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7 Basic Takedown Skills

In the past, wrestling terminology and style varied widely from region to region.  As a result, as many as four different names were often used for the same move.  To standardize basic instruction and terminology, the U.S. Wrestling Federation's national coaching staff has divided wrestling skills into seven basic categories:  stance, motion, changing level, penetration, lifting, back-stepping, and back-arching.  These skills don't cover every possible action a wrestler may take, but they do provide a basic framework for learning takedown technique.

Stance - Stance (or posture) has to do with correct body position, not only in the various starting positions, but also while going through the actual takedowns and counterattacks.  A stable stance that you can react from as well as attack from, reduces the risk of being taken down by your opponent.

Motion - The ability to move properly is very important in wrestling.  Maintaining good position during movement is even more important than speed on the mat.  Motion is used to defend, attack, and set up moves as well as to execute the moves themselves.  A skilled wrestler will involve some type of motion prior to the execution of any takedown.  This motion is not limited to circling the opponent, but includes hand movement, tie-ups, shucking the head, clearing the arms, or other techniques used to distract an opponent or eliminate defensive obstacles to the takedown.

Level Change - Changing levels involves the raising and lowering of your hips to set up, execute, finish, and counter moves.  For some wrestlers, this skill is difficult to perfect.  It isn't actually the changing of levels that presents the problem, but maintenance of good posture while changing levels.  When setting up takedowns, level is lowered or raised to get past an opponent's defenses.  Moves can also be set up by changing levels because a change forces the opponent to react by matching that level.

Penetration - To accomplish a takedown you must attack your opponent's upper body or legs.  On all leg or hip shots you must take a penetration step (or steps) to get inside your opponent's defenses and within range to complete the move.  The most important aspect of penetration is maintaining good posture throughout the attack.  The hips must be forward and under the upper body to provide a good base of support to finish the takedown.  Whether stepping in the center as with the double-leg takedown, or stepping to the outside as with a single-leg takedown, the penetration step should be deep enough so that your toes line up with the middle of the opponent's feet.  The penetration step should only be taken when you are close enough to touch the opponent in order to maintain good posture throughout the attack.

Lifting - Lifting, which is essential in all wrestling styles, is used to finish takedowns, to set up pinning combinations, to counter escapes, and to counter takedowns.  In freestyle and Greco-Roman competition, extra points are awarded on some lifts.  The basic principle behind lifting is simple: once an opponent is in the air, he no longer has a base for support, balance, or power.  Without that base it is almost impossible to counterattack.  Position is the key to lifting.  To clear an opponent from the mat, leg and hip strength must be used (rather than upper body and back).  By lowering your level and popping your hips underneath your opponent, you can easily send him flying through the air.

Back-Step - While it may appear that upper body throws take great upper body strength, footwork and level changes are really more important.  Strength has to be developed in the chest, arms, and shoulders and is used mostly in fighting for position.  Once position is gained, however, it's the legs and hips that are critical in an upper body throw.

Back Arch - The back-arch opens the way for perhaps the most exciting throws in wrestling.  The key to the back-arch lies in the hips.  You must not merely fall back and lift or you will end up flat on your back.  Instead you tuck your hips under your opponent.  The movement is so quick and powerful that, when done against an opponent, your head does not even touch the mat.  Motion and level changes are important in setting up the back-arch.  To throw effectively with a back arch your opponent must be pushing into you.  When that happens the back-arch is accomplished simply by locking up and popping the hips under your opponent's pressure.

Takedown Reference Library

In demonstrating the takedowns pictured below, we tried to emphasize the entire chain of movement.  Motion and set-ups are critical in the execution of a successful takedown in addition to an appropriate finish.  When drilling takedowns with a partner, focus should be placed on moving your opponent and executing your attack based upon his reaction whether it be pushing back into you, stepping in a direction, or the lack of defenses due to your head shuck or elbow pop.

Double Leg w/ dump

Motion:  Forward motion directed into the opponent.
Setup:  As opponent returns motion, both of opponents arms are popped up at the elbows.
Execution:  Lower level and take a penetration step between his legs approximately in line with his toes.  With your head to the outside, opposite your lead leg, grab both legs behind the knees or upper calves. 
Finish:  Lift with your hips, drive, and dump away from your head.

Single Leg with front trip

Motion:  Motion to the side, opposite the target leg.
Setup:  Head shuck away from the target leg.
Execution:  Immediately lower level and take a penetration step just outside of the target leg.  With your head to the inside, opposite your lead leg, use your inside hand to reach for the opponents heel and your outside hand, arm, shoulder, and head to wrap at the opponents knee and thigh.
Finish:  Lift the leg in front of your waist, keeping your shoulder and head tight to the opponents leg (no space).  Using your inside leg (closest to the opponent) trip above his knee and drive him to the mat, covering hip to hip.

