A good grappler should know how to take the fight to the ground. Generally, the standing position is a common weakness amongst many modern BJJ practitioners. To get better in the standup, BJJ players typically adapt takedowns from other grappling martial arts like Wrestling and Judo.
A grappler applying the single leg takedown with their head outside in BJJ attracts the risk of getting caught with submissions like variations of the arm triangle. Such takedowns adapted from other grappling arts should be modified upon their application in Jiu-Jitsu. In this article, we will talk about how to utilize the ankle pick for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The Ankle Pick
The ankle pick is a technique originally from wrestling and is a variant of the single leg takedown. It is performed by pulling the opponent’s ankle in one direction as you push their upper body to the opposite side, typically from the collar tie. It is a low-risk takedown and can be highly effective when executed properly.
An opponent requires balance to be effective. According to John Danaher, if you attack the opponent’s balance at every opportunity, you can disrupt whatever plan they have to beat you. Unbalancing the opponent makes the execution of the move you intend to use much more effortless.
Some of the most common standing techniques grapplers use are the single and double leg takedowns. While these are good takedowns, the danger with them is that if you’re shooting into and under the opponent, there’s a lot of body weight you have to carry as you may get stuck under their body if the opponent effectively sprawls; this is dangerous because you’ll be vulnerable to back attacks. There’s also the danger of getting caught in a guillotine. Therefore, when performing such takedowns, you must be cautious about your neck exposure; hence, position your head high and inside.
The ankle pick is an effective alternative as it prevents you from being put in inferior positions, such as the crucifix. As you grab the ankle pick from the collar tie, if the opponent tries to sprawl, there’s no body weight that you have to carry. If the opponent kicks their leg out in your attempt for the ankle pick, there’s no danger of getting stuck underneath their body, and you can reset back up to your feet.
The ankle pick is commonly confused with the low single-leg takedown. The difference between the two is that in a low single leg, you are committing your head to the opponent’s leg and using it to finish the takedown by putting outside pressure on their knee. In case of a missed low single, you may risk getting triangled and your back taken. The ankle pick eliminates all the risks mentioned above, making it an effective takedown for Jiu-Jitsu.
1) Straight Ankle Pick
Starting in the standup with a staggered stance, use your rear hand to post on the opponent’s shoulder to gauge distance. Match your head level with the opponent, and use your rear hand to club behind their head. Once you club their head, step away in a circle on the side of your rear hand to force the opponent into a squared stance. By doing so, you are creating a situation where their two feet are parallel.
As the opponent squares up, drop and bring their head down with you. You want to avoid dropping and extending your arm to grab their ankle while the opponent’s head is high. Drop your head down specifically over the foot you want to pick. Drop down near the knee on the same side you are catching, and ensure that the ankle drops down first.
Keep your rear hand close and heavy as you collar tie the opponent’s head. This will unbalance the opponent, making their head easy to pull. From there, bring the opponent’s head over their foot, and once you get there, grab their ankle. Pull in the direction that their toes point as you push their head to finish the takedown, which lands you in the top position.
2) Cross Ankle Pick
Often, if the opponent sees that you are going for the ankle pick, they step their leg out. When this happens, the cross-ankle pick becomes the available option. Likewise, post on their shoulder with your rear hand and use it to club their head. Step away and circle on the side of your rear hand.
As soon as the opponent squares their stance, grab their ankle with your lead hand. Now if the opponent steps their ankle back from the initial pick, switch and grab their other leg’s ankle (lead leg). Pull the ankle in a direction where their toes point, and bring the head down when it is over their foot. If the opponent also steps their leg out from the cross ankle pick attempt, you can safely get back up without getting submitted and your back taken.
3) Ankle Pick From The Russian Tie
If the opponent was the first to grab your head (collar tie), use it as an opportunity to go for the two on one or the Russian tie. From the Russian tie position, put pressure on the opponent’s arm so you can drag them down. Use this position to force their far leg to step forward and grab their far ankle as soon as it steps. Push forward and finish the takedown. Land on top and transition to a dominant position like side control or back mount.
The straight ankle and the cross ankle pick work together really well. The ankle pick is easy to learn and demands little to no athleticism. If you want to use the ankle pick as one of your go-to takedowns, you can use the straight ankle pick as the first option and go for the cross ankle pick as the secondary. Remember that you can keep your techniques simple when building your standup game. It is recommended that you create a system where you can chain your favorite takedowns seamlessly. This is a sure way to make your game simple yet highly effective.
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