Setting Up and Finishing the Single Leg Takedown in BJJ with the Gi

The single leg takedown is one of the main moves in freestyle wrestling, but it becomes considerably harder to pull off when you put the gi on.

That’s because with the gi  your opponent usually just grabs your lapel and sleeve, stiff-arms away, and makes it hard to get at his legs. This can be very frustrating for people looking for single and double leg wrestling takedowns in BJJ.

Now judo players have an easier time dismantling this sort of defense since gripfighting is so integral to their sport.

Does that mean that you should learn Judo?  I started doing Judo when I was 11 and think it’s a beautiful art, but the sad truth is that most judo throws take a very long time and thousands of repetitions to develop.

Also many Judo throws don’t translate well to no gi and MMA type scenarios.

But if you want to stick with a wrestling approach then you absolutely CAN adapt the single leg to work with the gi!

The key is setting up your grips.

In a previous article I showed my own favourite gripping sequence in the gi.  It’s centered around first getting the ‘across the back’ grip and then using your opponent’s reactions to take him down (and the single leg takedown was one of those techniques covered).

But today we’re looking at another sequence to secure the single leg takedown in the gi.  The sequence consists of the following steps:

Open your opponent’s left lapel with your left hand and then back away Now insert your right hand low on his right lapel and slide it up as high as you can comfortably get Pull your opponent forward so that he steps his right leg forward and postures up and backwards Step forward and off balance him backwards by pushing his chest with your face/forehead Pick up his lead (right) leg, which should now be light, with your left hand and drive forward Keep his leg elevated, pull down on his lapel, and circle to your right to take him down

This sequence, taught by Rob Biernacki, is a lot easier to understand if you check out the video below.

Hope this helps!


More Easy Takedowns

A lot of people have asked me about throws and takedowns over the years so I’ve actually written about this topic numerous times on my blog.  If you’re » Continue Reading.

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The Red Line in Jiu-Jitsu

I once flew in through the mountains in a helicopter with my friend Kevin at the controls. He was not only a commercial pilot but also fellow whitewater paddler.

We had commandeered a helicopter for ‘a maintenance flight’, but the real reason we were airborne was to scout a remote river in northern British Columbia, almost at the Yukon border.

The idea was to fly over the river and down its many canyons to see if it was navigable by kayak.  If it looked good then we hoped to go paddle it later in the summer.

Anyhow, as we whizzed along, I was asking Kevin about the dials and gauges in front of us, the windspeed, altimeter, compass, bank indicators and so on.

Then I asked him about an RPM gauge (apparently called the ‘dual tachometer’) and why there was a red line marked on the dial.

He pointed to the section below the red line. “This is for the paying jobs…“, he said.

Then he pointed to the section above the red line, “…and this is for the wife and kids.

In other words, there were the regular speeds that the engine and rotor blades could operate at safely.

And then there were speeds that he could maybe get the engine to go up to, but only for emergencies.  Those situations where pushing into the red might just save his life and bring him back to his family.

If he flew his bird above the redline on every trip then his million dollar machine would soon get damaged and maybe drop out of the sky unexpectedly.

Jiu-jitsu is much the same way.

When you’re training normally then yes, you should be pushing yourself hard.

You should sweat, struggle, and get tired.

But you shouldn’t balls-to-the-wall every single time.

Operating at do-or-die levels of intensity every time you train you train means that the chances of something going catastrophically wrong go up hugely!

Either you’re going to injure your training partner or yourself.

If you’re injured then you can’t train.  And if you can’t train then you’re not going to get better.

Part of the problem is that we respect all-out training.  We’re in awe of the intensity with which Dan Gable pushed his Iowa wrestlers, and forget that these were already elite and genetically gifted athletes who only had a few years to be turned into Big Ten and National » Continue Reading.

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Podcast Episode 126: Staying Calm in Killer Waves and Night Time Saves with Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Donald Lipscomb

Really enjoyed this chat with Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Donald Lipscomb.  We went into detail about rescuing people from capsized ships, the selection process with a 90% attrition rate, and the training required to jump from a helicopter into stormy seas with nothing more than a pair of fins to push yourself through the water.

We also talk about how jiu-jitsu and wrestling helped give him the mental and physical toughness he needs to do an incredibly gruelling job.

