fig.73 - Throwing over the shoulder a man weighing 90 kgs (14lb)?
You can, it 's a simple law of physics.
A takedown means getting your attacker to the ground without going down as well.
You can achieve this by making him lose his balance, and this creates a very disorienting feeling that can give you a huge advantage or a chance to run to safety: the moment your opponent hits the ground you basically can decide if you should immobilise him or run to safety, in any case you do have more control over the fight, at least for a few precious moments.
To understand how a takedown works, you have to
understand the principle of balance, the most important notion when it comes to self defence. Balance is provided by the position of the centre of gravity, if you manage to disturb this centre of gravity in a way that no longer falls above the area of its foundation, your assailant will lose balance regardless of how big, strong or aggressive he is. At the same time we have seen how fundamental it is to have good balance yourself while kicking or punching, to maximise the effect of your strike or readjust yourself quickly if you miss.
Manipulating the centre of gravity requires practice and a good understanding of how the body moves and finds its balance. Normally we can consider that the centre of gravity is located at the centre of your upper body, but your stance and body structure can change that.
(fig.74) The principle to remember is that the lower the centre of gravity, the more stable you are. It's easier to unbalance your opponent when he raises his centre of gravity but if you think that going very low with your stance will give you a very strong advantage, think again because it might do that but at the same time going too low stops you from moving quickly.
If you observe two boxers fighting you will notice that they never lean back to avoid a punch, always sideways or ducking when necessary. This happens because leaning back or flinching to the rear, spoils the chance to counterattack, not to mention that a very simple push or punch can actually send you to the ground in no time.
fig.74 - Manipulating the Centre of Gravity.
So the best first action if somebody moves towards you in a threatening manner, shouldn't really be to flinch back but to lower your centre of gravity and tuck your chin towards your chest. In training is so important to correct your stance and to be aware of your stance because your natural reaction as somebody attacks you is to lean back, and that puts you in a very difficult position to initiate any kind of self-defence move. This means you have to reset forwards your centre of gravity, your body's balance, before you can initiate a kick or a counterpunch effectively and quickly.
By all means, move back to avoid a strike, but be aware that it would be best to move sideways in a circular movement to get yourself into a better position to counterattack and to keep your balance. When we walk, we cross our legs, which makes us very vulnerable and any of the sweeping techniques in Judo take advantage of this or in any case it can provoke the opponent into taking steps. In
fig.75 we show you how your correct stance should be.
fig.75 - The right stance is a fluid ever
changing position, that adapts to the opponent
moves allowing to defend yourself and
counterattack in every direction.
You should think of your stance as something fluid, you shouldn't be rigid but flexible, if you keep a stiff and rigid posture you can be unbalanced easily, not to mention that being flexible and supple will help you stay fit as well as have a better posture, and it will also help you to avoid joints problems getting older. (see STRETCHING)
Knowing what makes a good stance also allows you to be able to judge your attacker's position and take full advantage of his bad positioning, e.g. somebody holding a knife quite often positions himself in a "wide-horse mount" stance (fig.75A)
, and this is quite an easy stance to unbalance, a simple push to the upper body will send him flying onto the ground.
fig.75A -Wide horse mount stance.
Both legs parallel and feet
fig 75B - As you can see a simple push will do.
You can easily try by yourself pushing somebody in the wide horse stance gently forwards or backwards, to see how easily you can unbalance someone in that stance.
A good understanding of what makes good balance will help you to know where to kick your attacker in order to achieve his falling to the ground: a kick in the middle of the chest will almost certainly make him fall backwards, but a well given hand push can be equally effective.
Understanding balance will give you the opportunity to know when to strike, including a simple push, finding the best possible moment. For instance, if he's taken a step towards you, the moment his foot is in mid air, is your window of opportunity. (see DE ASHI BARAI technique in JUDO).
We have seen that you can kick somebody to make him lose his balance but once again if he made you lose your balance or he's trying to get you to the ground, you can shift his centre of gravity and get him on the floor. You can grab one of his legs and as you pull him towards you push at the same time with your other hand against his upper body
to unbalance him easily
fig.76 - Grab one of his legs, pull him towards you
and push with your other hand against
his upper body.
The same can be done if you are coming to somebody's rescue, basically attacking the assailant from behind: you can kick the back of his knee, so as to unbalance him to the rear, remember it is easier to unbalance rearwards than forwards, because our body is not designed to bend back, at the same time grab his shoulder or around his neck (ideally you want him in a choke), to pull him down
(fig.77), don't forget though all these moves should be done sharply and with a continuous movement until you get your opponent to the ground, without stopping or breaking the action at any time, one continuous move.
fig.77- Coming to someone rescue grab his shoulder
or around his neck (ideally you want him in a choke),
to pull him down on the ground.
A common mistake is to keep your elbows out as you pull for the takedown: don't do that but instead keep them closer to your body to have more power and more control in your pull.
Raising an object with your elbow close to your side and raising the same object with your elbow sticking out can easily demonstrate why this is important. (fig.78)
fig.78- Raising an object with elbows
You should remember that once you have understood the principle behind a good stance, you'll be able to find or to create your window of opportunity as well as to position yourself ready for a takedown or a throw as we will examine further on.
The first thing to do is to shift your attacker's centre of gravity, moving his upper body to the rear, using momentum (mass by velocity) to pull your attacker off balance, ideally with a circular movement to increase his disorientation, acting fast to surprise him, because once you start with a takedown you can't stop for any reason.
You can also facilitate your capacity to shift his centre of gravity over his foundation using barriers to stop him from stepping back and regain his balance.
Using your foot behind his for instance
(like O-SOTO GARI in JUDO), or a box, a chair, even the edge of the pavement, anything appropriate to make him trip over.
fig.79 - Using an obstacle to make him fall.
Also to be effective with a takedown, you have to close the distance so don't forget you cannot step backwards, instead you should crouch slightly forwards to get into a good position for your takedown.
