Disassembling The Scissor Sweep

A Technique from The Open Seminar held by Gracie Legacy

Surprise, surprise. And by surprise, I mean ‘surprise change of topic for blog entry.’ As it happens, I managed to get permission to cover a part or two of the seminar in some detail. It’s an opportunity not many bloggers find themselves presented with, and one a little too good to pass up. So, my audience, I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me for neglecting the meaning of “Jiu-Jitsu is not for winning, but not-losing.” Undoubtedly, I will have an opportunity to return to it, if you find yourselves dying to consider the idea more fully.

One of the first techniques covered by Donald Park, a Royler Gracie and David Adiv black belt, was the scissor sweep. ‘A little generic,’ one might be inclined to think. Or, ‘I already know how to do that.’ Well please, my fellow practitioners, suspend judgment for the moment and listen.

But before anything was taught about the scissor sweep, he asked people from the audience to perform the technique on himself. Two brown belts, a blue belt, and a white belt all got their chance to demonstrate how they learned and/or perform the scissor sweep. And, lest you think he reenacted a scene from Napoleon Dynamite, I should inform you that he played the role of the good training partner; he let them sweep him. Then, without being critical of anyone’s particular method, he thanked the volunteers and launched into his explanation.

Explaining BJJ moves on paper is more difficult than you might imagine, so please do bear with me. And please keep in mind that a mistake or two is inherent in the system. Think of this review as a kind of ‘gisting’ process, of getting the general sense or idea of the move itself, and not as a replacement for attending the seminar itself.

Caveats now aside, let’s get into the details. Imagine a person in your closed guard, with your left hand in the collar, and your right hand both behind and high on their right elbow.1

The person inside your guard posts on their right leg to begin working a pass. As this person posts, you escape your hips to your left in such a way as to satisfy the following conditions:

  1. The instep of your left foot rests on the right side of their hip, on the pocket which was created by your opponent’s posting of his/her right leg.
  2. Your shin is both across and against their body.
  3. The crook of your right knee is against their left knee.

In this context, the ideal hip escape makes an appreciable distance between you and your opponent – farther than, in my own experience at least, I have ever seen taught – and leaves you about 15 degrees off-angle from your opponent’s center. It takes some practice to do this right.

After finishing the hip movement, you should apply some tension with both your legs and your arms to your opponent. This is the most difficult part of the move to explain. Because of the tension you place on them, your opponent should not be able to put his right knee back on the ground for base. Whether or not your opponent can put the knee of his posted leg back on the ground for base is the key determining factor as to whether or not the move is being executed correctly. I repeat, for clarity’s sake, he/she should not be able to regain their balance, leaving all avenues for potential responses unavailable to him. Like a properly executed armbar, after a certain point, there is no longer an appropriate way to defend the move.  It almost goes without saying but, after the sweep, look to mount.

The scissor sweep was also demonstrated to have self-defense applications. Though I must absolutely defer to persons wiser than me with specific details, I will venture a broad-brush explanation. Creating a lot of distance between you and your opponent, being off-angle from their center, actively controlling their balance, and keeping your hands in the appropriate defensive positions all work toward minimizing the effectiveness of striking for the person on top. Here we are reaching the limits of my understanding of self-defense. But I think any fair-minded person can recognize the way in which one would apply a scissor sweep to a self-defense situation.

Anyway. Thanks for tuning in. And I hope the photos helped. Many thanks to Roy for, uhm, ‘modeling’ for me. More updates coming this week.


1.  You actually place your grip above a bony protrusion, known as the Medial Epicondyle, on the lower part of their humerus. The protrusion forms a natural grip for the hand.