take an opponent to the ground?"

Anyone asking this question really should start learning the basics of takedowns and throws today. First, you do not have to take yourself down to the ground. You can dump someone with a double leg, an ankle pick, a headlock throw, or a hip toss without ever going to the ground yourself. Upon doing so, you are standing and your opponent is on the ground....not a good situation for the would be attacker.

When someone assaults you, MMA style takedowns open a few doors for you that are very helpful to the cause of personal protection and self-defense.

  • You can knock someone out thanks to the impact from a throw/takedown.
  • You can stun the person affording you the ability to run away.
  • You can slowly and carefully bring someone to the ground to retrain them without causing injury.

Then, there is the added benefit of making it very difficult for someone to take you down. Anyone with decent takedown/throwing/clinching skills is not easy to take off his or her feet.

What can you do though when you only spend may 15% of your class time (if that) on takedowns? Not to be cliched, but the way you practice what you have learned eventually plays a major role in how much mileage you get out of your supposedly minimal skill.

Technique Does Count...To A Degree

When executing takedowns or throws in a self-defense situation, you are not dealing with a skilled Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert or a solid amateur wrestler. The person does not have a great based nor is he likely trained to time takedown defenses. That said, anyone who has experience with aggressively attacking others probably has developed raw, functional skill dealing with rudimentary grappling.

So, if you try to perform a double leg by bending at the shoulders and "airplaning" your arms out, the chances of success are minimal. The same can be said of anyone who employs a headlock throw without off-balancing the person first.

You do have to work on refining your technique in order to make the moves you choose more effective. Offense also becomes much more difficult to counter when it has been refined and improved.

Of course, this can take time and you can only use the skill you have at the present moment. Is there a way of giving your skill a boost? Actually, there is a training modality capable of enhancing your skills even though you might not have the best "picture perfect" takedowns.

Combinations are the Keys to Success

Making a single attempt with a single takedown may or may not work. Those whose takedowns require a bit of work are probably not going to be able to take someone down with a single direct attack. Even when the person targeted for the takedown is not formally trained, remember, street experience does develop some skill. Simply stuffing someone's head might be enough to stop a takedown attempt.

The way you work around this resistance is to perform your takedowns in combinations. As you go for a double leg and are stuffed switch to a single leg and, if this doesn't work, sweep the support leg.

Does that sound much different than what might occur in a submission grappling match? Honestly no, the techniques are pretty much the same although the scenario is different.

The one thing you really have going for you is an untrained aggressive opponents does not have a good base and this base weakens as you continue to try to take him down provided you are really putting pressure behind your offense. You really do have to make committed takedown or throw attempts and drive some weight behind them.

Another trait the bad guy does not have is timing. As a trained athlete and martial artist, you are going to have a much better command at timing and this can give you a leg up.

Well, you get that leg up provided your practice sessions are productive ones.

Practice the Sport and Street Variants

You definitely want to get some pummeling time in at the gym. Your ability to set up your offense from pummeling drills is definitely going to help you make your takedowns work more effectively.

Pummeling drills alone, however, are not going to be enough when you wish to focus on self-defense scenarios. You want to work from the "fence" natural posture position. The fence basically is a guard position that mimics the basic hand positioning people normally employ. Through training offense and defense from the fence, you can switch modes from a natural posture to fighting and grappling quickly.

Your partner should also play the role of a bad guy and not a wrestler. He should shove you, grab at you, bark at you, and otherwise act like and aggressive thug. You partner should also stick to "brawling" with his grappling and not be too refined. Again, our goal here is to train for a thuggish opponent so you want your partner to mimic such a role. Doing so allows you to better train for the type of individual you want to actually defend against.

Put the Time into Your Training


Never assume you have learned "all you need to know" and that you have got the street takedown thing, well, down. Continue to practice your art and improve where you can. Doing so is the only way to improve your chances of staying safe.

Take the training slow, though. Doing so definitely will make it safer.

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