In this article I’ve compiled some of the most effective techniques into a comprehensive BJJ sweeps list to supercharge your fighting game.
If there’s one group of moves that are so dramatic to watch and can literally turn around a fight, it’s the sweeps.
In a instant, you find yourself moving from a weak position, where your opponent may be towering over you, to one in which you’ve taken the advantage and are now in a dominant position.
Another benefit of this technique is that many sweeps involve using the opponent’s falling weight to help pull you to the stronger position.
Sweeps can be performed from a number of positions: from standing up, in the clinch, on the ground in the guard position.
What they all have in common, is a move to get the opponent off balance followed by a reaping movement with the leg to completely destabilize them.
We’ll go through these in detail so that you can practise and perfect them.
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The BJJ Sweeps List
Sweeps from the Standing Position
The Standing Leg Sweep
This sweep takes place when both fighters are standing and in the clinch position.
The move starts out by grabbing your opponent with one hand on their collar behind their neck and the other hand grabbing the Gi at around the tricep region.
You then pull the opponent weight down and to the side. You want to pull the opponent to the same side as you are holding the opponents tricep to try to get them off balance.
Moving a standing opponent in this way is much like moving a tall wardrobe. The wardrobe has four corners at its base; so does a standing opponent: the heels and toes. When off balancing an opponent, you try to push or pull your opponent so that they are on one of more of these corners.
In this case, you’re trying to pull the opponent so that their weight is on the toes of either their left or right foot (depending on the side on which your holding the opponents Gi at their tricep region). We’ll imagine this is your left side for the purpose of this description.
One important tip to remember is to control the opponent’s head. This is why the controlling hand at the back of your opponent’s neck is so important: it controls the position of your opponent’s head. Where their head moves, their body will follow.
Once in this position, you want to move your left foot so that it’s in line with your opponent’s feet. You should keep your body in a powerful curved forward position, pulling hard down on the hand holding the Gi at the tricep region and moving the opponent’s head down and to the left with the other hand.
Raise your right foot so that in is behind your opponent’s right leg.
Swing your right foot back so that it sweeps back on the inside of your opponent’s right leg. At the same time you continue to rotate your opponent’s upper body down and to the left.
If you’ve executed the technique correctly, your opponent will fall into their back.
Here’s the move in full:
Standing Foot Sweep
This is more of a foot block than a sweep but it’s such an effective move, I’ve included it here.
Start by using your right hand to grip your opponent’s Gi lapel. Your left hand holds onto their right Gi sleeve.
Pull your left arm upwards and to the left and at the same time, push in the same direction with your right arm. You are trying to get your opponent to put all their weight on their right leg.
This is easier if you begin the movement by trying to push them backwards. Their natural response will be to try and push forward to remain balanced. Capitalize on this reaction by pulling them forward and to the left.
Sensing they are becoming unbalanced, your opponent’s reaction will be to try and move their right leg outwards to try and stabilize themselves. However, to prevent this you put the inside of your left foot against their heel.
It’s important you don’t put your heel too high up on the opponent’s leg, as effectively it will help to stabilize them; exactly the thing that you don’t want to happen!
Unable to regain their balance, you continue to rotate your body and that of your opponent in a counter clockwise direction.
Executed correctly, your opponent will crash to the floor
Watch the move in full here:
BJJ Sweeps from the closed guard
When the fight goes to the ground, there are an array of sweeps to pick from. I’ve outlined some of the easiest ones to learn.
The Scissor Sweep
This is a dramatic sweep that looks spectacular when it’s done correctly.
The move is initiated in the closed guard position.
The left hand crosses the opponent’s neck and grabs as high up on the collar as possible The right hand grabs the Gi on the opponent’s left forearm.
You then unlock your heels and place both feet flat on the ground in preparation to “shrimp”.
Push back on your feet to shrimp to your right hand side.
Your right ankle is placed outside of your opponent’s left knee.
At the same time your foot hooks round your opponent’s hip.
Forcibly sit up….
…and then lean back powerfully trying to pull your opponent over your right shoulder. As soon as they begin to lean forward from their base they become unstable.
This is your cue to close your legs together like a pair of scissors (hence the name). Your right leg undercuts their left leg and your left leg helps to further unbalance them, pushing them to their left.
When performed correctly the opponent will roll over. It’s important you keep your left foot close to your opponent’s right hip throughtout this movement.
You’ll then just need to push yourself into the mount position.
With one technique, you move from a weak position, to a position of domination.
This is another great sweep from the closed position.
The move begins by grabbing your opponent’s Gi in the forearm area.
Your right hand grips at the bottom of your opponent’s pants using a pistol grip.
This involves first creating a little flap in their pants with your fingers and then grabbing hold of this flap so that your pinky finger is closest to the leg and your thumb is safely on top of your index finger and not wrapped in the fabric; you could risk a broken thumb if it gets catch in the opponent’s Gi pants.
Once in the hands are in the correct position, throw your left leg back and pivot your body counter clockwise.
You right leg should follow this upward motion and catch your opponent’s body under their left armpit / upper back area; this will knock/push them forward and off their base.
Once knocked forward, your left leg swings back down and reaps your opponent’s right knee. At the same time, your right hand, holding on the pants, lifts upwards.
It’s important to continue to hold on to the Gi pant’s throughout this movement as your opponent tumbles over.
You continue the movement and will end up in the mount position.
This is very similar to the Xande Sweep apart from the initial set up.
Begin by grabbing your opponent’s Gi on his/her left forearm.
In the closed guard, use your legs to pull your opponent forward. Push your right hand in the gap created under your opponent’s left leg.
Relax your legs and allow your opponent to sit down. Your right hand should remain between your opponent’s left thigh and calf.
Similar to the Xande sweep, open your legs up and simultaneously turn your body clockwise.
Your right leg should push your opponent forward under their left armpit / shoulder area. Your left leg goes out wide in preparation for the reap.
Your right leg continues to push and your right arm lifts the opponent’s leg. The left leg sweeps under your opponent’s right leg.
Continue the rolling move whilst still hooking your opponent’s left leg.
Once on top, release the leg and, once again, you’ll emerge in the mount position.
See the moves in full here:
Not only do these sweeps look spectacular but they also serve to gain a huge psychological advantage over your opponent: one moment they think they’re dominating you and in an instant the roles are reversed.
To be able to pull these moves off you need a significant amount of practice. To add to your training hours outside of the dojo, you may want to consider training with a dummy; I’ve previously written about this type of training here.
I hope you find this BJJ sweeps list useful. If I’ve missed any of your favorites off, let me know in the comments.