You can go for a takedown when you find your window of opportunity, normally when the assailant is momentarily distracted either by something you say or do, or by something he does. This ability to move forwards and crouch, that boxers learn in the ring is not something you can learn by yourself, you must get someone to help you do that. You will notice that sometimes in boxing when one of the boxers starts receiving a series of blows, instead of stepping away, he moves closer: this is a known technique to break the opponent's punches, making them ineffective at short range and clearly in this circumstance safety is in proximity, and not in distance.
The secret of a takedown is positioning in relation to your opponent. If you observe two Judokas fighting you will see that all they try to do is to unbalance the opponent and to get their body in the best position for their throws. So how do we get into a good position? In a fist fight, squaring your opponent is asking for trouble, and what you should try is to move towards his back and this is why boxers in the ring move constantly in a circle. If your opponent follows your movement, step suddenly in the opposite direction, closing the distance and try for a takedown, using his momentum to make the most of the technique.
What happens if your attacker has managed to grab hold of you? Our natural reaction is to fight or grab the arm that is grabbing us. If attacked around the neck, your hands will instantly try to free yourself, grasping your attacker's arm around your neck.
If grabbed by the waist your immediate reaction will be using your hands to try to free the area. This should be avoided because you are fighting your attacker's focus of energy, he's putting all his strength into that arm lock, and you will fail against a stronger attacker. What your attacker is not paying attention to at that moment is his balance and his stance.
The secret of any takedown really has to do with the laws of physics, that is why it is important that while practicing unbalancing techniques you understand how these work.
As we've seen, getting into the right position is as important, allowing you to either be the perfect fulcrum to be able to throw him to the ground or to unbalance him effectively. You also should be careful not to step into your attacker's line of attack, and using a parry or block can delay him for a second, allowing you to get close for your takedown position.
All this might sound quite complicated, and you might think "hang on; you said earlier that simplicity is the principle". It still is.
fig.80- If grabbed by your waist from behind
you should push
back, adding a headbutt if
As a general rule, remember that your attacker's joints, like neck, knees, elbows, can only bend in one direction, and if you push him in the opposite direction he has to follow your action, or sustain pain or worse getting injured if resisting. If you are going for a hand grab or lever, because arms bend forward, you have to position yourself behind or to the side of the elbow.
Regarding the legs, because they bend backwards your best position is in front or to the side of your attacker, working against the natural movement of the knee.
The neck can bend and rotate in every direction but being attached to the torso,that naturally bends forward, positioning yourself behind the body will allow you to control the body just manipulating his head. (fig. 80,77,88)
A very important principle is that if you control the head of your attacker, you also control his body because the body goes where the head goes. Let's examine closer how to reach the best position for a takedown: we have seen that fighting your natural reaction you should close your distance but you should remember that by doing so your attacker will want to grab you. It is important consequentially to be aware of any part of your body or even part of your clothing that can offer a chance to an attacker to get hold you.
If grabbed you should immediately try to either push or pull, make him lose his grip or balance, you can
also make him lose his grip, striking e.g. the interior side of the forearm that as we can see in (VULNERABLE) can momentarily paralyse his hand movement.
fig.81 - Kick his head once he is down or if he
tries to get up.
This website cannot make you experience how it feels, pushing, pulling or being pushed or being pulled, this can only be done with an experienced partner, but at least now you know the fundamental principles. It is also important to understand, and we have seen already that this is a difficult element in teaching self-defence, that practicing any techniques against an opponent who is helping us performing them is much easier than executing them against someone who's sole intention is to hurt us.
Assuming that you have managed to take your assailant down, you have to decide what to do next, obviously run to safety if possible should be your first line of action, but this is not always practically achievable. If you have to step over him always do it over his head, because if he manages to grab you, you'll find it easier to control him by his head than by his feet, don't forget. An ideal line of action would be kicking him to the head, chest or throat to make him lose consciousness, but we are not expecting most people to do so, but nevertheless at least avoid hanging around complacently (fig.81).
fig. 82 - Hit the shin.
What I have seen during a fight is people standing watching the result of their takedown, and waiting for the attacker to get back to his feet: big mistake. He's going to be angrier, and he knows you are somewhat experienced. He'll be more careful and at the same time more violent. In other words, don't wait to see what results you have achieved just run to safety.
All unbalancing moves rely on disturbing your attacker's technique, if we can call it such, in any case, you have to take control. Your primary aim when under attack is to break your attacker's focus and that should be done in the initial part of his action before he reaches its effect.
When we examined kicking techniques we purposely left out high kicks. That is because assuming you do have enough flexibility of your joints you probably won't be fast enough to kick effectively but especially to stop him grabbing your leg.
A low kick to the shin, knee or mid torso can reach a better effect and split his focus more effectively and you can call this technique unbalancing your attacker through pain.
You've also seen (HITTING) that a kick or a punch is only effective if it can penetrate 2/3cm past the skin and again you can only achieve that only getting close enough and being in a good position. This is important because if you decide to kick you should not kick waiting for your opponent to move, you should kick before he is in the middle of his action. It would be ideal that you could experience for real a bit of sparring, and that's why we keep suggesting that at some point you do take some practical lessons.
Practicing closing the gap following a strike effectively, deflecting a punch, kicking properly and getting into the right position are all moves that cannot be achieved against an unresponsive punch bag or by just looking at some images but only through supervised practice. Nevertheless, it's also important that you understand the principles to be able to put them into practice.
In self-defence unfortunately we cannot expect sportsmanship and fairness, in a street attack situation these are principles that find no place.
fig.83 - Make contact with two points of your
attacker's body simultaneously. For instance
elbow and wrist are optimum points because
of the spacing between them.
If you decide to defend yourself, think offensively, bearing in mind that thinking twice is not an option and that your window of opportunity, meaning the best moment to strike your attacker, is found through an understanding of timing, probably the most important concept in defence.
