Shorter Ladders

Jiu-Jitsu is great because we get to spar every time we meet. That means that you get a lot of opportunities to experiment because you get a lot of opportunities to test your new thoughts.

My newest thought was that of making my technical ladders a bit shorter.

The Scissors Sweep is still my go-to sweep against a kneeling opponent. When I’m rolling, and have simply had enough of being on the bottom, I set up the Scissors Sweep. That technique goes something like this.

Closed Guard with the left hand gripping the opponent’s right sleeve and the right hand gripping the opponent’s collar.

Open your guard putting your left leg down by the opponent’s right leg and bringing your right knee across the opponent’s belt line.

Pull your opponent down with your collar grip. Pull up over your head, or across your body with your sleeve grip. Sweep to your right with your left leg an guide the opponent over with your right leg.

Follow your opponent up into the mount.

That’s a longer ladder than I want to have to climb every time I want to sweep. So, I want to shorten the ladder. Here’s how I’ve gone about doing it.

I look for a cross sleeve grip.

The opponent’s posture has to come forward and I have to eliminate the post on the side I want to sweep to. I realised that if I’m able to get a cross grip I can pull my opponent’s arm across his body. If I do it right it also brings him forward. This takes the steps of getting the grips, and breaking the posture and puts them into one step.

I don’t bother with the closed guard.

I usually play a seated guard looking to establish butterfly hooks. However, I also quite like to put my feet on hips and knees when the opponent is kneeling. If I establish a cross sleeve grip I tend to go straight to a hip/knee placement because I’ll look to either arm drag across, or sweep. Instead of having to open my guard, then get my feet in place I simply place my feet very close to where I want them to end up. This effectively cuts the leg placement process in half.

I have also started to bring my right leg, knee first across the opponent’s chest. I create a hook under the opponent’s armpit. This acts as a knee shield (similar to the z-guard) to help keep space, a barrier against around-the-leg passes to my right, and a placement that adds itself very well to the scissors sweep.

So, I develop a guard system around the knee shield with a cross sleeve grip all aimed at the scissors sweep. That systems means that the sweep is always two steps.

Pull my opponent’s arm across and towards my right shoulder as I push on the opponent’s right knee.

Follow over into mount.

Shorter ladder.

My current other options from that guard are:

– Armdrag to back transition

– Triangle if they try to underhook the right leg

– Omoplata if they try to overhook the right leg

– Figure 4 if they pull arm free and post

– Guillotine if they pull the arm free and come forward with the head

I’m also looking to develop a similar system when I can’t get the cross sleeve grip but can get the cross collar grip, which has presented itself as of late.




Sweeping with Scissors

The last week has been spent studying the scissors sweep. Basic rundown is:

– Closed Guard. Left hand gripping opponent’s right sleeve. Right hand cross collar grip.

– Open legs. Hip out slightly to the right. Bring right shin across opponent’s midsection. Left leg flat on the mat outside the opponent’s right leg.

– In one motion pull up with your left hand, down towards you with your right, sweep in with your left leg, and guide over with your left shin. Hang on for the ride into mount.

Simple. In fact, in the Will/Machado school it’s known in the white to blue belt syllabus as the ‘basic sweep’.

In my first 8 months of jiu-jitsu I maybe pulled that basic sweep off once. I’m pretty sure that one was an accident too. So, I’ve decided to work on it until I get it. Here’s what I’ve discovered in my last week.

– Still closed guard. But, I’ve adjusted my mindset in the guard. When I’ve closed my legs around the opponent I attack liberally with my hands. When I open my legs my hands turn into the control and my legs become the attacking weapons.

– Cross grip instead of the standard grip. That means that my right hand is getting a grip on the opponent’s right sleeve. My left hand goes up to get a collar grip. This has drastically changed my effectiveness with this sweep. It’s not any harder to obtain. It also assists with the armbar from guard, which opens up a whole array of other attacks. My left hand is the collar gripping hand. Again, there isn’t much difference between a right hand cross collar grip and a left-handed one.

I find the collar grip very important to my game. I like the cross collar choke. I use it to dictate posture. I find it works wonders if people are being tentative about giving up the sleeve grip. One way to get their wrist where you need it is by putting on a choke. They either bring a hand up to defend, or get choked. If I have my left hand deep in the collar, bring my right up, get a decent grip, and pull towards my right the opponent usually has to post on his left hand and defend his neck with his right. When he brings the hand up I simply take the sleeve.

– My shielding leg is now a lot more active. I bring it in under the armpit instead of just straight across the belt line. This does a couple of things. 1) It acts more as a barrier until it’s used for the sweep. I keep the knee up until I’m ready to bring it down and across. This allows me to disrupt any pass attempts, and keeps the opponent ‘at bay’ until I’m ready to snap down the posture for the sweep. 2) It gives me the freedom to feel where it needs to be, usually determined by the weight, build, and centre of gravity of my opponent. I start window wiping it down the torso until I feel like it’s in the right spot. 

– My sweeping leg has become a lot more active as well. Remember that once I open my legs my hands become the control. That means I am attacking with my legs.

That brings me to another mindset change.

If I was boxing, and was determined to throw a right hook, and I threw that hook but it was blocked, what would I do? Would I just keep following through with that hook until in got through? No, I would bring it back and find another way in. I would change the angle and throw it again. I would set it up with a jab. I would wait and use it as a counter. I would not just keep pushing on the block until it got through.

So, why do we do that with jiu-jitsu? If we don’t get the sweep right away we just keep pulling and pushing in the hopes that we’ll somehow muscle through their defences. My mindset on techniques, especially sweeps, has changed. If I get stopped at any point during the sweep, I pull it all back and start over. I change the angle. I set it up with something else. I wait until I can use it as a counter. I don’t just try to muscle through.

That brought me to a revelation about my sweeping leg. I don’t just have to sweep with it.

The mechanic of the sweep is that I’m using that sweeping leg to block, or take out the base. The post is being eliminated by my cross grip. Leverage is being applied by my shielding leg. Posture is being broken by my collar grip. But, what if they still keep their base?

Well, what’s worked best for me is to actually just start scooting further and further to my right. I do this until I’m at quite an awkward angle. That makes it so they have to come back towards me with their base. To do this they have to apply their weight to that right knee. The second I feel them do this I simply put my heel to the knee and push.

Post is gone (because it came with me as I scooted around), posture is broken (because of the collar tug), leverage is applied (because my shielding leg is what’s helping create the awkward angle), and then once the base is kicked out…


So, because I understand the mechanics of a sweep I can figure out how to make them work for me, in my game.

The sweep that I got once in 8 months has, in one week, become my go-to move from the guard.

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