One of the most effective and commonly used takedowns in any grappling sport (where the rules allow it) is the single leg takedown. This is partly due to the fact that there are many different variations and technical nuances that go into the single leg takedown. If you’re trying to learn the single leg takedown but you’re not sure where to start, let me break it down for you and show you how each piece fits into the big picture.
Types of Single Legs
Single legs can be divided into three main categories: high, mid-level, and low.
For future reference, virtually nobody says “mid-level singles”. They’ll typically just refer to three variations as high singles, single legs, and low singles.
High singles are easiest to learn since you don’t need to get into the complexities of the penetration step (which is where most beginners make their mistakes). For the high single, you step towards your opponent’s 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 (due to a knee injury, for example).
Mid Level Single
Mid level singles are the most common variation you’ll see in grappling because you have the most options with set ups and finishes. With the mid level single, you can finish your takedown as a high single or as a low single, so you get more flexibility with your options. However, this also means that it’ll take longer to master.
The basics are simple enough to learn, but it does take longer to learn than the high single since the penetration step is introduced. If you follow the principles I mentioned earlier, though, your single leg will be much more effective early on.
Low singles are generally the favorite for fast and technical wrestlers since the attack focuses on precision and leverage (though there are exceptions). Setups are somewhat limited because you’ll tend to shoot a low single from a slightly farther distance.
Done wrong, a failed low single also puts you in a bad position where you’re extended and your opponent can put their weight on top of you like a sprawl, so there is more room for error than the other two variations. The plus side is that with the additional technical mastery, it’s also potentially the least energy consuming of the single legs, which is why it tends to be the energy-efficient attack of choice for quick and technical wrestlers that can pull it off.
How Do I Work on my Single Leg?
Choose your leg attack variation, learn the key finishing positions in that variation, and then master the set ups. This sequence is unorthodox but there is a reason to the madness.
At the beginner levels, you can get a lot of mileage out of a mediocre set up but your inability to finish will put you in all kinds of trouble. You may also develop bad positional habits down the road if you’re used to getting extended as well.
Of course, I don’t mean have zero knowledge of how to set up an attack. Learn the basics there, but sharpen them after you feel confident in your finishes. Wrestlers tend to hesitate on their attacks due to their inability to finish their takedowns, so we want to mitigate this as much as possible.
The single leg takedown is one of the most popular takedowns in wrestling. When you are controlling one of your opponent’s legs, your ability to score a takedown is far greater than your opponent’s ability to score a takedown. You can also personalize a single leg based on your body type, which makes it even more favorable. There seems to be endless variations and nuances of single leg takedowns.
To get deeper into the details of the single leg takedown, you can view my free ultimate guide to single leg takedowns.
Che Chengsupanimit is a former collegiate wrestler, member of Thailand’s national freestyle wrestling team, and current combat sport enthusiast. He writes about how to improve your takedowns and achieve higher performance both physically and mentally. You can learn more about Che and his work at his blog.
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