Guard Pulling vs Takedowns: What’s in Your Game


I’ve never wrestled. I’ve always been involved in some type of sport or another, however, having recently joined the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu ( within the past 10 yrs). I’ve boxed, done a little Muay Thai, but have been able to participate in jiu-jitsu most diligently. It appeals to me the most. Luckily enough to have a Professor & teammates who train Judo, we are taught take-downs and pulls. I’ve always been a puller. Ouch. I can hear some of you laughing, rolling your eyes or making comments with derision in your voices. But let me explain- I’m such a klutz I’ve hurt myself more than once doing a double leg or inside leg trip! Yes, it’s that bad! I know people are split regarding opinion on the practicality of pulling guard versus take-downs or throws. “Would you pull in a self-defense situation?! Of course not! So why do so in your every day training?” I have heard this many times. Not being a Judo practitioner, I had to reach out to my betters and make sure I had a clearer understanding of the art. I asked around and here’s what I learned regarding the validity and functionality of the pull versus the take down/throw (in general):
* Clearly nowadays in the BJJ competition scenario most people pull guard. The lighter guys I would say. From middle to heavyweights there are still some guy going for takedowns. The sport BJJ has different functionalities. It’s all based on a game plan to score points and win matches.
* Pulling guard allows for time efficiency & game set-up.
* Sport jiu-jitsu sets confines on the game. No one wants to watch a 5-10 minute grip fight/ stand up match. Look at the last Metamoris. Boring!
* From a self-defense perspective, pulling guard is just not feasible or smart.
* Guard pulling is very sports based. It’s not something you want to keep in your arsenal if you are training for self-defense.
* Guard pulling is a thing for many reasons: saving energy, taking a wrestler out of his take down game, avoiding a super painful throw from a judoka… Bottom line, in a jiu-jitsu tournament you have a short amount of time to get the job done.
* Unless your guard passing is tight, pulling allows for a viable option to top game, where making yourself heavy is important and passing can be difficult & tedious
* Pulling allows for a sweep or submission set-up versus the fight of having to pass guard once having established the take-down
* Take-downs against a person trained jiu-jitsu are different because there are counters not typically seen; think Kimura trap
* It’s important to know that sport jiu-jitsu, self-defense training, judo… They can be separate entities. Train and utilize the techniques pertinent and viable to certain situations
* “But my teacher used to point out that if someone pulls a knife on you, there is no hand-to-hand combat that is especially good at dealing with that”
* When it comes to functionality both judo and wrestling work. The difference is the situation and the aggression of the opponent. A wrestler generally forces his/her will on an opponent while the judoka uses the aggression of his/her opponent against them.
* Take-downs are good too for tournaments but it is really hard to get a take-down especially if the other guy will just pull guard on you.
* I think the main thing is having a strategy, for example if you have good throws go out there and apply your techniques, if you can’t get the person down you can always still pull guard & vice-versa.
* But the main thing would have to be to find which one works best for every individual’s game.
* When you do take-downs you better make sure you have a good guard passing skills and a very good base; not to get swept or submitted.
* The take down can disorient the opponent, especially if it’s one that takes him/her off their feet.. it’s another reason they are so effective when they happen.
* In training, I have found that wrestling take downs generally require more energy.
* I do believe that judo throws are the hardest attacks in martial arts as a whole. 18 years of full contact karate and muay thai and nothing has hurt me more than the various judo tosses; Judo throws are the hardest hitting things I’ve felt.
* Take-downs are great, easy to train. But if you mess up, you can mess up badly; a sprawl gone wrong…
* I love Judo throws, but they have their drawbacks.There are some throws where you turn your back on your opponent. That is also a bad idea in general.
* More and more often there are judo players at BJJ tournaments. You do not want your first run in with a seoi nage to be at a tournament. Plus Judo exposes you to more break falls that you don’t get to do in jiu-jitsu; but it’s not like you can buy a DVD and learn Judo, you really need to attend class.
* Take-downs are part of jiu jitsu too. The school I come from I’ve been practicing and learning take-downs since white belt. Both [takedowns & pull] are important to be learned. And [it] depends on the persons game; whatever they feel comfortable [using] they will build their game to include.
* There is the whole BJJ self-defense part that I also think is important and all black belts should know in order to pass the tradition and knowledge to the students.
* In my opinion everything has to be learned in order not just to build a good competitor but a human being. BJJ saves and changes lives. Not everyone will become a competitor and a world champion. I’m sure every person that starts training in a serious school having respect and traditions, together with hard training, of course, will become a better person. What you learn on the mats reflects on your life, outside.

While there are pros and cons to each, learning and understanding the pull or take-down is imperative to understanding more about yourself, your game, and the kind of jiu-jitsu practitioner you’d like to be. Discarding a technique because it looks or sounds silly could possibly be detrimental to your training. In the long run, it comes down to what feels right for you, fits into your game, and works with your body. Not everyone can pull off the tomoe nage or double leg, but challenging yourself is a part of the jiu-jitsu journey. I’ve always wanted to give Judo a try, and while I’ve held off I think it may be just the thing to start with the new year.



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