The 2 Best BJJ Sweeps Against Standing Opponents

Last updated on 25.03.2021 by

BJJ sweeps come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share the same objective: obtain the top position. However, their simplicity means that our opponents are constantly wary of the threat they pose. In their quest to remain on top, they may opt to change their level, choosing to pass standing rather than deal with the myriad threats of closed guard.

You may find it tricky to sweep a standing opponent without these two powerful sweeps in your arsenal. Keep reading to get the full breakdown of the tripod sweep and the sickle sweep! 

BJJ Sweeps Against Standing Opponents: The Challenges

Whenever your opponent stands they become faster and more mobile. There is a reason people don’t attempt to win races on their knees! This can present a major problem for your guard if you don’t address it promptly.

In order for any attack to succeed you need to establish grips, slowing them down by using your own body as an anchor. This must be your first step – without grips your guard is under constant threat of being passed and you’ll have few opportunities to defend.

Another reason standing opponents are difficult to engage is that they have asserted control of distance. By creating space they have moved out of range of most of your common attacks. No longer are collar chokes viable, and while armbars and triangles remain possible the likelihood of success drops as you are forced to cover more distance to lock them on.

While certain close range attacks will be challenging, their are options for dealing with opponents at range. The key is to manage this range as best as you are able, maintaining as much of a connection to them as possible.

By overcoming the obstacles of grips and range you are putting yourself in the perfect position to execute either the tripod sweep or the sickle sweep. Let’s dive right in and see how you use these to bolster your open guard.

The 2 Best BJJ Sweeps Against Standing Opponents 1 The 2 Best BJJ Sweeps Against Standing Opponents BJJ sweeps

Establish Grips in the Open Guard

Upper body control is great, but the easiest grip you’ll be able to get off your back with your opponent standing is the heel grip. Grabbing their heel limits their ability to run, limiting the speed advantage imparted by their choice to stand. More importantly, it prevents many of their passing options that standing opponents have while opening up sweeping options for you. 

The grip is simple – grab the back of your opponent’s leg that is nearest to one of your arms. Using a thumbless monkey grip, cup the back of their heel with your pinky finger touching the mats. Your other arm, in the meantime, should aim to get a grip on the wrist or sleeve. A cross grip is preferable, but gripping the same side arm is better than nothing! A collar grip can be even more powerful, but that is not always readily available.

Once you’ve established a grip on the heel and a cross wrist grip, you’ll want to angle your body 45 degrees away from your opponent while placing one leg on the hip and the foot of the other hooking behind their other knee. From this position you’ve made their job of passing difficult while setting yourself up for a pair of powerful counters.

Tripod Sweep 

The first sweep to try is the tripod sweep. It is readily available and it works like a charm even against top level opponents. Moreover, it is subtle enough to avoid telegraphing because your back stays aligned with the ground. 

From the position described above, the sweep is literally within your grasp. All you need to do is pull with the heel grip while pushing with the foot on their hip. Your hooked foot merely serves to check the backwards motion of their leg.

The motion is nearly invisible to outside observers, but the effects are undeniable. Your opponent should fall gracelessly to their butt, landing in front of you. Your sweep isn’t complete yet – maintain your grip on their heel, ensuring that their foot cannot return to the ground. So long as you keep their feet off the ground you’ve ensured your sweep’s success.

Bring yourself to your feet using a technical standup motion and work to establish a powerful passing position of your own. Be careful leading with one shoulder as you may find yourself diving into a triangle!

Sickle Sweep

Its always essential to have multiple attacks available. While the tripod sweep is a great sweep, your opponents will soon learn to be wary of it and its efficacy may wane. This brings us to the sickle sweep, which is often taught in tandem with the tripod sweep.

The sweep itself is simple and if you’ve learned the scissor sweep you’ll have little trouble understanding this one. We’ll begin with the same grip configuration as before although, the positioning of the sweeping legs will be different.

While the tripod sweep requires your heel grip to be mirrored by your foot against their hip, this sweep places the opposite foot against their far hip. In order to obtain this position you’ll need to change the orientation of your body, switching from 45 degrees away from your opponent (forming an obtuse angle between you and your opponent) to 45 degrees towards your opponent.

A common error is to try to do this flat on your back, ensure you are on your side opposite the foot placed on their hip.

Next, place the other leg behind the same leg as you have hip control of. You’ll want this leg to be right at ankle level with your calf wedged behind their ankle. Push upwards with your top leg while scissoring your low leg and pulling with your heel grip to bring your opponent down. This sweep is somewhat easier to come up from than the tripod as you can stay tightly attached and use their momentum to pull you to your feet.


Don’t let your guard fall apart when your opponent stands! By establishing grips and maintaining control of the distance you’ll give yourself plenty of opportunities to sweep. The tripod and sickle sweeps present a challenging dilemma even for skilled opponents. Develop both of them to make people think twice about choosing to engage with your open guard!