Double Leg Recovery

Situation:  Your opponent counters your double leg takedown by sprawling, but you still have his legs.
Execution
:  With your head between his legs, shift your knees forward so that they are directly under your shoulders.  Post one arm on the ground, while maintaining a hold on the other leg.  Force your body upwards, then pop his free leg over your head while forcing down on the gripped leg.
Finish:  Maintain a hold on the gripped leg, cover his hips.

Single Leg Recovery

Situation:  Your opponent counters your single leg takedown by sprawling, but you still have his leg.
Execution
:  Isolate your opponents leg by blocking his calf with your elbow on the mat.  Tripod up and, while maintaining pressure on his thigh with your shoulder, rotate your body behind him.
Finish:  Once he his flattened out, cover up at his hips.

Sweep Single with knee block

Motion:  Motion to the side, opposite the target leg.
Setup:  Change directions taking a sweeping drop step to the outside of the target leg.
Execution:  As you lower level, hand placement should be the same as a standard single leg, with your head to the inside, opposite your lead leg, use your inside hand to reach for the opponents heel and your outside hand, arm, shoulder, and head to wrap at the opponents knee and thigh.  Use the sweeping motion to turn your body towards the target leg as you lift the leg up.
Finish:  Keeping your shoulder and head tight to the opponents leg (no space), and maintaining a grip with your ankle hand, reach your high hand through his legs and block above his knee to drive him to the mat.  Cover hip to hip.

Fireman's Carry

Motion:  From a collar tie up with inside control, forward motion is directed into the opponent.
Setup:  As the opponent returns motion, lower your level while maintaining a tight grip on the upper arm.
Execution:  While lowering your level, take a penetration step between the opponent's legs.  Maintain a tight grip on the upper arm, duck your head under the same armpit (armpit tight to your neck) while shooting your free arm through his crotch.  Pushing with your penetration leg, pull down on the opponent's arm, and drive his body and your shoulder to the side towards the mat (between the 9:00 &10:00 position).  The arm through his crotch should act as a "guide arm", forcing him up and in the direction you are taking him.
Finish:  Still maintaining a tight grip on his upper arm, shoot your other arm across his chest, cover chest to chest, and scoop his far arm to further tighten the pinning position.

Snap and Spin

Situation:  Your opponent has a low level stance, is hanging his head, or is shooting with his head down.
Motion/Setup
:  From a collar tie-up, forward motion is directed into the opponent (if he is not shooting).
Execution:  As opponent returns motion, snap down hard with your "neck hand" of the collar tie-up and force his head and body towards the mat using his momentum.At the same time you are snapping the head, your opposite hand should be controlling his arm and forcing him to the mat and away from your legs.  This motion should put you into a full sprawl position with your chest weight on his upper back.   
Finish
:  With your arm that is furthest away from his head, reach around with your hand, butt-drag, cross-face, and spin behind.. covering his hips to finish the takedown.

Duck Under

Motion/Setup:  From a collar tie-up, forward motion directed into the opponent.  As opponent returns motion, maintain a firm grip on his neck.
Execution:  With your hand opposite the "neck hand", post his elbow in place (do not force it up).  Lower your level and with your leg opposite your "neck hand", take a deep penetration step to the outside of his legs .  Duck your head under his arm, still maintaining a firm grip on his neck with his head tight to your shoulder.  You should have a straight back position with your head up.
Finish:  Still utilizing his momentum into you, "turn the corner" with your head and body, while pulling his head and body towards the mat.  Finish hip to hip while looking for wrist control or a pinning combination.

 

Ankle Pick

Motion:  From a collar tie-up, motion to the side, opposite the target leg.
Setup:  As your opponent steps, change directions taking a deep drop step towards the target leg.
Execution:  As you lower level, maintain a firm grip on his neck (do not allow space as you reach).  Jam his head down towards the target ankle, while at the same time snatching his ankle with your "non-neck hand".
Finish:  While keeping his head jammed, pull the ankle forward and drive his body backwards.  Attempt to cover his body for a pin or cover up for control.

Headlock

Motion:  From a collar tie-up, forward motion directed into the opponent.
Setup:  As opponent returns motion, lower your level and step your leg (same side as neck hand) across his body in front of his far leg while shooting your arm across his neck.
Execution:  Back step and swivel your hips so that your butt spins all the way through (counter clockwise from 6:00 to 9:00) and faces to the left of your starting position.  Maintaining a firm grip on his upper arm (opposite the neck arm), your neck arm should come all the way around, also grabbing the same upper arm.  From a good squatting position, with your opponent loaded up on your back, either pop your hips while simultaneously pulling the head and arm, or fall towards your shoulder while simultaneously pulling the head and arm.
Finish:  Keeping the head and arm, maintain good balance with your weight on the opponent, but your butt "nearly" touching the ground to protect from being rolled.

 

 


 

 

We are planning to add more takedowns, in addition to top, bottom,
and pinning combinations as time permits... stay tuned!

 

 
     
     
 

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