The Basics of Sprawling

A few basic principles of a sprawl...

Obviously, the best way to defend against a shot is to make sure he never gets to your legs in the first place. Do this by maintaining a good stance keeping your elbows in tight to your sides, hands in front of you, and your head up. When he shoots in, you sprawl your leg back - whichever leg his head is closest to - and fire your hand down in between your bodies. This blocks his attack to your legs, and you pry off his chest with your palm.

But inevitably, someone is going to get all the way in to your legs, so what do you do now?

You have two dual priorities: get your leg back and get his head down. The most important leg to get back (i.e. - the most vulnerable) is whichever one he grabs, obviously. What if he's attacking with a double or similar technique? The most important leg to get back is whichever side his head is on. You need to get that leg back away from him as far as you can, and get it down to the mat (if he has lifted it off the mat).

At the same time, you need to be getting his head down. This takes him out of position and negates a lot of his power. There is no real fancy technique here, just put your hand on the back of his head, get some weight over top of it, and shove his head down! Try to spike his head into the ground!

Keep in mind, a sprawl isn't something you just hit once then relax. If he's anything other than a total pansy, he will continue to drive into you, try to get angles on you, and try to get you down. You need to constantly keep fighting here! Keep that leg back, keep the weight on top of his head, and keep readjusting. Keep this in mind: this guy is trying to take your ass down! This should make you angry! Beat on him, be physical, DO NOT let him take you down!!

Now that you've stymied his attack, you want to turn this into a defensive takedown. While in a good sprawl position, I'm going to get my toes on the mat and drive into him with my hips - making myself seem very heavy on top of him. From here, I am going to turn my hips so they face towards his head.

For example, if he's in on a good double, with his head on my right hip, I will turn to face toward my right, pressuring into his shoulder and getting an angle on him (while still fighting hard to keep his head down!). If he is on a head inside single on the mat on my right leg, I'm going to turn into his head again (towards my right again) putting pressure on him with my hips - this time however, the effect will be that I'm squaring off on him. I will also simply be reaching back and pulling up on his arms to break his grip here.

Once I have pressured into him and broken his grip, the simplest thing to do is to spin behind him. Say I want to spin toward my left side, I will reach my right hand over his right armpit (on my left side) to block his arm down, and spin behind him. There really are a lot of options here, but the simple spin is the easiest and most fundamental.

*What if he shoots a head inside single and comes up to his feet?!

Let's say he has shot in and now is standing with my leg. Right now, I'm going to go nuts on him, because I am very unhappy here.

To be honest, I've still got the same priorities - get my leg back and down, and get his head down - I just approach it a little differently in this situation, that's all. BUT, there is an additional piece here - I need to break his grip.

Let's say he's got my left leg up and his head is in my chest. I'm going to club his head with my left forearm, pushing his head in front of me and down (I don't want to club his head and push it behind me - if he's good, he's going to transition to a head outside double).

While I'm beating on his head to get it down and get his head out of position from his hips, I'm trying to get my own weight on top of his head. This serves another purpose too, while getting my weight on top of him, I'm also getting my weight on top of my own leg, making it heavy for him to hold on to. While treating his head like a drum, I'm literally trying to stomp my foot down into the ground. I must get that leg down to the ground, and then sprawl it back!

All the while, I'm prying at his grip (most likely with my right hand in this situation). The best way to do this is actually to attack his elbows (I know, it seems counter intuitive). I am going to reach forward with my right hand and pull on his left elbow. I'm going to pull it straight toward me to weaken that arm and break his grip. To be honest, I won't be terribly upset if I can't actually break his grip. If I just make his offense weaker by making his grip very tenuous until I get him down on the mat, I've accomplished my goal here.

Once I get him extended out on the mat, where we're back to the situation above, get that angle on him by turning your hips to face into his head, and go from there...

Or if his grip simply breaks while you are still both on your feet and he loses your leg and you end up squared off with each other again, congratulations, you got yourself out of a bad spot.

*Special considerations if he has shot in on a double (or any high crotch/head outside style shot)...

Let's say he shoots a head outside shot and his head is on my right side, as I'm sprawling out and getting his head down, I'm going to bring my left hand down and block his right elbow, which will probably be between my legs right now. I do this so he can't bring that arm up to my left leg to try to finish up with a double.

What if he's already got his right arm on my left leg? I am simply going to reach down and push it off toward the ground (keeping good hip pressure here).

If he's fighting hard and you are having trouble getting his head down, so be it. Time for a crossface! I'm going to put my right forearm in front of his face, prying it on his nose/mouth area - veeery sensitive, a lot of pain nerves there >:-] - and pressure out like I'm throwing a ball in an underhand fashion.

Those are some basics of sprawling. I hope some of you find them helpful. If anyone can add some advice, please do!

From: noshame chip, something that works great for us longer guys (although, it can also be effective for trolls) is a hip wrench. i named it this cause i've never seen it taught or heard another name- maybe someone else has already named it. as opponent shoots (double) and gets to your legs (yet the takedown is slowed or stalled by your sprawl), take the arm near his head, lace it under his groin (so it looks like your fist is extending from his butt) and grab it with your far hand. now, while wrenching up on the hips, extend your near leg and drive the hips into the ball joint in his shoulder. it works basically the same for a single. the bonus of this is that you get positive hip control right from the start of the counter (which we all know is damn near akin to body control). it can also be used for inside and outside singles. no shame

noshame, sounds good! I've seen things similar to that work quite well before (let's face it, there are really about a million variations to different sprawls/defensive takedowns). But yes, it might be tougher for those of us built like trolls, LOL. For us shorter guys, here is a very simple defensive takedown that has helped me a lot, and seems pretty similar in principle to noshame's... I am sprawled out on the guy pretty well, and I then just reach down the side of his body on the same side his head is on (for a high-C or double) or on the same side as the leg he has (for a head inside single), and post my palm on the side of his knee where it meets the mat (my palm is sort of cupping the outside of his knee). Then I reach with the other arm and just get a tight waist on the opposite side of that knee. I then torque my hips into him - facing toward the trapped knee, hips forcing into his shoulder on the opposite side, and tight waist arm wrenching him over the trapped knee. He should usually tip over onto the side of his hip and you pretty much have the takedown - if he insists on hanging onto your leg here, he ain't too bright. So the important points are:
1. Cupping/trapping his knee, which limits his ability to scramble
2. Wrenching him with the tightwaist
3. Torquing/pressuring towards that knee from the opposite side of his body

From: noshame chip, is that like a cheap tilt for freestyle? if so, that's what got me started on my variation. definitely a quality technique. no shame From: Chip Cochran noshame, Yup, it's very similar to a cheap tilt for freestyle. Although I'm only concentrating on breaking his base, not so much going for exposure (because I tend to focus on folkstyle). In the freestyle type of exposure, I'll usually go the exact opposite direction, and take him over his head/shoulder for a cheap tilt (covering his head with my thigh). In what I described above, I'm driving directly into his head/shouder to crumble his base, and cover for the takedown. So it's basically the exact same thing, but moving in opposite directions. But the positioning and principles of it are almost identical.

From: SHORTY One of the major problems I encounter when teaching proper sprawling is pushing into the opponent instead of sliding away from him. Many of my students have a tendency to push their hipinto the shooters shoulder. This usually causes the defender to turn a little bit, thus giving the shooter an angle where he can circle and finish the shot. This is what I do to correct this. I have the partners in a single leg position on the mat. I stand behind the defender. Make sure the defenders hips are pushing down(kind of arching his back). I then grab the foot of the leg that is being attacked and pull/drag it along the mat away from the defender. The shooters grip almost instantly breaks. I am basically forcing the defender into a proper sprawl and making him feel what he is supposed to be doing and the subsequent result. Give it a try. I have had great success correcting poor sprawlers using this method.

That's excellent. What a great way to teach the proper sprawl! Along those lines (shooter getting an angle), here's some food for thought about an experience I had working out at a wrestling club just last night... I was working out with a high school kid, and noticed that it was VERY easy to finish my shots on him - too easy. I realized that he was sprawling correctly, but applying pressure incorrectly. When I would shoot a head outside shot (high C or double) he would square off with me. When I shot a head inside shot (like Shorty described above), he would try to get an angle on me. He was doing the reverse of what he should have been doing - which allowed me to finish up the shot and cover for the takedown very easily. Two basic rules of thumb to use when sprawling are: 1. When shooter shoots with head inside, square up with him. He is trying to get an angle on you, so don't help him out by giving it to him!!
2. When shooter shoots with head outside, he wants you squared up with him so he can finish up with a double (or whatever). Don't help him here either! In this case, you want to get an angle on him. So in short form:
1. He shoots head inside, you sprawl and square up.
2. He shoots head outside, you sprawl and get an angle. The kid I was working out with last night was doing the exact opposite, but by the end of the night, he seemed to have it down pretty well :-)