If you get the chance, please share this episode with one other person you think would enjoy it!

The best way to listen to this podcast is to go to your favourite podcasting platform, subscribe to ‘The Strenuous Life’ Podcast, and then look for episode 126. You can find it on most podcast platforms, including…

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/strenuous-life-podcast-stephan-kesting-grapplearts/id320705565?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?authuser&u=0#/ps/I3qvbtkdb74xrpv6ozbzie2ca4e

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-993426357

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stephan-kesting/grapplearts-radio-podcast

You can also listen to interview on the embedded player below…

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Podcast Episode 125: Reilly Bodycomb on Sambo, Leglocks, MMA, Jiu-Jitsu and No Gi Grappling

I loved doing this interview with Reilly Bodycomb. Reilly is a Russian sambo and leglock expert who has competed in a TON of different rulesets including BJJ, no gi submission grappling, MMA, Sambo, and wrestling.

He is the Pan-American Sport SAMBO Champion (2016), USA Sport SAMBO Champion (2016), Dutch Combat SAMBO Champion (2016), recently competed in Japan and is a BJJ black belt as well!

In our talk he shared stories about competing all over the world, and shared some major insights about how the rules you compete under totally influence the development of a sport.  My favourite part was when we were riffing about creating the ‘perfect’ grappling rule set.

I hope you  get as much out of it as much as I did.

If you enjoyed it then please share this podcast episode with at least one friend or training partner – that’s how this podcast grows and I really appreciate it!!

Here are some of the highlights

00:23 – Reilly Bodycomb intro 07:22 – History of Sambo and the Russian martial arts 13:53 – Competing around the world 15:48 – Rules of Combat Sambo 20:34 – Dealing with and competing under differing rulesets 28:35 – Reilly’s favourite throws for different sports 32:49 – Gym culture and training environments 37:23 – Leglocks in submission grappling 48:30 – The flying scissor takedown 53:38 – Competing in Japan 56:04 – Game design and the ‘perfect’ set of rules

The best way to listen to this podcast is to go to your favourite podcasting platform, subscribe to ‘The Strenuous Life’ Podcast (*ahem* that’s my podcast) and then look for episode 124. You can find it on most podcast platforms, including…

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/strenuous-life-podcast-stephan-kesting-grapplearts/id320705565?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?authuser&u=0#/ps/I3qvbtkdb74xrpv6ozbzie2ca4e

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-993426357

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stephan-kesting/grapplearts-radio-podcast

You can also listen to interview on the embedded player below…

Finally, if you like what you hear then why not go and give The Strenuous Life Podcast a rating or review on whatever platform you listen to it on. That kind of stuff is super appreciated, and it’s really helping



P.S. Find out more about Reilly Bodycomb and his upcoming ankle lock instructional at https://www.rdojo.com

Combat Sport Videos and Links Referred to in this Podcast are Below! Example of Russian style wrestling from the Russian Nationals

How to do the Flying Scissors Takedown (and hopefully not injure your partner)

Daido Juku Karate Competition

» Continue Reading.

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Stephan Talks to Chewy from Chewjitsu on The Strenuous Life Podcast, Episode 120

Chewy (aka Nick Albin) is well known for the BJJ advice he gives on his prolific Chewjitsu channel, so I was thrilled to have him on the podcast.

It’s a great chat and we cover a ton of material, including

How he got his nickname, His journey from wrestling to MMA to jiu-jitsu, Gi vs no gi training, Preventing injuries in training, Why he decided to leave tech and go full time in jiu-jitsu, Getting his black belt on the same day that his mother died, How jiu-jitsu saves lives, His youtube channel, Crazy gyms and insane coaches, And more.

This is all in episode 120 of The Strenuous Life podcast, which is available on many different podcast platforms including…

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/strenuous-life-podcast-stephan-kesting-grapplearts/id320705565?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?authuser&u=0#/ps/I3qvbtkdb74xrpv6ozbzie2ca4e

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-993426357

And Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stephan-kesting/grapplearts-radio-podcast

You can also listen to my conversation with Chewy on the embedded player below, but if you’re not subscribed on your favourite podcast player then you’ll likely miss all future episodes of this podcast and I have some other very cool guests lined up!