Timing is the ability of taking advantage of your attacker's position, hesitation, distraction or a pause in his actions. It is a very difficult ability to achieve, your mind might feel and spot these gaps in your attacker's action but your body will either be too slow in reacting or reacting in the wrong way, the only way to achieve a good timed response is through supervised practice.
Believe us when we say it's pointless, like some other manuals do, giving you lots of scenarios and telling you when and how to react, scenarios should be kept to a minimum and should mostly sum up a general action-reaction, not indulge in specific techniques and its infinite variations.
If under attack you should not try to remember the sequence of moves you have seen in a book, you should react with an action that your brain has assimilated through practice following a easy to remember principle.
To break down some simple principles to better understand timing, bear in mind that somebody launching at you using an overhead punch (a mix between a hook and a punch coming from high, very common
in street fighting, (resembling someone throwing a stone fig.72) can easily be thrown to the ground if you move to the side and pull his arm using a circular movement. At the same time, moving in when somebody kicks you frontally (front kick) is asking for trouble because you are doubling the power of his kick towards you, unless you can move in close so quickly that you make his kick useless, in that case it's fine to step back, and move in as he's flexing his leg back to regain balance.
An experienced kick boxer can defeat a kick, moving in at the slightest sign of his opponent initiating a kick, or moving to the side of his opponent the moment he throws a kick, striking him back when he's on one leg.
This, needless to say, requires experience and good timing, achieved through plenty of practice and all these techniques, getting into the right position and so on, relying on the main principle of the Perfect Defence system: speed.
To get into the right position for your takedown or for your kick, your movement has to be of absolute lightning speed, almost explosive.It is also a good idea to maximise your results, to get into position as you throw a series of punches to his torso or kicks to his shin, this will achieve a distracting effect and causing pain and it will break the tension of your opponent's body.
fig.84 - Elbow and wrist lever for take
down. See for more LOCKS page 90.
If you've ever watched two boxers fighting, you will have noticed that when one of them initiates a rapid sequence of blows, let's say five or six in a rapid firing sequence, the other can only cover and wait for him to stop. The aim is to overwhelm your attacker raining blows mercilessly and then go for the takedown.
Unfortunately, you are not trading blows as De Coubertin preached, with fairness; instead you must be unsympathetic and furious, as your life might be at stake. These fundamental principles in unbalancing your attacker apply in every other way also to leverage. (also see LOCKS)
Leverage relies on torque, expressed in physics as lever = arm x force (fig.84).
fig.85 - If you rotate his shoulders whilst
you push him back
you'll achieve greater effect.
fig.86 - Grab his leg and try to push away
his upper body roughly at chest height,
as you lift his leg.
The longer the lever's arm the smaller the force you need to apply to produce torque, meaning moving a mass or lifting a weight. Leverage is based on the push-pull main principle through two points of balance; this means that to be effective, you must make contact with two points of your attacker's body simultaneously. For example elbow and wrist are optimum points because of the spacing between them (fig.16 and fig.84). The same can be said if you apply leverage to the neck; even if the distance is shorter the neck is quite weak and will suffer.
Applying a circular momentum in your pushing and pulling action will greatly increase the effectiveness of leverage, beyond your best expectations with great result. Anyone can only resist one action in one direction at one given time, for example if you grab someone by his shoulders and push back, he can quickly regain balance by stepping back, but if you push him back and at the same time rotate his shoulders on his axis you'll achieve greater effect (fig.85).
If you are of small build and not particularly strong, bear in mind that you should distance these two points of leverage as much as you can, making the lever arm as long as possible, for example if you grab his foot, try to push with your hand his upper body approximately at chest height, as you lift his leg.
You will throw him to the ground in no time with little effort (fig.86) and if you add a slight rotation to the move your technique is as perfect as it can be. All of these actions should never be broken down because breaking your movements means stopping momentum, intended as your ability to continue motion, moving your bodyweight in the same direction as your attack's direction is the way to go.
fig.88 - Either the fastest
To sum it all up, any action to redirect your opponent's momentum should be done following your attacker's momentum shifting its direction in a fluid movement. Imagine two American football players running towards each other at speed, going against each others momentum, translating into a clash of momentum (fig.87).
The result in this case will be that either the lighter person will succumb, or possibly the person with less speed: the basic principle is that you should step into your attacker's centre of gravity and joining momentum knock him off balance to your advantage.
fig.88 - Go with the motion and
push his chin open palm,
throwing him off balance.
You can also change the direction of your attacker's momentum, making a move or a strike to make him shy away, allowing you to join momentum in the direction that he has taken in his action. If for example somebody grabs your wrist naturally your reaction is to pull away, when in actual fact you should move forward, joining his momentum (he's obviously pulling you towards him) and that will allow you to go with the motion and push open- palm up his chin, throwing him off balance (fig.88).
fig.89 - Control the attacker by just leveraging the
armthat grabbed your neck. Once you have him in a
lock pull him backwards.
We have seen that to achieve an effective takedown you should use a combined movement not just pushing him back but also down or pushing him down as well as circling.
In other words, always combine a straight move with a circular one. This applies to all takedowns: the push-pull-principle combined with the circular move will allow you to control the attacker by just leveraging the arm that grabbed your neck (fig.77). The principle is really simple.
Of all techniques to control and unbalance an attacker the best one and most effective is the one controlling his head.
Remember: where the head goes the body goes, but controlling the head doesn't mean pulling his hair: remember to always use two points, one high and one low, for example grabbing his chin and the top back of his head, to manipulate accordingly.
fig.90 - Push up your partner'schin
open-palm, at the same time, put
your leg just behind his(see also
O-SOTO-GARI in JUDO TABLES).
