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What Is Grappling in MMA?

Original Post: 01/06/2015

Two grappling martial arts square off with one using a takedown technique against his opponent.MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is a popular sport. Few people understand that it typically involves striking, wrestling, and grappling - basically fighting on your feet, getting your opponent to the ground, then subduing them. Grappling is a term that is synonymous with the martial arts, but for those who haven’t studied the martial arts, it can be confusing as to what exactly it is.

This article is all about grappling, what is it, and what are some common grappling techniques. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Grappling?

Grappling refers to many techniques that are employed in a wide variety of disciplines that fall under the umbrella of ‘the martial arts.’ Grappling, by definition, does not involve striking or the use of weapons. The goal of grappling is to gain a physical advantage, improve your relative position, escape your opponent, or force your opponent to submit.

Types of Grappling Techniques

Below, we will go over some of the most common techniques in grappling. This info will give you an overview of grappling, just one part of fighting and martial arts.


Takedowns are used to force your opponent to the ground from a standing position. This technique is all about getting your opponent off balance so you can bring them down to the ground or mat. When done quickly, a takedown is often called a "shoot." Here are some common takedowns:

  • Double-Leg Takedown
  • Single-Leg Takedown
  • Outside Foot Sweep
  • Ankle Pick Single


Sprawling is a defensive maneuver that is performed as a way to counteract an opponent’s attempt at a takedown. When an opponent tries to "shoot" on you, a sprawl will keep you on your feet. To do a sprawl, pop your legs out behind you - safely away from your opponent's reach - then land your upper body on their back. If done right, your weight will force them down giving you control of them. 


A throw is a technique designed to ‘throw’ your opponent off balance and, in some instances, forcefully maneuver him or her through the air. Most of these techniques involve a rotation with your opponent on the ground while you are still standing. This ending is different from a takedown which ends with both you and the opponent on the ground. Some common throws are:

  • Shoulder and Back Throws
  • Hip Throws
  • Pick Ups
  • Sacrificial Throws


Clinching is a way of setting up or defending against a throw or takedown that involves primarily the upper body. A clinch is a close hold of your opponent's arms or head while they hold your arm or head. Both of you try to gain a more advantageous hold while preventing your opponent from gaining an advantage. From this grappling position, you can execute strikes or takedowns. Some common takedowns from the clinch include:

  • Forearm Slide to the Back
  • Angle and Inside Block Takedown

Submission Holds

Submission holds are positions that would allow you to potentially strangle or suffocate your opponent.  In sport grappling, the opponent is forced to admit defeat once placed in a submission hold. In some sports, you submit to your opponent by tapping their leg or body or the ground to end the match. This is called "tapping out." Some of the most common submission holds include:

  • Arm Bar
  • Guillotine Choke
  • Triangle Choke
  • Rear Naked Choked
  • Arm Triangle Choke


Escapes are, generally, maneuvers that allow you to escape a dangerous inferior position. Some dangerous positions can include the full-mount (when your opponent is on top of you with their knees on either side of your chest), from the clinch, or from a chokehold. Some common escapes include:

  • Shrimping Away 
  • The Buck and Roll
  • Cross the Face

Securing Techniques

Securing techniques involve ‘pins’ which, depending on the style of martial art, can mean instant victory.  This technique can also be used as a prelude to a submission hold. These could include:

  • Full-Nelson
  • Half-Nelson
  • Full-Mount
  • Half-Mount


A reversal is when a grappler maneuvers from underneath his or her opponent to gain a top position. Countering an opponent's move to take the dominate position is all about seizing an opportunity to turn your opponent's mistake into your win.

Learn Grappling Techniques Used in MMA

If you’re interested in learning more about grappling techniques, contact the experienced instructors at New York Martial Arts Academy. Our unique style of instruction is not limited to one style and system and focuses on utilizing grappling for self-defense in real-life situations by employing elements from wrestling, Sambo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Judo.

Give us a call today to find the best class for you or your children.