3 Tips To Improve Your Sweeps

A huge part of having a solid guard game is your ability to sweep and reverse your opponent from the bottom to the top.

In the open guard there are a great many different sweeps and variations for different situations and a jiu-jitsu student must learn all of the basic techniques to have a complete arsenal of sweeps.

Observing white and blue belts rolling in the academy, we can see some common mistakes that tend to occur again and again when sweeps fail.

Let’s take a look at 3 common sweep mistakes and tips on how to correct those mistakes.


1) Control the posting arm.
This is probably the most common mistake I see in sweeping. The posting arm is the arm that your opponent can use to post / push on the mat to stop from being reversed in a certain direction. All of the other elements of the sweep may be correct, but if you have neglected to control the opponent’s posting arm, your sweep will be stopped dead.

In the haste and excitement to get the sweep, the sweeper forgets to control the grip on the possible posting arm and the sweep is easily countered.

Tip: Remember that all parts of your body must be actively involved in performing a sweep and pay attention to controlling whichever limb your opponent can potentially use to post and thwart your sweep. If you can’t get control of that posting arm, you simply don’t have all of the elements of the sweep.

2) The correct angle.

In Judo there is a concept known as “happo no kuzushi”. This is the idea that there are 8 directions or angles by which one may unbalance an opponent. This concept applies to balance on the ground as well as on the feet.

Working on the Flower Sweep from closed guard in class, several students were using a great amount of grunting and strain to try to get the opponent over in the sweep. The mechanics of the sweep were correct and the grips in the correct place, but a crucial but less obvious problem was preventing the sweep from being executed smoothly and efficiently.
They were attempting to sweep the opponent to the wrong angle and wasting their efforts.

Tip: Ask your instructor (and yourself!) which is the optimal angle (which of the 8 directions of kuzushi) that the opponent’s balance is the weakest and direct your sweeping force in that direction.

3) The right tool for the right job.
It is easy to fall in love with a certain sweep and try to use it every time you are playing guard. But depending on where your opponent is placing their weight and how their posture is, your favorite sweep might not be the best solution for that situation.

For example the Hip Bump Sweep is one of those true basic sweeps that is highly effective when your opponent is posturing back and their momentum is moving back and away from you. The opponent may almost sweep themselves! But attempt that same sweep when your opponent is close to you in low posture and pressuring forward and your sweep is unlikely to go anywhere.

Tip: Understand that many sweeps are effective in specific situations. In a different situation, a different sweep may be required. This is why there are so many different sweeps from the guard. A big part of the fun of jiu-jitsu is learning all of the different techniques that you need whatever the scenario is in the match.

What is your best tip to become a sweeping machine?

See also on Gracie Barra : 4 Advanced Guard Sweeps

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam
Instagram: @markmullen.bjj