Manipulating the head means controlling the entire spine, and this can produce serious spinal injuries if your attacker resists your motion. It is important to understand that you should not practice these techniques unsupervised or with somebody inexperienced, the risk of causing a serious injury is very high.
Lets start with a very simple technique that shows how powerful head manipulation can be to unbalance an opponent even one much larger than you.
Put your hand open-palm up your partner's chin, and at the same time, put your leg just behind his. Ask your partner to try to maintain his balance as much as possible and perform the push accompanying it with a slight circular movement as illustrated in fig.90. Even moving dead slow, he will not be able to maintain his balance. It is important to hold your hand in position all the way through it.
fig.91 - When your opponent is attacking from
apply a circular move to your
The two points of balance are your hand on his chin and your foot behind his.
The same can be applied approaching the opponent from the side and applying a circular movement to your push-and -pull action (see fig.91).
Finally, consider that if somebody grabs you bear-hug-style, lifting you off your feet, you can still manipulate his head just pushing up his chin (that he naturally will have away from you to avoid you hitting him) but you'll notice that a simple push will make him lose balance and maybe hit the ground with you on top.
It is worth remembering that when somebody lifts you off the ground with a bear-hug technique, he cannot really harm you in other ways because both his hands are used, and he cannot strike you. Now you know why it is important that you assess quickly why he is using this technique: is he trying to drag you somewhere, a secluded spot or a car.
In this case, the moment you should consider to initiate a takedown is the moment he lets go or you touch the ground. The moment you have one hand free, or one leg on the ground, that's the moment you can join his momentum and steal his balance going for your takedown.
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to always join momentum with your attacker and initiate a circular movement, in a spiral way at the same time.
This will work regardless of the way he is attempting to strike you.
What you will find most difficult is to close the gap, and physically grab your attacker. As he throws a punch for instance, ,you evade his strike and should grab his arm stepping behind him or onto his side, and using circular momentum go in for your take down.
So how exactly you decide when to go for your motions? Any self-defence move is only effective if you surprise your attacker, if you hit his nose, eyes, if you strike his throat or kick his knee, all these reactions should be immediate, as soon as the threat is perceived: a moment later could be too late.
That's why takedowns are quite effective, it is more difficult to decide to kick first or strike first, and most people do not have that state of mind.
However, you'll find it reasonably easier to react to someone trying to hit you or grab you, therefore, you should initiate your action the moment your attacker leans towards you, either to strike or to grab you. If somebody who is threatening you for whatever reason, steps towards you, you can be sure, it is to harm you, or in any case to control you.
fig.92 - Ideal leg takedown: grab both legs
attacker to avoid having him stepping back to regain
his balance. Best if you push with your shoulders
against his thighs, and pull his knees together
to narrow his foundation.
Doing so, he's in a temporary weaker position for the following reasons: he's stepping, meaning unbalanced, he's distracted because probably looking around checking if somebody is watching, and he's also confident of his actions, counting on this surprise factor.
This is the moment that you can par the strike and grab his wrist or arm, and pulling him along his line of attack, his momentum, you can get him in a circular movement for the takedown. All this should be done in one continuous movement, no hesitation, almost in an explosive manner.
It is naive to think that just reading this website you can perfect these techniques; you should remember that practice is essential especially when done with experience people. Do not forget that even in a training environment, you will find that your opponent is cooperating; making things too easy for you, and that obviously you are not applying an explosive action for fear of hurting your partner or injuring yourself even.
Nevertheless, as we said many times before, remember the principles and practice in a safe and controlled manner, (possibly supervised by an instructor.) The principle to remember is that the moment to initiate your push-pull-technique with a circular movement joining your attacker's momentum is the moment he touches you in any way. It takes lots of practice to get into that frame of mind, as well as forcing yourself not to react, as your instinct would tell you, leaning backwards or just covering your face closing your eyes and it's also important that you try positioning yourself for a takedown with your opponent attacking from different angles and directions.
We have seen so far how applying takedowns you can control your attacker's arm or head: in all takedowns you should always remember one simple principle: the focus of your takedown are the two points of balance, for example the wrist and the shoulder, the arm and the head, the foot and the head, but always two points. You can also manipulate just the legs of your attacker, with great effect.
The principle is to shift his upper body, the centre of gravity, and changing the relationship between centre of gravity and foundation, to then get him to the ground in no time.
In this case, moving or removing the foundation (the legs) will make your attacker fall.
The ideal leg takedown (fig.92) should consider grabbing both legs of your attacker, so to avoid having him stepping back to regain his balance. Pushing against his knees with your shoulders, rugby-style, will achieve a faster, greater result if you also manage to pull his knees together, narrowing his foundation, shifting his centre of gravity.
If halfway through the attacker manages to bend over to resist your action, switch your momentum into a circular movement to make him lose balance to one side.
fig.93 - Grab one leg if his stance is quite wide,
and keeping your head on one side, pull up his
leg and push him with your shoulder in an
The result of the takedown is ideally your attacker onto the ground in as little time as possible with maximum impact. Once you have achieved this, your next action is to run to safety, and unless you are really good or extremely well trained we suggest you don't try to control him any further.
If you cannot run anywhere drop with your forearm with all your weight on his throat, going for a choking manoeuvre, or if you have managed to stay up, or you managed to get up before he does, kick his head. If for whatever reason, you can only manage to grab one leg, maybe because his stance is quite wide, keep your head onto one side of his body and as you pull up his leg make sure that you push with your shoulder, as high as you can, onto his thigh or his waist (two points of balance, remember? (fig.93).
What you should absolutely avoid is going onto your knees, because it will become quite impossible to push him off balance, and you also have to be quite precise, aiming at knee level, not higher because obviously you decrease the length of the lever arm. As always one explosive action without hesitation will achieve a perfect result.
As we pointed out before, make sure if you only managed to catch one leg, to keep your head tucked on the side to protect yourself being kicked or hit in the other leg and don't forget that, twisting his leg as you throw him to the ground, will quite surely help you achieve maximum result.
