Single Leg Takedown – Most important key takedown for MMA and BJJ

Single leg Takedown is the most common takedown in any grappling style where leg grabs are legal (BJJ, Wrestling, Sambo). Since there are single leg variations for style (strength or speed) and body type (tall and short), single leg takedowns give you room to personalize your attack based on your preferences.  However, this personalization only works after you build a basic understanding of how single leg takedowns work and why they are effective.
We’ll focus on the head inside single leg takedown, but many of the principles will apply to the head outside single leg takedown as well, so mastery of one will make it easier for you to learn the other one fairly quickly. Read more on how to do a single leg takedown.

Single Leg takedown main variations

High single legs are easiest to learn since you don’t need to learn the penetration step this is why they are considered to be the best single leg takedown for beginners. All you need to do is step towards the leg, put your forehead to their chest, and grab the back of their knee with your arms. This variation is great if your opponent stands up in a very high stance or if you don’t want to drop to your knees with a single leg.
Mid level single legs are the most common variation you’ll see in grappling since you’ll have the most options of set ups and finishes to choose from. The basics are simple enough to learn, but it will take longer to learn than the high single since the penetration step is introduced. However, the same principles apply. Keep your head up, maintain athletic posture (back straight and hips underneath), and try to maintain a grip on one leg using both your arms (whether or not you decide to lock your hands is a matter of personal preference).

Low singles seem to be the variation of choice for fast and technical wrestlers since the attack focuses on precision and leverage. However, set ups are generally limited to the wrist and open space and a failed low single potentially puts you in a bad position, so there is more room for error in the low single than the other two variations. Still, the low single usually requires more technical mastery and is the least energy consuming of the single legs, which is why it tends to be the attack of choice for quick wrestlers.

Single Leg Takedown Entries

Practically every set up that exists in wrestling has a transition to a single leg. Based on your single leg choice, some set ups will work better than others. Naturally, you can afford to be farther away from an opponent when you shoot a lot single but you’d have to be much closer to an opponent to effectively target a high single leg. While there will always be wrestlers that seem to be the exception to every rule, here are a few examples.

Possible Set Up

Open shot- High, mid level, low
Snap down – High, mid level, low
Inside tie – High, mid level
Elbow control -High, mid level
Clear wrists – Mid level, low
Arm drag – Mid level (high and low singles are possible but less common)
Underhook – High, mid level
Overhook – High (most leg attacks are fairly uncommon from an overhook)
Two-on-one- High, mid level
The main idea here is to open a straight path between your body and your opponent’s leg.

Single Leg Finishes

There are numerous different single leg takedown finishes, so we’ll focus on the two main principles behind each finish:

Principle 1: Pull opponent into empty space

Pull their center of gravity towards the single leg you are holding. Since you’re holding that leg, your opponent will be unable to regain balance and fall. Next, cover your opponent to establish control.
Example: run the pipe (you can also run the pipe with your head on the outside, but watch out for the guillotine choke)

Principle 2: Push opponent into empty space

Block or grab their other leg while pushing their center of gravity past their base (in this case, the other leg that you didn’t attack). This will cause your opponent to fall over.
Example: foot sweep

There are many different ways to apply either of these principles, but those two principles are the main reason as to why those various different finishes work.
While this covers a lot of information, the best way to master a single leg is through hundreds (if not thousands) of repetitions. These concepts are only to get you a better understand of a single leg and why they work.  Which ones are your favorites? Which ones would you like to learn more about?
Read more about BJJ takedowns: