Takedown fears

I am terrified of takedowns.

No, that’s not quite right. I’m terrified of most people doing takedowns on me.

I dislocated my right elbow in a takedown accident 3 years ago. That one was really mostly my fault, but since them I’ve had a mental block over takedowns. I do not like being taken down or thrown. Generally I will just cling when someone shoots and let them have it. I don’t fight for balance or to get away at all and hardly even sprawl. And I don’t really like to do takedowns on other people because I don’t want them to get hurt.

Tonight… we did live takedown rounds. Most of us have only learned a few takedowns (single leg, double leg, this twisty one from that one gi class). And some of the newer guys knew none. So they’d reach down and grab a leg, which is easy since their arms are as long as my legs, and take me down. And I’d just pull tight on an arm or their neck and let them. I’m scared. Of what exactly, I’m not sure, but I get *that* close to panicking. Not really so much scared of dislocating my elbow again. I guess just of being injured to that degree again.

First two rounds weren’t too bad. Buddy #1, who I think was a high school wrestler, first, who knew what he was doing and took me down gently. Then Justin, who I trust completely; I was fine during this round as soon as I reminded myself of who I was working with (although it took about half the round for my brain to get unstuck and start working again). Did actually go for a takedown on him and worked a little bit of defense, though I’m not entirely sure of what to do.

Next two rounds were guys who overpower me on the ground. Standing up with them, I was terrified. I rarely get to the point where I want to run crying off the mat, but I was there with these two. And that’s before we did anything. Kept forgetting to breathe, which didn’t help. One of them noticed that I was only trying to defend and wasn’t going for anything, and he commented on it during the round and tried to get me to do something. I just shook my head and kept trying to defend.

Then we did a round that started on our feet, but once we got to the ground we could stay. So I let the new guy I was working with take me down immediately and just stayed down. Another round on the ground after that. Both of those rounds, my brain was still on “OMG TAKEDOWNS!” mode, and I was having a hard time remembering how to do anything.

Before the takedown rounds we’d rolled a few more times. Tried to remember to be an obsessive perfectionist on my technique. But I really can’t remember what happened during those because the takedown rounds are superseding everything else in my brain.

2008/10/5: I was reading back through some older posts, and I noticed that there actually have been a few takedown nights and that I didn’t panic those nights. I think I was working with Justin and Tim N. most of those nights, and I’m comfortable with them. The night here, though, I got in with some guys I wasn’t confident working with, and that that’s what caused the panic.


5 thoughts on “Takedown fears

  1. Takedowns worry me too: I’m always reading about how injurious judo is, and last time I tried judo back in 2005, I got injured in my third lesson. However, decided to give judo another try this year, which should hopefully cure the aversion to throws. I’m relying on my greater grappling experience since last time to help me avoid injury, but will have to wait and see…

  2. I’m coming from the extreme opposite perspective. I enjoy judo and other throwing arts a lot. I think the main problem with the more sparring-oriented grappling arts is a lot of students do not develop breakfall skills sufficiently before being thrown into the mix. Normally I’d view early limited sparring as good but it is confidence-boosting to truly master falling FIRST, starting with rolling from hands and knees and going on to master running diving rolls (not really breakfalling but all the way to standing). This is sort of like kids learning to be very relaxed just floating in a pool and blowing bubbles before learning the butterfly in a competitive setting. I’d suggest going back to square one and practice breakfalls and rolls until they seem very natural and then try them on all different kinds of surfaces like outdoors, on hardwood, etc. When you feel good about that, being thrown on a nice soft mat will start to be less intimidating. Relaxing and going with the throws is a key to safety. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for the advice. Hmm, well, we don’t really practice breakfalling — or even all that many takedowns or throws — at BJJ. Although it would probably be good for me to pull the instructors aside for some extra takedown and throwing work.

    I’m mostly fine on solo breakfalls, though it took me about two years after my injury to be able to breakfall forward from standing again (even though I was hurt going backwards, it was forward that scared me more). I’m mostly scared now of going with certain people because I don’t trust them. I’m not so much scared of *me* hurting me again, but of *them* screwing up and hurting me.

    Funny that you should compare it to swimming — I had a horrible experience as a child learning to swim! =P Instructors just wanted to get it over with and throw the kids in the deep end. I was a logical child, though, and knew that if your head went underwater, you drowned. Took me years to get over being afraid of putting my head underwater.

  4. Hmm, yeah, I do relate because certain fellow beginners can be a bit scary. At least if people mostly go for single or double leg, it seems you’re falling back rather than forward. If you’re comfortable with solo breakfalls, maybe when you know they broke your balance, just do the breakfall backward and go with where they want to throw you (almost like solo work). Since it’s practice, not competition, that seems like a good bridge between the solo work and more anti-takedown work.

    I was scared as a swimmer as well and had to get more comfortable much later. Step by step really seemed to help. Thinking back, I studied throws only as cooperative katas (not randori, to use the judo terms) for a few years and that seemed to help a lot, so light randori can be just pure fun now.

    Oh, I’m envious you have so many purple belts to work with.

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