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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

07 March 2013

07/03/2013 - Teaching (Tripod & Sickle Sweeps)

Teaching #097
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 07/03/2013

We've covered maintaining open guard, so next I wanted to add in two basic, high percentage sweeps. They are each known by a whole variety of different names: I'll use the terms I'm familiar with. They also both start from the same position, which is apparently known as 'cross-guard'. As with the previous lesson, this owes a lot to Kev Capel, who taught several excellent classes at RGA Bucks on the topic I'm about to cover.

I added in a drill to help people get used to thrusting their hips forward, as that's useful for the sweep. You start sat on the floor, one leg curled in front, the other foot out forwards. Raise yourself up with the curled foot, then thrust your hips forward. As you sink back down, switch your legs and repeat the motion for the opposite side.

For the tripod sweep, the easiest way to start off is probably grabbing their sleeve with both hands, pulling it in tight, locking your elbows to your sides. Put your feet on your hips to control the distance. You are looking to now block off one side, so put your foot on their hip and grab their same side ankle. This should leave you gripping their sleeve with your opposite hand. On that opposite side, hook behind their knee. From here, you're going to push with your hip foot, pull with your knee foot and block with your foot hand. That should knock them over, meaning you can come on top.

There are lots more details to that, of course. When you grab for the ankle, you can control it in two main ways. Simply cupping the ankle is the quickest, but that means there is a chance the can kick their foot forwards and dislodge your grip. If you grab the trouser cuff instead, that escape becomes much harder for them.

If you do go for the ankle cup, then a good tip from Kev is to pull that ankle onto your hip, clamping it there. This should also help with off-balancing them. Other options for the set up are initially hooking behind their leg with your same side foot, as that means they can't avoid your grip on their heel by stepping back. You can then adjust your feet into the necessary positions.

Remember to keep your other hook behind their knee tense, as you don't want them to free that leg and step around, because that will enable them to regain their balance. You can also put it lower on the leg, or even right behind their foot, but be careful, as just like the ankle grip, that can increase the risk that they'll step out and avoid your control.

Either way, once you knock them down, because you have that grip on their sleeve, you can pull yourself up as they go back, moving through into side control. It also stops them basing with that hand, as you're sweeping in that direction (which is why you use a cross grip, rather than same side). Should you lose your sleeve grip, the sweep is still there, but it will be harder to sit up and move through to side control.

If you're having trouble knocking them down, angle the direction of your push a little, in the direction you want them to fall. It is important that you react decisively after you've knocked them down. Otherwise, they'll simply get up first, returning to your guard. That would mean you were back where you started.

As ever, there are a couple of options. My preference is to come up and slide your inside knee over their leg, leaning your body towards them: you may find it useful to keep hold of their foot (which means you are both basing on your hand and maintaining control of their leg) to stop them moving, but you can still pass without doing so. Your other foot will step over their other leg, like a typical knee slide pass. From there, you can grab their sleeve, underhook their far armpit, them slide through into modified scarf hold. If for some reason you get your knee stuck in their gi, which has happened to me in the past, change your grip to their elbow, drop your bodyweight and move into side control. Here's my instructor at RGA Bucks, Kev Capel, demonstrating the full sweep:

You'll notice the finish is different in that video: instead of the tight knee slide, you can do a sort of technical stand-up which ends up with a looser pass. This is what Geeza taught yesterday, and as it's also what Kev shows, that's presumably how Roger teaches it these days. After you've knocked them down, put your hooking foot on the floor, bring your other leg behind you. From there, stand up, still holding on to their trouser leg (you could also keep hold of the sleeve, which will enable you to pull on both limbs for the pass, but it makes it harder to stand up), pulling up. That will make it difficult for them to recover, as you move around to a dominant position like side control or knee on belly. Standing up when someone has your foot in the air is hard.

Saulo shows that sweep a little differently in his excellent book, Jiu Jitsu University. On page 163, you can see that he starts from the foot in bicep open guard I'm fond of myself. I notice that in the picture, there is also a variation in gripping that ankle: Xande is holding the front of the bottom trouser leg, rather than the back. On Xande's DVD, he also uses a different grip for the tripod, grabbing high on their collar rather than controlling the arm. If you can get it, this has the advantage of breaking their posture even more than the sleeve grip.

The tripod sweep combines well with the similar sickle sweep: again, that almost certainly has other names (the most common alternative is 'hook sweep'), but I'm using the term from Theory & Technique (page 226). A good time to try this is if when you attempt the tripod sweep, they turn to the side to avoid your hook, stepping their leg back. You could attempt to readjust to recover your position, but it is probably easier to change your feet position and go for the sickle.

Of course, the sickle works on its own too. Indeed, Rener teaches this before the tripod on Gracie University. The entry he shows is to hook their leg, pulling yourself in to grab their ankle, then switching into the sickle position: foot on the ankle-grabbed side hip, then chopping low on their other leg with your other leg, using your calf or possibly your heel.

If you're following on from the tripod, you're basically going to switch your feet so that they're performing the opposite role they did before. Remove the foot your had pushing into their hip, replacing it with the foot previously hooking behind their leg. That foot which was on their hip now goes behind their other foot (not the knee, so it isn't an exact mirror of the tripod. You could try the knee, but it isn't as effective). From there, you can again push on the hip and pull back with your hook.

In order to get the angle, you'll have to turn towards them (or like Rener shows, hook their leg to pull yourself in. If you're going from the tripod, you'll already have their leg hooked). Note that when you follow them up this time, your other knee will be raised. That means you'll need to make sure to shove their leg down and step over, enabling you to complete your knee slide. Remember, there is also the other option of trying the technical stand up instead.

There is a third option too, if they step round really far, which is to take the back. I didn't show this in the main technique, as I try to limit things to two techniques at most. However, I did expect at least a few people to discover that if they step round further, both the tripod and the sickle are less effective. So, for those people, I quickly demonstrated the back take while they were practicing.

Change to a de la Riva hook on your pushing foot, then bring your other leg around behind. Use that to start moving to their back. Switch your hand from their sleeve to their belt as you shift your position, then put both your insteps behind both their knees. From there, kick out with your feet and pull on the belt, dropping them right into back mount. Michael Russell executes it perfectly during his classic match with Andy Roberts. Geeza has the video on his YouTube channel, here.


Teaching Notes: The class went pretty much as I wanted, except that I couldn't take part in the sparring, which was disappointing after feeling confident on the injury front yesterday. The problem was drilling the sweep, as that resulted in repeated impact to my injured groin, which was starting to complain by the time it got to progressive resistance.

While I mentioned the de la Riva back take follow up to the tripod and sickle, I decided against showing it, as three techniques is too much. However, it's a good technique, so something I'd like to use for another class. I just need to think of something that would combine well with it: perhaps a method for me to move from teaching basic open guard, like the tripod and sickle, into a class on de la Riva sweeps? Something to think about (not right now though, as my injury means de la Riva is currently a very bad idea).

I also wondered if there was some way I could separate out the pass from the sweep, but I can't think of how to do that while keeping the timings. Again, something I'll consider for next time. Reviewing the technique at the end of class, it was odd numbers, so I demonstrated on Mike rather than in the air like normal. However, that did mean I got a bit mixed up on left and right, ending up just saying "the leg". Next time, I should either demonstrate both times myself (which would mean my partner wouldn't get a chance to do it), or have one group in a three (which would mess up the timings).


  1. Awesome...ran across this Googling variations on the tripod.

  2. Glad to be of help! It's my favourite open guard sweep combination, so I'm always interested in finding more variations and tweaks.