Another situation where you might be able to grab someone's one leg is when you managed to catch a kicking leg: this obviously requires perfect timing and good distance closure: ideally, you should close the gap the very moment his leg leaves the ground to kick.
A common mistake once you grabbed his leg is to rely on him for support: this should be avoided at all costs because if he manages to suddenly pull his leg away from you, he will throw you off balance quite easily.
fig.94 - The rotation of the leg, if done
correctly, maybe even sidestepping him, might
cause the attacker to fall forwards.
Obviously, if we perceive that a kick is coming towards us, the natural reaction is to move away, normally backwards: force yourself to move closer to 'break' the kick, moving backwards as many kick boxers know, could actually put you on the receiving end anyway. The most difficult kick to catch is the front kick and you should bear this in mind if you decide to kick first for whatever reason, while the roundhouse kick (see KICKBOXING) is normally the easiest to catch or intercept, especially when directed to the head.
fig.95 - Side-step him and push his chin
with your open
palm whilst pushing his back
with your other hand (always remember
2 points!) By simultaneously pushing
you'll get him to the ground).
You can only achieve a 'feel' for kicks by practicing with a partner, also to see what part of the body will 'telegraph' your kick.
Normally, especially when preparing to kick, someone will get into a particular stance or switch feet or lower himself, or in any case narrow his eyes to focus. These are all telltale signs that can help you to prepare yourself to move closer to him the moment he initiates the kick. You will also notice, that if you perfect your timing and you are quick enough, you might be able to sweep the foot left on the ground, the moment he is kicking with the other leg. Do no expect though, if moving closer, that you will be totally safe from receiving any impact from his kick, you certainly will, but at the same time, it won't be as bad as it could be if you remain where the foot lands receiving the full force of the blow. As you grab his foot, raise his leg and step even closer, don't just simply push back.
Our emphasis is on executing these techniques in an explosive manner, fast, decisive and with all your strength, tensing your body. You can increase your chances adding a push with your free hand to the top of his torso, or stepping with your leg behind his on the ground, and adding a circular move. Do all this, and he stands no chance at all. The rotation of the leg, if done correctly, maybe even sidestepping him, might cause the attacker to fall forwards (see fig.94). Falling forward causes more damage than falling backwards because it is more difficult to cushion your fall considering your joints bend in the opposite direction (see FALLING)
The successful forward takedown relies on a good rotation of your attacker's leg and in the accuracy of your positioning and you should always remember not to allow his leg to bend, keeping his leg in contact with your own body, pulling him in a spiral movement.
On all these takedowns, you can use your free hand to hit or push open-palm his chin as well as confusing him, this will cause more pain and allows you to have even more control over his centre of gravity. You can also apply takedown techniques to your attacker's body or arm but this normally presumes that you should initiate the action, not wait for him to act first. Body takedowns require that you get as close as possible to your attacker, this is because you can apply the two-points-of -balance-principle easier at close range.
fig.96 - Over the shoulder throw (see JUDO
fig.97 - Pulling and pushing in the way described, can
already cause a great deal of pain and force him to the
Obviously a body takedown is more difficult if your size is much smaller than your attacker's, but believe me if you are confident and explosive in your action you will achieve the results, this is the simple law of physics.
For instance, you can side-step him and grab his chin and push on his back with the other hand (always remember two points!) and push and pull simultaneously, you'll get him to the ground (see fig.95). If you join hips with your attacker and apply a circular movement you will achieve a throw in no time. It is much easier if you differ in size to achieve a takedown, controlling your attacker's arm even if you are grabbed from behind. The moment he wraps his arm across your body, you should grab his wrist and elbow and using his own momentum you will successfully throw him over your shoulder (see fig.96 and IPPON SEOI NAGE in JUDO
Grabbing your attacker's arm is complicated enough, and you should refrain from using complicated techniques that require precision and training, For instance, in fig.97 you can see that pulling and pushing in the way described, you can already cause a great deal of pain and force him to the ground.
There are several variations on techniques applying levers to the arm, all equally effective, and all exist because the angle of the attack changes. For more see LOCKS, but for now just remember a very simple principle: applying a push-and-pull technique you should always add a rotation, to maximize the momentum and follow the line of attack, independently from the angle.
As seen before, you can also combine manipulating the arm with manipulating the neck. It is worth remembering that just twisting the wrist and pushing on the elbow doesn't necessarily resolve in a takedown. Obviously always use his arm as a lever against the natural movement of the elbow, that way you'll turn him with his back towards you and once you have him in this position, grab the chin and go for a takedown (see fig.98).
Never forget to always apply a circular, spiral move in a down-direction with a quick turn of your body to unbalance your attacker. Needless to say, you must always try to keep the lever as long as possible to make it more effective, the longer the lever the more the torque, that's why you should always try to grab the wrist. You might also find yourself attacked by surprise by someone who grabs you with one or both hands around your neck, maybe to pull you to the ground or to direct your face towards his knee.
If you just oppose strength to his move, you only are going to win if you're stronger or bigger. In this case, you can't just free yourself either going backwards or stepping forwards, as he has the advantage of the grip. You can however, take advantage of the arm's natural weakness when pushing against the natural movement of his arm.
fig.98 - Grab the chin and go for a takedown.
In this case, push one of his elbows up and, ducking under his arm, straighten his arm and grab his wrist. (fig.99) As you've seen in fig.98 as you hold his arm close to your chest, pull his chin in the opposite direction, arching his body back and keep pushing the chin until you achieve the takedown (fig.100 for the whole action). If you can squeeze your hands between his arms, grab his chin with one hand, and the back of his head with the other one (always two points, remember?) and then now bend his head back and down, applying pressure with your thumb under his chin to cause pain and to distract him (fig.101),
even though it is a less favourite technique because it does not put you behind your attacker (that is a superior position for the takedown).
fig.101 - If you can squeeze your
hands between his arms, grab his
chin, now bend his head back
However, it might seem more natural as a line of defence because your natural instinct is to grab the arms that attack you and also he wouldn't expect an attack to his neck (fig. 102). The principle is that you should always manipulate at least two points at the same time, the only way to achieve a takedown because you move his centre of gravity.
