What Is the Best Martial Art for Takedowns?


best MA takedowns lg

Everyone knows how effective BJJ and Judo can be on the ground, but guess what? All fights start on the feet! This led me to question, what is the best martial art for takedowns?

Freestyle Wrestling is the best martial art if you want to learn takedowns, although more a sport than a true martial art. The takedowns in Wrestling are effective and will work in sport, self-defense, and MMA. Judo is the best martial art if you want to learn how to throw people. Sambo is good if you want to learn takedowns and throws.

Let’s have a closer look at what martial arts teach takedowns and what types of takedowns are taught in each martial art. I will then sum up with my overall recommendation of the best martial art for takedowns.

What martial arts have takedowns?

Takedowns are taught in MMA, Wrestling, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and Sambo. There are variations of these martial arts that have different rules with regards to what takedowns are allowed in competition.

  • MMA – In MMA training, you will learn takedowns from all martial arts. Not a single takedown is banned in MMA, except for moves that involve dumping someone on their head. You spend about 20% of your MMA training practicing takedowns.
  • Sanshou/Sanda – This is a Chinese martial art and is basically kickboxing with takedowns. Again, all takedowns are allowed in Sanshou. You spend about 30% of your time in Sanshou learning takedowns.
  • Jiu-Jitsu – there are two types of Jiu-Jitsu:
    • Japanese Jiu-Jitsu – You learn takedowns in the gi primarily for self-defense situations.
    • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – you learn takedowns in the gi and no-gi that can be applied in Grappling matches, MMA, and self-defense. You only spend about 10% of your training time practicing takedowns in BJJ.
  • Wrestling – You spend a good 60-70% of your training time learning takedowns in Wrestling. There are two main types of Wrestling:
    • Freestyle Wrestling – you are allowed to take people down using any part of their body. So you can use your opponent’s upper body to lift and throw them, and you can grab their legs to take them down.
    • Greco-Roman Wrestling – you are only allowed to take your opponent down using their upper body. You are not allowed to grab your opponent’s legs in Greco-Roman Wrestling.
  • Judo – This martial art is all about throwing. You are not allowed to grab your opponent’s legs in Judo. You spend about 80% of your training time in Judo mastering throws.
  • Sambo – You spend about 30% of your training time learning takedowns and throws in Sambo. There are three types of Sambo:
    • Sport Sambo – There is no striking in sport Sambo. It is grappling only. In sport Sambo, you are basically allowed every grappling technique except chokeholds.
    • Combat Sambo – In combat Sambo, you are allowed to strike, and when the fight goes to the ground, you are allowed to use any Grappling move you want.
    • Freestyle Sambo – This is the same as sport Sambo in the way that there is no striking, the difference being in Freestyle Sambo, you are allowed chokes.

What is the best takedown technique (and which martial arts use it)?

The best takedown technique is the single-leg takedown. The single-leg takedown can be used by people who are big and small, and there are countless ways to complete the single-leg takedown once you have picked the leg up.

The single-leg truly is the most high-percentage, low-risk, and versatile takedown technique in the whole of martial arts. So what martial arts teach the single leg takedown?

You learn the single leg takedown in:

  • Freestyle Wrestling
  • Sambo
  • MMA
  • BJJ
  • Japanese Jiu-Jitsu
  • Sanshou

The single-leg takedown used to be taught in Judo schools, however, the ruleset was updated, and the single-leg takedown was banned.

If you want to master the single-leg takedown, I strongly advise you to train in Freestyle Wrestling. In Wrestling, you will perform thousands of repetitions of this technique over the course of just a single year of training. The single-leg is the bread and butter of Wrestling.

If you can’t train Wrestling, then try an MMA gym or a BJJ gym that puts emphasis on takedowns. Some MMA and BJJ schools offer specific classes for Wrestling in their timetables.

The single-leg takedown might be the most effective takedown, but if you want to cause damage, then throws and slams are the best takedowns for this. In Judo, you will learn a wide variety of throwing techniques, such as the Uchi Mata, that can be used to end a fight with a single throw.

In Judo, you also learn throws that can be used to make your opponent land on their head!

Similarly, in Wrestling, you will learn suplexes that you can use to throw people on their heads. Slamming someone on their head is possible with Judo and Wrestling, but it is illegal in competition, so don’t worry, you will be safe in training.

Does Jiu-Jitsu have takedowns?

