BJJ Sweeps Tutorial: Using a Judo Principle to Increase Effectiveness

In my quest to be the best grappler I can be, I began studying Judo to supplement my BJJ. Insodoing, I bought and read Jigoro Kano’s “Kodokan Judo,” and Neil Ohlenkamp’s “Judo Unleashed.” I also enlisted a new BJJ student, Neil Coker (a Judo Black Belt, and national level judoka) to begin coaching me.

What has occured is a continual analysis of how the principles of one art can benefit the other. Nowhere has a principle of Judo benefitted an aspect of BJJ more, for me, than in the realm of SWEEPS!

I imagine this is initially shocking to you because before you hear my explanation you are probably figuring I am going to have a list of Judo sweeps that BJJ doesn’t have… That is not the case. Instead, a core principle of Judo’s standing arsenal, “Kuzushi,” is highly applicable to the sweeps used in BJJ.

This tutorial will explain how the concept of “Kuzushi” can increase your success rate when effectuating sweeps while on the ground. I will (both through video and text) take you through a number of sweeps and demonstrate how your awareness of (and application of) Kazushi will create more effective sweeps.

Kuzushi is the principle of “off balancing” your opponent. Above I mentioned reading “Judo Unleashed.” It has my favorite explanation of how to think about Kuzushi:

“To visualize the objective of Kuzushi, imagine a large box representing an opponent. While the box can be pushed backward or to one side (…), it is weakest when perched on one corner. (…) In this position the balance of the box is so precarious that it can be thrown in nearly any direction. (…) Part of the benefit of kuzushi is that it often pins the opponent into a vulnerable position from which he cannot regain balance.”

-Picture and above quote taken from: “Judo Unleashed” by Neil Ohlenkamp, McGraw-Hill, 2006, pg 50.


It should be noted that sweeps and throws differ significantly. Because of the lowered center of gravity, increased number of friction points with the ground, and our own decreased ability to generate comparable force, instituting kuzushi is more difficult on the ground. However, if one keeps the concept in mind then troubleshooting your own problematic sweeps might become easier.


The Scissor Sweep and the Push Sweep are the two most basic and fundamental sweeps in BJJ. Both are difficult to effectuate unless you have the opponent’s weight loaded so as to off balance him. Once loaded, use your lower leg to block and reap the supporting “corner” while your other leg drives the body over that point. If there is too much stability in that “corner” then use your foot to push the corner back and under the mass of the opponent.


The Elevator sweep is a great example of using kuzushi to sweep. Imagine your hooking foot is a crow bar under one corner of the box. Your upper body is pulling the box away from that corner so as to make the corner light and the foot is then lifting that corner over the other corner being blocked by your opposite leg. Often students will struggle to elevate with their hook. I have seen that most of the time the reason is they have not drawn their opponent off balance enough.


Ohlenkamp said that kuzushi will often leave your opponent in a position from which they cannot regain balance. If done properly, this sweep is just that. Master Caique always emphasizes not engaging the reap until your opponent’s head is close (if not touching) the mat. The reason for that detail is that at that exact point, the opponent is most off balance and the effort you need to exert to finish the sweep is minimal.


Imagine trying to tip a filled pop machine. You decide to jump up and grab the top back edge and swing until you have it rocked upon its front edge. Then while it is teetering on that edge two linebackers with full pads run and dive into the bottom edge. The pop machine not only would tip, it would somersault. This sweep is very similar to that. Watch how I off balance Neil then send him somersaulting.


When I first learned this sweep, I did not pick up on the suttle angular pressure that increases the sweep’s effectiveness and opens far more options after the opponent hits the ground. Do not focus on driving both of your knees with equal pressure because that will push the opponent on an edge which might work, but if you tip your opponent over a corner, by allowing one knee to drive harder than the other, your off balance is assured to be more drastic.


The Oma Plata Sweep is a versitile sweep when your opponent stands in your guard. If you do not off balance your opponent in the right direction, you struggle to acheive the optimum position. However, if you conceptualize your legs stretching the corner controlled by your legs as far FORWARD as possible, the eventual sweep and roll happen almost automatically.


While this technique is not a sweep, it is another technique that allows you to visualize kuzushi. When your opponent is getting ready to mount you using the Hip Switch Method to Mount, you have a split second where the opponent (by virtue of lifting one leg to pass your body) places himself on an edge or even a corner. If you are ready and in the right position, you can easily move and end up in cross-side position.


The above are just examples of how kuzushi can be applied when executing sweeps in BJJ for increased effectiveness. I hope you realize increassed success with your sweeps because of this tutorial.

16 comments on “BJJ Sweeps Tutorial: Using a Judo Principle to Increase Effectiveness”

  1. cleon1&only

    nice videos tim, they will help me for my next fight, 1love bro.

  2. Christian

    Really nice videos and descriptions. I am surprised you didn’t do a video for the hip bump sweep.

  3. Darshana

    Very Insightful Videos, great explanation given. It is a great help for me and all those who want to keep learning.
    Thank you.

  4. Tim Sledd

    It was nice meeting you and thanks for the quote that further solidifies my “Small Axe” theory and philosophy!

  5. SkinnyD

    Really an excellent series. I love teaching that breakes moves down into concepts or principles that have general application. These sweeps just become technical extensions of the kuzushi concept. Thanks for the effort you put into these videos.

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  10. Tom Brom

    this is really gonna help my grappling, creativity, as well as my arsenal of techniques. i hope to catch my enemies of guard like this. this is hat i was looking for thanks alot. 5 stars out of 5

  11. Tim Sledd

    Tom, I really appreciate your comment. Let me know if there is anything else you are interested in. I would love to help. Happy grappling!

  12. adrenaline fitness

    Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content.
    Please let me know. Thanks

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