A very successful way to control your attacker's arms is a classic 'Figure Four', so called because the position of the arms resembles the number 4. It is a technique ideal if someone grabs
yourshoulder or the top of your torso, a controlling technique against the joints. It can also be used if somebody is attempting to strike you with a baton: starting with the opposite arm to his (if your are facing him), if he attacks you with the right, you react with your right, and quickly grab his wrist or forearm and at the same time bring your other arm around grabbing your own wrist(fig.104).
fig.99 -Push one of his elbows up and, ducking under his
arm, straighten his arm and grab his wrist. Apply lock to
elbow and shoulder.
Let's now go back to the situation when your attacker has grabbed you around your neck: to get him to bend his arm and for you to achieve the "figure four" technique just grab his little finger and twist it hard against its natural movement and once you bend his elbow, proceed as we have seen before. The whole reaction is performed fast and in an explosive manner.
It is worth constantly reminding you that unless you can act decisively and precisely, you don't really have a second chance, so if you start fumbling just forget it and strike him open-palm to his chin the moment he grabs you. If you do manage to him into the "figure four" lock, all you have to do now is step with your foot behind his body and go for a takedown (fig.102) and don't forget, to keep elbows
together so that you can join momentum. This takedown, using a "figure four" lock can also result, if you position yourself correctly, in a powerful throw. (fig.106)
fig.100 - Keep pushing the chin until you achieve
fig.102 - Figure-of-Four throw.
The difference between a takedown and a throw is that, in the takedown, your centre of weight is not one with your attacker, they are joined and very close, in fact as joint as possible, but they can't be one. (fig.103)In a throw you join centre of gravity and as you pivot your body, you shift his centre of gravity away from his foundation. It is worth remembering that the natural positioning of the centre of weight in a man is about eight centimetres below his hips.
So what is more effective, a takedown or a throw? It depends: it's easier for most people to achieve a successful takedown than to achieve a decent throw an at the end of the day,they both achieve stunning
your attacker and make him hit the ground even though a throw most probably will disorient him more and will make him hit the ground harder. Before we move to discuss throws, let's see what to do if a takedown fails.
fig.104 - Figure-of-Four
explained: if he attacks you
with the right, you react with
your right, and quickly grab his
wrist or forearm and at the same
time bring your other arm around
grabbing your own wrist.
If you fail the takedown, it is because you either failed to shift the centre of gravity of your opponent past his foundation or because you executed your moves in a broken manner, and hesitated: remember that your action
should always be explosive and fluid at the same time, one continuous uninterrupted action. There is no point, continuing or trying to repeat a failed technique, you have to switch quickly to plan B without thinking.
fig.103 - In a takedown the
centre of weight is not joint.
Because you already moved closer to your attacker, you would be better off using an open-palm push or jab to your attacker's chin , maybe grabbing his leg at the same time, applying your action always on two distant points on his body. (fig.88 and fig.111) One last technique discussing takedowns is called FULL NELSON (fig.92), a technique used mostly standing and facing an opponent: all it takes is bringing your arms underneath his armpits and capping his face with your hands, covering his eyes. As you force his head back, he's going to lose balance and won't be able to see. Applying pressure to his eyeballs will make the technique more effective (fig.106A).
A throw is certainly more violent than a takedown, and without a doubt is much more spectacular. However, because of inherent problems like resistance from the opponent, difficulty in getting into the right position, timing and so on, throws are very difficult to achieve.
The classic movie scene,
in which a very small person throws a big guy a few feet away, using just one hand movement is most of the time Hollywood fiction and more realistically it requires for someone to achieve easily only after many years of hard training (fig.105).
fig.105 - The author performing a
spectacular throw (KATA GURUMA kneeling).
Throws utilise the same concept as takedowns, joining momentum, but they differ because while takedowns allow you a certain gap between you and the other person, throws require very tight contact, really close. Throws require a small circular motion over your body while takedowns are performed with a wider circular move around it.
fig.106 - FULL NELSON takedown from the back and from
the front, applying pressure under his chin or to his eyeballs.
fig.106A - You can
apply pressure to his eyeballs.
Once more the principle is the same because torque (an applied lever) is applied on both: a takedown could be transformed into a throw if your opponent tries to counteract in any way.
The same can be said for the other way round. The most common throws utilise your hip as the pivoting point and that means joining hip with your opponent as you apply downward leverage.
If you go too deep with your position you are basically carrying his weight, if you are slightly off centre, almost certainly, there comes a takedown if you still manage a successful circular movement as we have explained earlier.
Watching two Judokas fighting you will notice all they are trying is to join centres of gravity meaning closing the gap between the bodies. But this is only part of the secret, you must be able to centre your opponent's weight, finding the balance point not to mention that you should never start a throw lifting your opponent with your hip or, worse even, on your back, but always try to position his body to combine your centre of gravity (fig.107).
This means thinking his body is as yours is, moving as one: you shouldn't move faster because you will end up dragging his mass with you, and at the same time you shouldn't allow your body mass to be slower than his because you may lose balance.
fig.107 - Join your opponent's
momentum to succeed in your
It is a question of joining momentums, or even better, synchronising them, always finding opportunity or creating it. Similarly to the preparation for the takedown, you should also slightly unbalance your opponent before executing your throw. For instance, you can throw him effortlessly if you can shift his centre of weight or narrow his foundation. You can use the same unbalancing technique for the takedown, using your forearm or striking with your palm to his chin, or any other way of shifting his weight.
