The scissor sweep is often the first sweep you’ll be taught and is one of the best sweeps to add to your arsenal. It is versatile, not too difficult to learn, and applicable in both gi and no-gi Jiu Jitsu.
Let’s examine this useful sweep, exploring in detail how to set it up and use it to launch attacks!
Scissor Sweep Mechanics And Specifics
How to Scissor Sweep (Step By Step)
The scissor sweep is a Jiu Jitsu sweep that utilizes using both your legs in a scissoring motion to force the top person over. As such, it is usually most effective against a kneeling and to some extent a half-kneeling opponent. The scissor sweeps can also work against standing opponents, but it requires certain adjustments (which I cover later in the article).
For a scissor sweep, you need to place one of your shins across your opponent’s belly. There are different schools of thought here in terms of how high your knee should be. I prefer to keep the shin running parallel to the opponent’s belt and at the same level, but many high level coaches prefer a higher elevation.
The traditional scissor sweep execution involves a collar and sleeve grip. The collar grip can be same side or cross, while the grip on the sleeve is on the same side. This grip combination helps you achieve the first sweeping principle – take away a post.
Before moving your legs into position, you need to be on your side. Not many things in grappling martial arts will work when both your shoulder blades are on the ground. As you tilt to one side, you end up with a top and bottom leg. The top leg’s shin goes across your opponent’s belt.
The bottom leg should touch the mats with the outside part of the leg. This part is really important to make the sweep work. If your bottom leg is off the ground, you will struggle and use a lot of muscle power in order to finish the sweep.
Once your legs and arms are in place, resist the temptation to simply scissor your legs. You first need to disrupt your opponent’s balance.
To off balance your opponent, your grips, particularly the collar one, come into play. Namely, to disrupt the opponent’s center of gravity, you will need to pull them on top of yourself, i.e. force them to lean forward. This will make them feel light as a feather when you scissor your legs and they will easily fall over.
Scissor Sweep Setups
Setting up the scissor sweep is not a difficult task, from a mechanical standpoint. However, this sweep has been used so much that people usually see/feel it coming from miles away. In that sense, you need to be a bit sneakier in getting to it from the closed guard, as well as try and hit it from other guards, like the half guard or open guard variations.
Gi Scissor Sweep From Guard
The scissor sweep mechanics I portrayed above are how the sweep is most often performed from a closed guard setup in the gi. There is no optimal sequence of setting up the grips – it won’t matter much whether you set up the cross collar grip first or you go for the sleeve before anything else. However, you should have the grips before you open the guard.
Opening the guard is the tricky part. If you simply open your legs, your opponent can start using that to set up passes and completely destroy your sweep attempts.
A very useful “trick” is to lift your hips slightly off the ground when opening the closed guard and extend your legs. This will make your legs heavy, your thighs still pressing on the opponent’s hips, preventing their movement as you maneuver into position.
Scissor Sweep No-Gi Variation
Without the gi, you just adjust your grips. From the closed guard, instead of the cross collar grip, you want a collar tie, meaning you grab behind your opponent’s neck.
Replacing the sleeve grip with a no-gi grip is a bit trickier. A wrist grip might suffice, but people can wiggle out of those a lot easier than they can break a sleeve grip. Instead, I prefer using an overhook grip, grabbing over the elbow and looking to tuck my palm towards my chin. This does the trick in terms of taking a post away.
Half Guard Scissor Sweep
There is a simple grip variation that will allow you to very effectively scissor sweep from the half guard. The main difference to the scissor sweep explained above is that one of your legs is now in between the opponent’s legs.
In order to make up for the fact that your bottom leg is not on the outside, all you need to do is switch the grips. Instead of a cross collar grip, you will aim to establish a cross sleeve grip. This will free up your bottom arm so that it can reach and grab the gi pants at knee level, on your opponent’s free leg.
What this grip configuration achieves is taking one post away (the sleeve grip) and blocking another post (the pants grip). Simply pull your opponent forward and use the scissoring motion to rotate your chest towards the mats and you’ll get a slick half guard scissor sweep.
