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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

23 June 2014

23/06/2014 - Teaching | Toe Grab Sweep from Half Guard (Old School)

Teaching #160
Artemis BJJ (Bristol Sports Centre), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 23/06/2014

This week marks the beginning of that shift in the timetable Dónal and I agreed before I went on holiday, which is that I will now be taking all the classes at Bristol Sports Centre (soon to be renamed 'MyGym'), while Dónal is in charge of the Artemis BJJ classes over in East Bristol at Impact Gym. Exciting stuff, as I haven't had a chance to build up a more integrated set of classes before, as while I've been teaching multiple classes a week for a good while now, I've only ever taught once per location. :)

Continuing with our month of half guard, I progressed to sweeps from half guard. This week it will be the same sweeps I was practicing last week at the open mat, the toe grab and the whizzer counter roll. To kick off with the toe grab, after recovering closed guard and taking the back this is probably the most fundamental offensive option from under half guard.

I call it the toe grab sweep, like Indrek Reiland does in his classic 'Functional Half Guard' video. Eddie Bravo's name for it - 'old school' - is common too, but his version is slightly less effective in my opinion, though it is similar. I was mainly following the way Jason Scully teaches it, over on the Grapplers Guide. I've also been taught it in the past, back when I was training at RGA High Wycombe with Kev.

So, the Scully version begins from the basic half guard position I taught before leaving for Croatia earlier this month, where you're on your side with an underhook. Use your underhook to bump yourself down closer to their legs, curling your head into towards their far knee. With your non-underhooking arm, reach for their far toes. Grab them and then shove their heel into their thigh. Make sure you are grabbing their toes: if you grip their ankle or higher, they will find it easier to kick their leg back and scupper your sweep.

Bring your underhook arm down past their bum, then switch the toe grab grip from your non-underhook hand to your underhook hand. Bring your non-underhook elbow and then hand out for base, also turning to slide out your inside leg. Your outside leg tweaks their lower leg to further disrupt their base, then drive with your head and shoulder to move on top. Keep hold of the toes until you're past to side control. If they stay on their hands and knees, you can also just take their back instead.

Keep in mind that it is possible to get this sweep with various leg configurations. Eddie Bravo does it from the lockdown, 'whipping up' to get on his side after being flat on his back (interestingly, he doesn't switch his grip on the toes, leaving the underhook in place all the way through). My preference is to use the kickstand, as I find that provides the best base for getting on your side, but it's certainly not the only option.

Teaching Notes: I want to do a drill where you start in half guard, take the back, spin over to the other side, recover full guard, then back to half guard and start again. I'm not sure if that is too complex for beginners, but I'll be trying it on Wednesday as a test (especially as we've got quite a lot of blue belts at Artemis BJJ).

Class structure went fairly well tonight: I was thinking about teaching the basic back take, but there were a lot of blues so the toe grab made most sense. So instead I put in a drill on getting the underhook. Hopefully that helped introduce the technique.

I could perhaps emphasise getting on your side more, along with some tips for reaching the toes. I like to stay low, which is what I said when Berry asked, but rewatching the video, I notice that Scully's version has him come up on his elbow to increase the range of his reach. As always, there is no one 'right' way to do a technique in BJJ, which I really like about this martial art. There's a choice of several ways that you can then adapt to your own body type and preferences. BJJ must be one of the more customisable martial arts again, with immense scope for developing an individual style. :)


  1. Very cool. We were practicing this technique yesterday, though slightly differently.

    1. Awesome, I'm always interested in variations: do you remember what was different in the version you learned?