We show you in FALLING, how to hit the ground without hurting yourself and this is important because you might end up, as you practice, falling onto the ground. What is important is to avoid absorbing all the impact of the fall with your body, so as you can see in fig.108 you should round your back and roll with it, trying to spread the shock gradually over a wider part of your body. As you do so it's very important that you tuck your chin towards your chest to avoid banging your head on the ground.
Like all techniques, falling requires practice and someone with experience and who is also qualified to follow you, pointing out possible mistakes but especially guiding you physically through the movements, especially at the beginning. Takedown and throws work very well if combined with other techniques. When we examined earlier the "figure four" arm lock we noticed how it is useful to control your attacker, especially when he's trying to hit you with his arm with a downward motion. (see LOCKS)
fig.108 - Curve your back and roll with it.
As we have seen, use the opposite arm to block his strike, grab his wrist with the same arm and quickly bring your other arm around his and grab your other wrist. (see fig.90) This can be achieved even if he attempts to grab your neck, as we have already seen, lifting his arm and grabbing his little finger and bending it backwards. We remind you about this over again because manipulating small body articulations can be very effective. Because of the great control that "figure four" gives you, you'll find it very easy to simple step with one foot behind your attacker to throw him onto the ground.
It is important that you keep pressing your forearm against your attacker's shoulder while in "figure four" to help your unbalancing move to succeed, staying close to his body to join centre of gravity: now you just throw him diagonally over your hip, spiralling your body downwards.
You can always resolve to a takedown starting in the same way, but obviously without stepping behind your attacker, you just pull him rotating his body downwards and remember that combining the "figure four" with a throw is much more effective, quicker and certainly more violent.
fig.109 - Push his chin with one hand, with the other
grab the back of his head.
We have established that controlling the head of your attacker will let you control his body, this is even more evident when you apply throws manipulating his neck with both hands.
To find your window of opportunity you can take advantage of the following approaches from the attacker: as he approaches you from the front, grabbing you around the neck with one or two hands, as he swings at you with a punch, or if he pushes your upper body backwards with both hands. If any of these actions happen just close your distance (he definitely won't expect that) and put your hands between his arms or one hand between his arms and one hand outside of his arm, in other words get inside his arms. With your hand in between his arms, grab his chin, with the other grab the back of his head (fig.109) and as you can see, we still apply the same principles of two points of balance, and always remember to start your move as soon as he touches you, without letting him finish his action.
The same applies if he takes a swing at you, the moment that you block or avoid his punch, and just before he can regain his balance, go with your move. Obviously, you'll find it difficult to move closer if somebody is throwing a punch at you, but as you will remember we said many times in previous pages, sometimes safety is in closeness, even more so here.
fig.110 - Hide your real target, the head, with a kick.
Or hide a kick to the groin with a hand strike.
With a push to your upper body, you probably won't be able to react at his first touch, often these pushes are often explosives accompanied by a loud "WHAT?" or with an insult, and your window of opportunity is the second push, that's going to come next, be prepared for that and close in. You might also find that you want to prevent his action and go for a throw or takedown before waiting for his first move, if you are sure that there is nothing left to diffuse the situation (see SWITCHING OFF) then go for it, better to strike first, always. In this case add a distracting move, like a kick for instance, to hide your real target, his head. (fig.110)
fig.111 - Once you have intercepted his arm,
pull him diagonally across
Once you have grabbed his head, step behind him, on the same side of the hand you have on his chin, the back of your leg touches the back of his leg, pushing up and back his chin, tilting his head back, all carried out at top speed. Do this decisively and without any hesitation, turning fully his head to the side and throwing him backwards over your hip in the usual downwards spiral.
Now you can flee, or you can pin him to the ground with your knee, but is important to remember that as he starts to lose his balance, his first instinct is to grab you wherever he can, to avoid going to the ground. Carry on regardless, if anything, increase the speed.
The same principle applies if you have managed to grab your opponent's wrist for whatever reason, intercepting a blow or, maybe you are grabbing it first to prevent a blow and probably he would step forward and then try to reach for you. Once you have intercepted his arm, pull him diagonally across your body. This is obviously if he grabs the opposite arm, or you have grabbed his opposite arm, such as right arm grabbing right arm for instance. (fig.111)
It is fully natural that you'll find it difficult to grab somebody's wrist or arm, as he tries to punch you, or worse, knife you, but you should remember, it's actually quite easy, if you don't think of it as "grabbing" but just to par or block first and then grab, as shown in fig.111, and you will already be in a good position, slightly behind him, ready now to grab his chin with your free arm and stepping behind him at the same time without hesitation. As quickly as possible, switch hands and throw him off balance using the hand on his chin that was originally holding his wrist. (fig.112)
Always remember that every time you go for a takedown or a throw using a grip on somebody else's wrist, head or arm, you should be forceful and grip tightly, this will also give you a strong psychological advantage over your attacker, selling yourself as very strong and determined. Of course in reality, your hands might be cold, his clothing might not allow you a good grip, and his neck might be sweaty and slippery but in any case, go for it, always in an explosive and decisive manner, without second thoughts or interrupting mid action, even when successful.
fig.112 - Switch your hands, using the hand that was holding his wrist to push his chin. Keep
pulling with your other arm down and in a circular move. If you have positioned yourself
towards his back he cannot resist the takedown.
Another point seen more than once already is that sometimes you have to make your own window of opportunity, normally with a some distraction. Unfortunately we cannot show you how to fake convincingly and properly with a website, this can only be done through practice.
You can try with your partner in training, practicing a few distractions and see how often you can succeed with your intent and make your partner react to your distraction in the way you plan.
Throws work in the same way independently of direction, the principles behind a reverse or forward throw are the same: you should still use a straight or circular momentum, at the same time apply torque and always use two points of balance (for example your hip and another part of your opponent's upper body). It is absolutely fundamental to always join your attacker's centre of gravity, and that means leaving no gap between your body and his, a principle well observed in JUDO.