Reverse Scissor Sweep
The reverse scissor sweep is usually a follow-up sweep to a failed regular scissor sweep. One way people can prevent the sweep from working is to pull their weight back, thus denying the second principle of sweeping.
When you encounter this defense, an easy solution is to tactically switch grips. First, let go of the sleeve grip and change to a cross sleeve grip on the opposite side arm. Once you have it, use the grip to drag that arm across your torso.
Next up, you will need to let go of the cross collar grip and throw your arm over your opponent’s near side shoulder, aiming to grab their gi or belt.
The sweep is going to work in the opposite direction of the usual scissor sweep given that you’ve already taken the post away on that side. Once again, you disrupt the balance by pulling your opponent towards yourself, before opening up the top leg (the one that’s across their belly) to send them flying.
Scissor Sweep Combination Attacks
The beautiful thing about sweeps is that they usually open up submission options even if they fail in their original task of getting you on top. The scissor sweep is no exception, with lots of easy submissions readily available off it.
Getting an armbar off a scissor sweep works best when your opponent counters your sweep by shifting their weight backward. Since you can’t take away their balance, you’ll look to take their arm.
The shift is easy – get the knee of your top leg higher up their chest to gain mobility. Then, use the bottom leg to post with your foot on their hip in order to be able to lift your hips. This, in turn, allows you to sneak the top leg underneath the far side armpit and across the opponent’s back.
Swinging the other leg around their head will get you deep into an armbar. The best part is that you don’t have to let go of the original grips at any point.
Setting up a triangle is a bit trickier than getting an armbar, but still a high percentage scissor sweep follow-up. If your sweep fails, you can circle your top leg out (kick it out and circle it back in, leading with the knee) so that instead of having it only across the belly, you now have it across their belly and their free arm (at elbow level).
Going for a triangle from there is simple – just pull them forward and get your legs into position.
Where there is a triangle and an armbar, an Omoplata is not far away. In the case of a scissor sweep, it is arguably the most easily available submission option.
Once again, if you can’t finish the scissor sweep, use the grips you have to create different opportunities. Forcing your opponent to post with the arm you are controlling with the sleeve grip will open up a lot of space to sneak the bottom leg under the armpit for an Omoplata.
You’ll need to change the angle though by pulling your opponent to the opposite side (like for a reverse scissor sweep). This will land them straight into a deep Omoplata position.
Scissor Sweep Defense
The scissor sweep is a high-percentage move once it is set up. This statement holds the key to beating it though. You can only defend the scissor sweep until the point your balance is taken away. So, defending a scissor sweep has to happen early.
In essence, reverse engineering the principles that make sweeps possible will help you deter them. Denying the grips that take your post away is obviously the best sweep deterrent, but you can’t always bet on being able to do that. That leaves the battle for balance as the defining one.
A simple solution is to weave the legs. At this point, it is clear that shifting your weight backward will prevent the sweep, but opens up submission options, as I explained above. Killing all those require you to sneak your free arm underneath the knee of the top leg (the one on your belly) and grab the opponent’s bottom leg above the knee.
It is quite easy to start to smash passing from there, by forcing their knee towards the mats.
A Sneaky Scissor Sweep Counter
Another sneaky and effective way to deal with the scissor sweep is to go directly for a leg lock. The fact that you have a free arm and you can grab their knee with a scoop grip pretty much guarantees an Ashi Garami entry.
Stepping up with the free side leg so that your knees behind the knee of the opponent’s shin-across leg is all you need to trap it in combination with the scoop grip. As the bottom person places their bottom leg on the mats, simply go over it with your leg and sit back. You can then proceed into an Ashi Garami of your choosing and your favorite heel hook finish.
The scissor sweep is a reliable and powerful weapon to have. It is versatile enough so that it can be set up from different guards and works in both gi and no-gi. Moreover, it has follow up options that more or less guarantee that you’ll either get a sweep or a submission!
Focus on taking away your opponent’s posts (with grips), disrupting their balance (by pulling them forward), and following them all the way to the top. If the sweep doesn’t work, don’t despair – just look for the submission opportunities they’ve given you!
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.