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How to Do the Sickle Sweep for BJJ

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

Let's look at a few different scenarios designed to help you better understand the sickle sweep.

Let's look at a few different scenarios designed to help you better understand the sickle sweep.

Sickle Mania

The sickle sweep is bound to help your open guard game evolve into a more effective system, particularly from the longer ranges of jiu-jitsu. As your partner is trying to stand or get away, or (even more likely) trying to avoid a different sweep, the sickle sweep waits in the wings, ready to pounce whenever necessary.

I've personally used the sickle sweep as a part of my open guard game for more than 20 years now, although my understanding of it has certainly evolved a great deal. Let's look at a few different scenarios designed to help you better understand this sweep.

Basic Mechanics of the Sickle Sweep

One of the best initial starting positions resembles that of a basic tripod sweep, the sickle sweep's sister position. Start by gripping your partner's pants (or ankle) with your left hand while controlling their right sleeve with your right hand. In contrast with the tripod sweep, instead of your left foot planting firmly on their right hip, you're looking to plant your right foot on their right hip instead, following the contour of your partner's hip and allowing you to turn onto your side while doing the sweep. Next, reach out with your free left leg and try to hook behind your partner's left (supporting) foot. You don't necessarily need to "sweep" their foot off the ground, but you do need to firmly block behind that supporting foot. You can now push with your foot on their hip, forcing them to trip backward. Follow them up to the top position by "hitching a ride" with their momentum, keeping your grips tight during the transition so that you come up on top.

Sickle Sweep Drill

Here's a great deal to get good at the foot and hand positioning needed to quickly hit a sickle sweep in real-time. Think of the tripod sweep position as a sort of middle ground; you can transition from one side to the other with a brief stop in between sickle sweeps. Note that every time you switch grips, you should be sure to pass the grip from one hand to another whenever possible, and, generally speaking, you should only break contact with any grip or point of contact for the shortest duration of time possible.

The Fruits of Your Labor

If you are able to drill the sickle sweep, and you get to the point where you immediately recognize the position whenever it presents itself during rolling, you'll start to see the sickle sweep everywhere. One such opportunistic score is when your partner attempts a leg drag guard pass. As your partner attempts to drag your right leg across their right hip, your ultimate goal is to connect your foot to their hip instead. However, this ambition is complicated by the fact that your partner likely has both leverage and initiative working for them, so you'll need to cheat a little bit. Do this by hooking their left foot with your left foot, using something akin to a butterfly hook in order to stop your partner from being able to complete the drag. Once you have your foot planted on their hip, the same mechanics of the sickle sweep will apply here. Obviously, the more you see this coming in advance, the better, so recognizing the patterns inherent in the leg drag pass is crucial.

When, in the course of your jiu-jitsu training, you begin to understand a position well enough to hit it live without thinking about what you're doing step by step, you will uncover many such opportunities. This applies as much for the sickle sweep as for any other position in BJJ, and I view this as a huge part of the innovative process involved in discovering "new" techniques on your own. First, you must know a few techniques back and forth so that you can go down your own "rabbit holes," discovering what lies at the bottom where few others have ever gone. As always, let me know how these specific techniques work for you! I'm here to help.

© 2018 Andrew Smith