Why Upper Body Takedowns Are Perfect For BJJ
When you look at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match, you will notice that people act somewhat weirdly during the stand-up portion of the match. They either crouch really, really low, keeping an arm extended and trying to battle from there, or bump into each other, hold hands and perhaps heads a bit, and then back out.
Now take a look at a Judo or wrestling match. People stand upright, creating angles with their torsos, executing complex footwork, and carefully placing their arms out only when they purposefully need to grip something.
Trying to fit in Judo or wrestling takedowns or throws into BJJ is not an easy task because BJJ is neither Judo nor wrestling, both from a tactical and technical standpoint.
The goals and rules in BJJ are different, which makes shooting across the entire length of the mats for a double leg obsolete or trying to hip throw an opponent dangerous, given how much you expose your back in the process.
So, how do we approach the standing portion of the game in Jiu Jitsu? By modifying moves from Judo, wrestling, Sambo, and anything in between into genuinely effective and easy-to-implement BJJ techniques.
This is where upper body throws come into play. Given the nature of gripping, the presence of the Gi, and the distance between hips, any BJJ throw revolving around manipulating the opponent’s upper body is bound to be effective to a certain point.
The idea behind this approach is simple – the upper body, whether from a wrestling-like clinch position or a Judo grips perspective, is right there for the taking without the need for much maneuvering.
It comes down to who sets the quickest and most effective grips to get the fastest possible, high-percentage BJJ throw. This is exactly why you must spend some time researching the Trainwreck BJJ throw.
The Trainwreck BJJ Throw
The Trainwreck is a Gi takedown that only manipulates the opponent’s upper body to get them with their back on the ground. It is a variation of an old Judo throw, the Eri Seio Nage.
As with most throws and takedowns, the Trainwreck works because it embodies the key principles that make people fall against their will – off balancing them and using a potent power source to push them over the edge and onto the ground.
The main principle behind the Trainwreck BJJ throw is the same as with literally every other throw or sweep in grappling martial arts – off-balancing or, in Japanese, Kuzushi.
While the concept of disrupting someone’s balance in order to make them fall is easy to understand, applying it against an opponent that is actively resisting is a whole different ordeal.
Namely, it is not enough to make someone move just their upper or lower body. You need to make sure that you take away their posture by bending and twisting the spine, and you need to make your opponent place all their weight on one leg only.
This is where the second crucial principle comes into play – the power source to force the opponent to topple over.
With wrestling moves, this is often the shooting motion or tripping. In Judo, it is twisting the hips or tripping. For this particular BJJ throw, it is going to be twisting, similar to Judo, but without exposing the back at all.
I can usually teach people how the Trainwreck BJJ throw works in about an hour. While learning to do it live will take hundreds of hours of drilling, just like any other BJJ technique, understanding why the motion makes it easy for people to resist skipping steps and do everything correctly.
The Trainwreck BJJ throw starts with upper body grips (collar and sleeve) that play a huge role in Kuzushi and continues with food work that piles on to the Kuizshi, providing the essential power source for the completion of the takedown along the way.
The grip positioning for the Trainwreck is essential. You want to start off with a collar and sleeve grip combination.
The collar grip is a cross-collar, placed at the collarbone line, so you can prevent the opponent from moving forward.
The sleeve grip is on the same side, grabbing the end of the sleeve with a pocket grip. The aim here is to bury the knuckles of your palm into the front of the opponent’s forearm, completely blocking off any meaningful movement of that arm.
The grips are going to be essential in causing Kuzushi to make this BJJ throw work. The arm gripping the collar will move up first and then over the opponent’s shoulder in a circular motion.
The task of the sleeve gripping arm is to take the opponent’s arm across their body, effectively twisting and bending their spine to the side.
However, the grips-induced Kuzushi will only work when paired with precise footwork.
The way the lower body works is that once you have the grips, you want to step back with the leg on the side where you have the sleeve grip. There is no need for a big step, as long as you move the leg back and simultaneously execute the motions with your arms.
This completes the Kuzishi, as the opponent now has a broken posture and all their weight on their front foot.
The powerful motion that will help you finish the Trainwreck BJJ throw is dropping the knee of the front leg to the mats while keeping the other leg with the foot on the mat.
The Full Motion
The complete execution of the Trainwreck BJJ Throw requires you to step back as you push the opponent’s arm across their body and do the lift and punch motion with the cross-collar gripping arm.
From this point, as you drop your lead leg knee to the mats, you aim to try and touch the fist holding the opponent’s collar to the knee of that same leg. This will cause the opponent to tumble and fall over, their back on the mats.
The Trainwreck BJJ Throw is a great move that you can learn quickly and implement against people of all levels after a relatively short time of drilling. It ties in perfectly with a bunch of other Judo and wrestling takedowns and trips, and even links up easily with the collar and sleeve guard in case you somehow manage to end up on your back.
The only drawback of this throw is that it is a Gi-specific throw, and there is no real like-for-like substitute in No-gi.