Find out more about Chewy’s school at derbycitymartialarts.com and check out his Youtube channel at youtube.com/chewjitsu

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1st Match Adrenaline Dump & Forearm Burnout: Why it Happens and How to Deal with it

 Credit image & photo: Pedja Milosavljevic / STARSPORT: Belgrade Open 2016 BJJ A competitor has just finished the first match of their day. It was a tough one that went the distance. Sweat on the brow, chest heaving and leaden forearms the competitor leaves the mat realizing they only have between five and ten minutes to […]

The post 1st Match Adrenaline Dump & Forearm Burnout: Why it Happens and How to Deal with it appeared first on Bjj Eastern Europe.

Lapel Drag from Butterfly Guard and from Standing

The lapel drag (aka collar drag) is an incredibly important move from the butterfly guard.  It’s a legitimate sweep, but it’s also an amazing setup for many other attacks.

It’s also low risk and doesn’t require an elaborate grip to set it up.

In this Youtube video Rob Biernacki shows some of the black belt details that’ll make this sweep MUCH more effective, even against skilled, larger opponents!

The technique above was a lapel drag performed from the butterfly guard against a kneeling opponent. But you can also do the same move from the feet as a takedown.

This technique is functionally illegal in Judo, but in BJJ it’s a high percentage and fairly safe way get a match to the ground. In the video below my friend Ritchie Yip shows you how to do it.

Whether you’re using the lapel drag on the ground or on the feet you always have to be prepared to follow up with other techniques.

In the first video at the top of this page you saw Rob Biernacki connect the lapel drag sweep with the single leg takedown from wrestling.

This is a very powerful combination, and I’m not the only person who thinks so!  Here are a couple of multiple time BJJ world champions showing you their own particular approach for this takedown combo…

Here’s Cobrinha, 6 time world champion, showing you how he likes to do the collar drag to single leg

And here’s my friend Bernardo Faria, 4 time world champion and 3 time Pan American champion, with his variation of the same move:

So there you have it – a powerful, low risk sweep and takedown that doesn’t require a ton of coordination… What are you waiting for?  Get out there and start drilling it!!!

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Podcast with Clint Davies, the 10 x New Zealand Wrestling Champion Who is Also Legally Blind

Clint Davies is an amazing human being.

Legally blind since age 2, he is also a 10 time New Zealand national champion who competes against sighted opponents.  He also has multiple Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu national championships under his belt and has competed in the world championships.

His goal is to be the craziest blind guy you’ve ever met, and this podcast may just convince you of this!

You can listen to my interview with him in podcast 089 of my Strenuous Life Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

Or if you don’t use any podcast players (and you should) then you can listen to it here by clicking on the player below.

P.S. It would be hugely appreciated if you were to subscribe to and give this podcast a rating if you find it useful. That sort of support is really helping us produce more episodes!

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A Guide to Grappling Gear

You’re training in a sport that, at its core, consists of two human beings rolling around trying to submit one another. This all seems very simple, and you don’t need a lot of gear to get started other than a mat (and maybe a gi). But In this article I am going to discuss a few additional items might make your time on the mats more enjoyable and productive.

The MOST Important Training Gear of ALL!

The single-most important, completely indispensable training gear of all is your sparring partner!

Grappling is a contact sport where we struggle to apply techniques to our sparring partners while these same people are doing their very best to resist and apply similar techniques to us. The training of techniques against partial or full resistance is the central pillar of our training method, and it relies absolutely on having sparring partners. No sparring partners equals no sparring equals no improvement of skills.

So given that this is true, then why do some people take such poor care of their sparring partners? Why do some people think it is acceptable to crank armbars, or apply full force toeholds? At best that person will stop sparring with them, at worst they may sustain serious injury requiring surgery. Either way, the person without control loses a sparring partner and makes it more difficult for himself to improve his skills.

Preserve your training partners – it’s the only way to get better!


If I could only choose one piece of protective gear to wear on the mat it would be the humble mouthguard. Grappler’s faces are always getting banged up, even if they don’t practice mixed martial arts. Whenever there is a scramble to pass the guard, to escape a bad position or to apply a submission there is always the possibility of getting hit in the head by an errant leg, head or arm. I have trained both with, and without, a mouthguard and have learned my lesson repeatedly. Nowadays I spar with one in at least 95% of the time.

