Deep Dive: Here's What the Data Says About Takedowns
By the far the most mystifying area of jiu jitsu for the new student is stand up. For every few hours you spend rolling on the ground, you often spend a fraction of that time training on your feet. And unless you have a background in judo or wrestling, the thought of your power double leg looking anything like the one you saw on the internet can be depressing.
New students are often encouraged to learn just one or two techniques they can easily and reliably employ in a tournament. Making those techniques as high percentage as possible is paramount.
I recently posted an article about statistics in white belt matches. It was shared and discussed a lot, but people wanted more. Specifically, tell us more about takedowns. So I re-watched one hundred white belt matches and ran more numbers. Here's what I found:
How I did it.
(this is nerd stuff that you can skip if you want)
I cataloged every takedown and guard pull attempt in the same one hundred white belt matches. I decide to group takedowns into fairly broad categories like leg trips, hip tosses, single legs, ect. I didn't distinguish between the many different kinds of single legs, for example. They all just went in the "single leg takedown" bucket.
I had to do this, for a few reasons. One, people often chained or combined variations of a takedown in the moment. It made it hard to attribute success to a single version. Two, white belts sometimes used very "non-technical" takedowns and I had to put them in general categories.
With all that said, here's the numbers and then some observations
Takedowns are just as likely as submissions, meaning not very likely.
The total takedown success rate was almost exactly the same as the submission success rate. Takedowns were successful 30.77% of the time. Submissions were successful 30.56% of the time. Bottom line is white belts go nearly one for three on takedowns, which is certainly why half of all matches contain no scored takedowns.
Leg Trips and Single Legs are high volume, but low percentage.
There were sixty one leg trip attempts. It was the most popular grouping of takedowns white belts employed. Leg trips were successful 31% of the time, which was about the overall average of all takedowns.
Not far behind them was single legs, which where attempted fifty times and successful eleven, a 22% success rate.
It's impossible to quantify effort, but leg trips seemed to be attempted almost casually in many cases, probably a reason why they were low percentage. In their defense, they were also low risk. Very few competitors faced any consequences for failed leg trips. Single legs, on the other hand, often resulted in bad positions when they failed.
There's only one high percentage takedown at this level.
Only one group of takedowns was successful more than 50% of the time: sacrifice throws.
These came in many forms, from butterfly hooks, to tomoe nage. I defined a sacrifice throw as when a competitor throws his/her body to the ground in order to achieve the takedown. Some were not very technical, but they got the job done in nine of sixteen attempts, for a 56% success rate.
Sacrifice throws were the third most attempted group of takedowns, lagging far behind leg trips and single legs. They seem underutilized given their potential.
An honorable mention was the "snapdown" group of takedowns. Technically, this group of takedowns had a 50% success rate, but I only saw six attempts. I didn't think six was enough to get a true idea of whether they were "high percentage" or not. Rear takedowns and body fold takedowns were the same.
Not a single person hit a double leg.
Yes, I'm sure you've herd of, seen, or pulled off a double leg takedown in your BJJ career. Obviously they work and people use them. But in the one hundred matches I watched, competitors went 0-7 in double leg takedowns. It just didn't work for these white belts. Whatever the true percentage is, it's not high.
Guard Pulling is extremely reliable.
I already mentioned that guard pulling made competitors no more or less likely to win their matches. 31% of winners pulled guard, and 32% of losers did as well (so technically you're 1% more likely to lose if you pull guard). What I found this time around was that guard pulls were successful 83% of the time. It is, statistically, a very conservative way to get the fight to the ground without putting yourself behind the ball.
Would you like to see an even deeper dive into these takedowns? Or what other area of white belt matches would you like to see? I'm working on a deep dive into submission attempts for the next couple weeks. Until then, let me know in the comments.