Class 2014-03-10: Scissor and Pendulum Sweeps

TransitionsWhen I was promoted to blue belt and purple belt, I had to deal with a endless stream of lower level guys getting in my guard and attempting to pass.  Although I mixed in some other sweeps, the scissor and pendulum sweeps by far the most common sweeps I use for closed guard sweeps.  As promised earlier, I also present the knee push sweep which is a solid backup option for when the scissor sweep goes wrong. 

Scissor Sweep

This a simple sweep that has some variations in execution.  Coincidentally, my black belt taught this same sweep and the next one the night after I taught this, so I got to see some interesting details that I don’t typically think about.

My version tends to rely on speed and leg strength.  Your window of opportunity is small, but with good timing this is an instant sweep.  The key indicator for this sweep is when your opponent lets their hips drift up.  It’s not uncommon for lower level players to let their hips drift up as they are looking for avenues to break the closed guard, or they may not settle back down all the way after you pop them forward to break their posture.  Either way, look for the elevated hips.

Once you have your trigger, establish control on the arm and lapel on the side you want to sweep towards.  Next, drop open your guard and use your foot on the opposite side to get a good hip escape away from the sweep direction.  You should aim to be completely on your side with just enough space between you and your opponent to be able to slide your knee across their belly.

This is where the sweep gets interesting.  My personal preference for gi and no-gi against opponents my size and smaller is to use aggressive force to complete the sweep.  Drive your top knee hard across the hips and as your foot makes contact with their hip, kick that leg forward while your other leg kicks backwards.  This scissor motion of your legs give the sweep its name and your opponent a quick trip to their back.  Reinforce this with a pull on the arm and lapel.

For opponents who are larger, the technique my black belt demonstrated is going to shine.  Instead of going for speed and aggression, drive the knee across and focus on pulling your opponent as close to your hips as possible, then perform the scissor motion.  Your top leg will be more collapsed, and you will have more control over your opponents weight.

I don’t normally use the scissor sweep on larger opponents, however the technique of pulling your opponent on top of your leg works remarkably well against larger opponents.

What happens when either of these methods fail?  Again, by coincidence, my black belt and I showed the same technique.

Knee Push Sweep

Your guard is already open and you are on your side.  Instead of trying to fight back to a closed guard, all you need to do is take the foot on your bottom leg and place your heel against the inside of your opponents knee.  If you have trouble getting your foot in position, maintain your grip on your opponent to keep them broken down and shrimp out a bit until you can get your foot in place.

Push the knee out and around, like you are tracing a circle around your opponents hip.  If you try to push straight in, you may end up pushing their leg into their hip, which will do nothing useful.  As you do this, also pull their arm up towards your head.  This combination will extend that side of their body and they will simply fall to that side and you can transition to mount.

This particular sweep is a great backup for the push sweep, but it’s also a favorite of mine for larger opponents when I am using butterfly guard and they are kneeling or in combat base.  I use my body to extend one side of their body and they have no choice but to fall on to their side.

Pendulum Sweep

This is another solid sweep that has a few variations.  The best setup for this sweep is when your opponent steps a leg up inside your guard and you have an easy path to get your arm under their leg.

As they step up, drive your arm on that side into the gap and simultaneously swing both legs towards your head.  This motion will turn your body 90 degrees and load your opponent onto your leg.  Maintain a good grip on their leg and use your outside leg aggressively to swing it down towards their feet.  This pendulum motion will do two things.  First, it will start to rotate your hips, which will start the weight transfer of your opponent to the side you are sweeping towards.  Next, it will act as a block on their leg to keep them from posting their leg out.

Reinforce this weight transfer with your leg that is bearing their weight.  It won’t take much under normal circumstances to push them over top of your leg that you just swung down.  Once they have tipped past the point of no return, maintain control of the leg to help you finish the sweep into mount.

Done properly, this doesn’t have to be a fast sweep.  Often, I finish this slowly and put just enough energy in to tip my opponent over as I follow on to mount.

I have been taught this sweep a couple different ways, and this method is the version I like because I can rely on my good leg strength to carry the day.  There are other versions that put you up on your shoulders which I like, but I prefer not to stress my neck.  This version works well and even when you are exhausted, you can still execute it well enough to get the sweep.


These two sweeps should be a cornerstone of your closed guard sweeps.  They work particularly well up into blue belt territory, and I have completed these sweeps in competition against purple belts.  You’ll find that new white belts are particularly susceptible to these sweep.  The pendulum sweep in particular gives you a nice gentle way to sweep them with very little risk and effort.

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