Mouthguards protect you in many ways: they stop your teeth from chipping or getting knocked out, they reduce the likelihood and severity of biting your own tongue, and help prevent concussion. By offering you something to bite down into it also makes it harder to break or dislocate the jaw, should something hit you really hard.

» Continue Reading.

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UK Grappling Styles

by Jeff Meszaros

So we’ve finished the first two legs of your around-the-world adventure to try out all the grappling arts (click here for Asian Grappling Styles and/or click here for European Grappling Styles).

While you’ve been wrestling up a storm I’ve been beside you the whole way to cheer you on and run up your credit card bill at expensive restaurants. Also, I’ve done a bit of research in each country to see what you’re getting into. It’s been quite a trip so far, I must say.

First, we swept across Asia and you tried judo, sumo and Mongolian wrestling plus a ton of others. ‘

I liked the time you got dirt thrown on you in India. Turkish oil wrestling was crazy too. I had no idea they would stick their hands in your pants like that. Wow!

Then, we traveled all around Europe and you tried out Russian sambo, plus a bunch others in Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland among other places. A lot of it looked just like judo and some looked like wrestling, but a few were different.

I liked the one in Austria where everyone was wearing business casual work clothes. It looked like a fight at Staples. We ended up with you trying glima in Iceland and, thankfully, you survived all of the monster throws. So our journey can continue.

Now we’re going to try out all of the grappling arts in the UK Is that still part of Europe? I know they had that Brexit thing, but they’re still part of Europe right? No? I’m not sure. Ireland is still part of Europe? Well, It doesn’t matter…

We’re going to visit all of them to see what they do for fun. And by “fun”, I mean “grappling” of course. For you, anyway. I’m going to stick to visiting the local restaurants and, sometimes, looking into what you are foolishly about to do.

Speaking of that, the U.K. is a hot pocket of grappling and has been for thousands and thousands of years. From the little research I’ve done, some of these arts might not exist anymore but that’s no problem. If we can’t see them by flying there in your private jet, we’ll use a mixture of hypnotism, LSD and sensory deprivation tanks to travel back through time. Suffice to say, don’t try this at home kids. Time » Continue Reading.

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European Grappling Styles

So, we’ve finished the first leg of your around-the-world grappling tour and it’s been a blast (click here to read Asian Grappling Styles, the previous article).

In the previous part of the journey we started in Japan, where you got thrown flat on your back by judo champions and slapped around by sumo wrestlers. Then, in Korea, you did ssireum, which was kind of like sumo but in a pit full of sand. In China, you did a kind of grappling called shuai jiao and then you did Mongolian wrestling, complete with a little bird dance.

Then we went through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and India before hitting Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, each of which had their own kind of wrestling. My favorite was India where they threw dirt at you. Turns out, that’s a way they bless their opponent. Go figure.

Finally, you tried Turkish oil wrestling which involved you putting on a special pair of leather shorts filled with oil and then, because you were so slippery, really muscular men jammed their fists into your pants to heft you into the air and slam you down on the grass.

It was all wildly entertaining for me as I accompanied you and tried the local cuisine. Did I do any grappling? No! I’m just coming along to journal your trip and needlessly rack up your travel expenses.

I’ll continue with that as we head from one side of Europe to the other….

Russian Sambo

You can’t do an around-the-world grappling tour without stopping in Russia to do some sambo, right? Of course not. Now, you just have to decide what kind of sambo you’d like to do because, as with the other countries, there are a few kinds. With sambo, it boils down to basically three kinds. All of them are really rough, though.

The first is a lot like judo, but with no chokes allowed and, instead, leg locks are totally ok. They like leg locks more than chokes because a choke only takes one guy out of a fight but a broken leg takes three people out: One with a broken leg and two more who have to carry him to the medic. Pretty awesome, eh? So, that’s called sport sambo. For that, people wear a jacket with cool shoulder-handles, plus shorts and leather-shoes that, really, everyone who grapples should wear to avoid toe-injuries but only these guys have » Continue Reading.