Both Japanese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teach takedowns. The amount of takedown training you do varies from gym to gym. Jiu-Jitsu schools that have a heavy emphasis on self-defense and MMA training will teach more takedowns than Jiu-Jitsu schools that focus on Jiu-Jitsu competition.

Both Japanese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu use takedowns from Wrestling and Judo. You are allowed to take your opponent down using throws by grabbing their legs, and if you are training in the gi, you are allowed to use the gi to grip your opponent and take them down.

In no-gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you are not allowed to grip your opponent’s clothing.

I would not recommend training BJJ or Japanese Jiu-Jitsu if you want to master your takedowns, as only about 10% of your training is actually spent doing takedowns.

However, if you train at a good BJJ or Japanese Jiu-Jitsu school, you will learn fundamental takedowns like the single leg, double leg, and how to hip throw people.

BJJ is super effective when it comes to ground fighting and has successfully been used in MMA and self-defense for decades.

To learn more about the pros and cons of BJJ and why every martial artist should be training it, check out this recent article on my site. I get into everything you need to know if you’re trying to decide if it’s right for you.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is Judo good for takedown defense?

Judo is not good for takedown defense, as you are only allowed to throw people in Judo. Judo does not teach you how to defend leg-grab takedowns like the single leg and double leg takedowns that are the most commonly used in MMA, Grappling competitions, and street fights.

As I said earlier, you are only allowed throws in Judo.

If you train BJJ, MMA, or want to learn self-defense, people are going to attack you with all kinds of takedowns and throws. Therefore, you have to train a martial art that teaches all takedowns so that you can learn how to use and defend against all takedowns.

Judo is a phenomenal martial art, and if you train it, you will get very good at defending against hip throws, shoulder throws, foot sweeps, and sacrifice throws. 

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of training Judo, check out this recent article on my site. What really surprised me were all the subtle differences between it and Jiu-Jitsu.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What are the names of martial arts takedowns?

The key takedowns used in martial arts are the single leg, double leg, hip throw, shoulder throw, foot sweep, slam, back takedowns, sacrifice throw, and body lock takedowns.

The table below explains each takedown in detail, gives examples/variations of each takedown, and tells you what martial art teaches that takedown.

Type of takedown Description of takedown Variations and examples of the takedown What martial arts teach that takedown
Single leg You shoot for your opponent’s legs and grab one of them. Ankle pick, high-crotch MMA, Sanshou, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Sambo
Double leg You shoot for your opponent’s legs and grab both of them. Standard technique with no variations MMA, Sanshou, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Sambo
Hip throw You use your hips as a pivot point to throw your opponent over. Uchi Mata, Hane Goshi, Harai Goshi MMA, Sanshou, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Judo, Sambo
Shoulder throw You use your shoulder as a pivot point to throw your opponent over. Seoi Nage, Seoi Otoshi MMA, Sanshou, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Judo, Sambo
Foot sweep You use your foot to trip your opponent whilst they step. Hiza Guruma, Ouchi Gari MMA, Sanshou, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Judo, Sambo
Slams You lift your opponent and then drop them to the ground with force. Suplex MMA, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Judo, Sambo
Back takedowns You take your opponent’s back whilst standing and take them down. Suplex, valley drop MMA, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Sambo
Sacrifice throw You periodically put yourself in an inferior position to immediately reverse the position and take your opponent down. Sumi Gaeshi, Ura Nage, Tani Otoshi BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo
Body lock takedowns You tightly clasp/hug your opponent and use the grip to manipulate their spine to off-balance them and take them down. Standard technique with no variations MMA, Sanshou, BJJ, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Sambo
Ranking the Best Martial Arts Takedowns TIER LIST

Conclusion

Overall, the best martial art to practice if you want to learn takedowns is Freestyle Wrestling.

If you want to learn mainly throws, then learn Judo. And if you want to train a martial art that puts equal emphasis on takedowns and throws, choose Sambo.

The most effective takedown technique is the single-leg takedown, and it is a very common takedown used in Wrestling, BJJ, and MMA.

You do learn some takedowns in BJJ and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. However, there is a greater emphasis on ground techniques in these martial arts, and only about 10% of your training time is spent on takedowns.

Judo is great for throwing people, but since you are not allowed to grab the legs, you won’t become a good wrestler and master takedown defense.


Image by mikepesh from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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