We will explore possible SCENARIOS, but do remember the general principle, instead of trying to remember a specific technique, most important of all is finding your window of opportunity in response to your attacker's aggressive action, most of the time the very moment his action commences, not one second late.
As for takedowns if you manage to intercept your attacker's wrist as he's launching at you with or without weapons, you can still apply a throw as in fig.113. As for takedowns it is important to keep your movements fluid and avoid a stepping motion, in this case you swirl as you turn to join the centre of gravity and position your arms, locking his wrist and his upper arm going for the throw and don't forget most forward throws work best pulling diagonally across your body. (O-GOSHI in JUDO)
fig.113 -Push with your hips in a backwards movement to
maximize the effect and achieve the best possible throw.
Of course, your timing and the way you join the momentum of his attack has to be spot on, otherwise the throw will not work but just end up a tug of war scenario where you pull and he pulls and the strongest wins. Another danger to avoid is to "telegraph" your intention to the attacker, so as we have seen for takedowns, to reveal in advance your action, always hide your true intention, in this case grabbing his wrist) with some distraction.
To make most hip throws 100% effective make sure that you don't just pull your attacker by the arms but you also push with your hips in a backwards movement to maximize the effect (fig.113). Once on the ground, you can kick his head, drop with your knee onto his head (see the knee drop technique on fig.26 or twist his arm (you should still be holding his wrist) and turn him on his back, face down.
As we have mentioned before, we always suggest running away without looking at the consequence of your throw or takedown, because restraining techniques require some serious training and they might put you in danger. So once you have successfully thrown your attacker to the ground, you have quite a few moments for your attacker to recover from his shock, and that should give you enough time to flee and look for help.
fig.114 - Grabbing his arm with both
hands and twisting diagonally, project
your attacker's body onto the ground.
A forward throw should be your number one choice if attacked from behind, and you have been grabbed by the neck in an attempt to choke you. At the first feeling of contact, you should already been grabbing his arm (fig.114) with both hands and as you twist diagonally again, project your attacker's body onto the ground.
The reason why this is an ideal technique is because you start with your centre of gravity already joined to your attacker thanks to his initial action and since he is probably trying to pull you backwards to maximise his choking technique. To get him forward, that is how you want him to be to execute your throw, push back trying to unbalance him to the rear.
In reaction to that he will be instinctively pushing forwards, giving you the perfect momentum for the throw and even if by sheer chance, you actually totally unbalance him, and make him fall backwards, hit him with the back of your head on his nose as you both fall to the ground, in any case, he'll hit the back of his head violently onto the ground.
With all throws, you have to remember the following: join your centre of gravity at the very earliest opportunity with your attacker's, bend shaping your back in a curve, not flat, twist diagonally as you pull his body across yours, push your hips into his to maximise your pull-movement (remember: pull-push-move, always).
fig.115 -A classic technique is called SASAE TSURI KOMI-ASHI (foot stop-pulling
and lifting). To perform it successfully you must pull the opponent towards
you and rotate his shoulders as seen in the sequence, then use your foot
to stop his ankle to side step to maintain posture. Keep pulling and you will
get him on the ground with one decisive and explosivemove.
Like most of the techniques shown on this website, you cannot expect that only mentally executing them will give you good results, everybody is brilliant in their own mind, remember that practice makes perfect, and it's important that you get a feel for throwing somebody to the ground for real as well as equally you experiencing being thrown. If you require a a hands-on session get in touch with us using the online form.
Like all techniques, you should only try this if properly supervised and in a suitable environment. You must have mats on the floor to avoid injuring your partner with the throw or hurting yourself falling with him. In other words, don't try this at home. All throws can only be achieved by closing your distance. In order to avoid being thrown all you have to do, even if you are grabbed, is to keep a gap between the two bodies.
fig.116 -Bite his arm
or headbutt him to
initiate your throw.
It is always worth remembering that all throws work at their best, applying some distraction or a different technique before initiating the throw, for example a kick or head butting, this is to interrupt the tension that adrenaline gives to the body as soon as somebody grabs you, and even biting his arm could be a good distracting technique. (fig.116) Always be aware of your surroundings, it's more effective if you can execute a throw or a takedown against a chair or the edge of a pavement, or anything that can increase the damage to your attacker. Also, keep in mind that what you are wearing might impede some of the throws or takedowns, and you shouldn't employ techniques that require lots of movement when you are wearing tight clothes.
We have to think of throws and takedowns as kicks and punches, they have to be carried out ideally preceded by another action, be a kick, a punch or head butting, and then executed in an explosive and decisive manner, leaving your attacker no chance. Sweeps are also good especially at close range, and very effective especially in an initial confrontation where for instance you have been grabbed frontally by your clothing or pushed several times by your shoulders.
A classic technique, as shown in fig.115 is called SASAE TSURI KOMI-ASHI (foot stop-pulling and lifting, see JUDO) and similarly there are many sweeping techniques that can be used effectively and they are based on the same principle as takedowns and throws, pushing and pulling, two points of balance, adding a twisting movement spiralling downwards. Timing and perfect understanding of momentum is very important to achieve good sweeps, you should always sweep the foot that is bearing most of the weight of your opponent, and the unbalancing technique is the same as the one we have seen for the takedown, either creating that opportunity or seizing it as he moves.
fig.117 -Position of the foot while
performing a sweep.
Quite often it's good to push-pull your attacker in the same way as you would pull an arrow with a bow. An action that produces great results
It is always a good thing to apply a distracting technique to soften up your attacker's tension and distract him from your real intentions; you must create your window of opportunity. Sweeping must be done without hesitation, in an explosive manner and with perfect timing; it's all about grabbing the opportunity or creating it. For more details on foot sweeping techniques go to the JUDO table.
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