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How to Escape Kesa Gatame and the Headlock

Kesa Gatame is one of the most under-utilized positions in BJJ. People in jiu-jitsu tend to ignore this position but generations of judo players and wrestlers have proved that Kesa Gatame IS a powerful and effective way to pin someone.

And – even worse for someone caught in it – Kesa Gatame is also a great entry into some very effective armlocks, leglocks, neck cranks and diaphragm chokes.

But let’s start our discussion with the inferior cousin of Kesa Gatame – the common side headlock…

Headlocks and Why They Matter in BJJ

If you’re training with big strong beginners who have little technique but lots of fighting spirit then the odds are pretty good that you’re going to get your noggin squished in a desperate, last-ditch headlock at some point.

When a strong untrained person ends up on the ground, then nine out of ten times he’ll wrap his arm around your head and hold on for dear life. They’ll grab your head and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, determined not to let go and let you do that ‘BJJ stuff’ to them.

And because this is that untrained fighter’s ONLY strategy he’ll be ferociously single-minded about hanging onto the headlock. This determination in itself can make escaping the headlock quite difficult.

Now the headlock isn’t particularly high tech or effective, but if you don’t have an answer then it can be a very disconcerting situation (not to mention cauliflower-ear inducing). You’ll feel pretty silly if you don’t have an answer to the common headlock, so make sure you have a good strategy or two to escape from here if you happen to get caught by it.

Since you hardly ever encounter headlocks in BJJ class dealing with them can be awkward. You might not know what to do and won’t be used to dealing with that particular energy.  And that’s why not training your specific headlock escapes is a HUGE mistake!

Now let’s inject the side headlock with steroids and tweak the arm position to make it much more effective, which will bring us to the full-fledged Kesa Gatame…

Kesa Gatame – a Legit BJJ Technique

If you’re training with wrestlers or judo players then they probably won’t use the side headlock on you, but they might well slap an immobilizing Kesa Gatame on you. This is one of their bread and butter pinning positions, and they’ll hang onto it for » Continue Reading.

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Dealing with Big, Strong Wrestlers in Your Guard

I got the following question on Twitter where I hang out as @stephankesting. I think it’s a question worth exploring because a lot of people find dealing with strong, large and aggressive wrestlers very difficult.


Hi Stephan,

I’ve been training BJJ for a few years now, but I get frustrated when I roll with one particular bigger, stronger whitebelt coming from a wrestling background. When I say ‘big’ I mean that it’s tough to even close my guard around him.

Like I said, he has a wrestling background and good takedowns, so I pull guard (which is what I mostly do) we end up in my guard. But if I go for an armbar he can posture up and rip his arm out with no problem, which means that I lose position.

I’ve been watching a few of your how to defeat the bigger, stronger opponent videos on youtube, but he’s huge and I’m small. Should I change my game and worry about getting on top and controlling him from there, or should I keep working my guard. Thought I’d ask you seeing as I have the opportunity…



My Answer: 

Hi Walter,

Good for you for hanging in there. Jiu-jitsu is an art where science can triumph over nature, which means that smaller people with technique can control and defeat bigger people who have a lot more muscle on their side.

But the bigger the size discrepancy then the bigger the skill difference needs to be…

If your opponent is 10 lbs larger than you then all you might need is a few months of training, or one semi-reliable technique you can do pretty well.

But if we’re talking about someone who is 50 to 100 lbs heavier than you, as well as athletic and with a background in another grappling sport like wrestling or Judo… well you might need to be a full belt rank or two more skilled than him to definitively win that match!

So the simple answer is to keep training. You’ll keep on getting better, and when the next testosterone-soaked wrestler wanders into the club then you’ll probably have quite a few more tricks up your sleeve to deal with monsters like that.

But what about right now?

Yes, you’re probably going to have to start from the guard.  And that means you have to keep him there!

The first thing you » Continue Reading.

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Adam Singer on Modern MMA Training and Competition

Stephan: I’m here today with my friend, Adam Singer, who runs The HardCore Gym in Athens, Georgia.  He is probably best known for being Forrest Griffin’s MMA coach during the formative years of Forrest’s career. He’s also a jiu-jitsu black belt and has trained tons of fighters. I’m really looking forward to picking his brain about […]