Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
History of the Duck Under in BJJ
The duck under is a move often used in amateur wrestling to facilitate a takedown. It will often help a shorter or smaller athlete get underneath (and sometimes even to the back of) a much bigger person. Not surprisingly, the duck under has been appropriated by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has been used for decades in competition and at gyms throughout the world.
Here, we'll take a look at a somewhat conventional duck under from the feet, along with two other far less conventional ways to apply this concept to BJJ. Ultimately, you may be able to come up with your own creative variations!
1. Duck Under on the Feet
Inside control is a concept you'll hear again and again at good jiu-jitsu (and wrestling) gyms everywhere. When you're wrestling on the feet, you generally want to control that inside space, and a prime way to do this is to swim your hands inside your partner's biceps. Of course, your partner will know this rule as well, so as they go to pummel back inside, take the opportunity of their elbow circling inward to push their elbow even more inward, making them want to push outward. Use this reaction to allow your partner's elbow to lift up, opening space for you to get underneath their elbow, and in the direction of their back!
For this variation, time the duck under (dipping your head down underneath their elbow/triceps) to coincide with a lateral hop with both of your feet, ending up exactly where you need to be to get onto your partner's back.
2. Duck Under From Closed Guard
Start with a solid cross-grip on your partner's left sleeve, but keep a two-on-one grip (both hands facilitating a very strong grip). Break your partner's grip and push their wrist upward, creating enough space for your left arm to dive under their triceps. Once you've led the way with your hand, follow with your arm and then with your head. You should be able to pin their arm to the mat with your head, while keeping the sleeve grip with your right hand. Straighten your left arm so that it weighs heavily on your partner's armpit, reinforcing the trap. From here, the onus is on you not to screw this golden opportunity up, as it's almost a "can't miss" path to the back. Just pull your partner into your lap, facilitating a clean back take.
3. Duck Under to Pass the Guard
This concept is covered in considerable detail over here, but here's a quick how-to. As your partner cross grips on your belt to set up a possible berimbolo, grip their lapel with your left hand, very low to their hips. Use your forearm to make sure your partner's arm (the one that's gripping the belt) can't follow you. Next, use your left arm to facilitate ducking your head underneath your partner's leg. Use your arm in a similar way that you used it from the closed guard above, ultimately helping to facilitate getting your head on the other side of your partner's legs. Once there, stay tight with your ear (glued to your partner's hip or thigh) as you swim your right arm (releasing the lapel grip) underneath to follow where your head is. From here, it's really just a leg-drag guard pass. Remember that you have two leg staples and one arm staple, ultimately sapping your partner's will to live.
Collaborating to Innovate
So how many moves will ultimately be appropriated from amateur wrestling to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? The simple answer is: all of the ones that work, so probably nearly all of them, given enough time. This wonderful collaboration encourages innovation in and of itself, helping to ensure that tomorrow's jiu-jitsu will not be identical to today's, as more and more great minds begin to innovate and improve the overall efficiency (and effectiveness) of this martial art we all know and love so well. As always, please let me know how these techniques are working for you. I want to hear from you!
© 2018 Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on January 31, 2018: