As we all know, the single leg is one of the most basic and high percentage takedowns
in jiu jitsu. Whether youʼre standing on the ground, you need to incorporate the single
leg takedown into your game – but just as importantly, you need to know how to
DEFEND it as well. In fact, you should feel just as comfortable GETTING single legged
as you do when you are taking someone down.
In this video, BJJ black belt and Div 1 Wrestler Ken Primola will explain the basic principles of the single leg takedown
defense. Letʼs watch the video, and then weʼll dissect each element of the defense.
“Running The Pipe”
Letʼs be honest, this position can suck if you donʼt know what to do. In the picture below,
Kenʼs opponent has his leg snatched up. His head is driving into his front deltoid region,
and his hands are clasped together with Kenʼs knee against his chest. This creates
substantial pressure driving forward, which will corrupt Kenʼs balance if he doesnʼt react
quickly. As you can see, all of Kenʼs weight gets distributed to his left leg.
Grabbing The Armpit
If Ken doesnʼt make a connection with his opponent, he will continue to be driven
backwards on his left leg. What he does next is a pivotal point in this single leg takedown
defense. Ken establishes a grip on his opponent, but not just any grip. He cups right behind his
opponentʼs nearside shoulder, right in his armpit. This grip can keep Ken connected to
his opponent, but more importantly it can redirect his pressure. Whenever you are
executing a single leg takedown, your objective it to drive forward. This grip can slightly
elevate Kenʼs opponent, giving him the levrage he needs to lower his base.
“Lower Your Level”
Possibly the most important aspect of the single leg takedown is keeping constant head
pressure against your opponentʼs shoulder region. This pevents a lot of the potential
defenses and makes it very difficult for them to generate any movement with their upper
By cupping the far side shoulder, Ken is able to create the space needed to lower his
level. Notice how Ken moves his ENTIRE BODY around to the opposite side shoulder
of the leg being attacked. This completely changes the angle, and dislodges the
pressure on his own shoulder. At this point, Ken has alleviated a lot of his opponentʼs
momentum going forward.
However, he is still NOT in a good place. To impede the rest of the pressure coming
forward, Ken simply takes his shoulder and drives it into his opponentʼs neck. Then, he
cups his right tricep muscle with his left hand. Even though Kenʼs leg is still snatch up,
his base is much lower and he is controlling his opponentʼs posture.
The “Kick Down/Push Up” Finish
By keeping his shoulder in his opponentʼs neck, it gives him the necessary counter
pressure to kick DOWN with the leg being attacked. If for any reason Ken feels like he
does not have the proper angle to do so, he can simply readjust the angle by stepping
back with his left leg. The shoulder in the neck isolates his opponentʼs upper body, while
the kick forces the gable grip to become dislodged – remember, the power of your legs
and hips are stronger than your arms.
This single leg takedown counter leaves Ken in a neutral position where he can now
look to take his opponent down.