Ankle Pick: a Low risk, Low Energy Takedown

The Ankle Pick is a popular takedown technique that is commonly used in wrestling, BJJ, and Judo. The ankle pick is a type of single leg take down that works by pulling your opponents ankle and leg in one direction while using your other arm to push the torso and upper body in the opposite direction.

The Ankle Pick is most commonly seen in wrestling. It is a popular technique as it can be highly effective and relatively  low risk when performed correctly.

Ankle Pick Steps 

  1. The Ankle Pick usually starts from a tie up position. The collar tie is used to opponent in a direction that exposes their leg for an attack.
  2. Using the collar grip the attacker applies pressure in an attempt to get their opponent to put their weight on their heels to avoid being snapped down.
  3. The attacker will then drop their level and their knee on the same side as the ankle they are planning to attack. When doing so it is important to maintain good posture in head and upper body to avoid the headlock.
  4. The attackers hand reaches the back of ankle, while at the same time pushing the opponents upper body and head back using the collar tie.
  5. The opponent may fall immediately as ankle as pulled. If not you can continue driving to finish the takedown. Often the attacker may finish with a standard single leg or else have the opportunity to complete a double leg
In this picture notice how David Taylor is picking the ankle with his right hand while at the same time driving into the torso with his left hand. This push/pull action is the key to the ankle pick.

Tips For Ankle Pick

Having a good ankle pick is a great technique to have no matter what type of grappling you are in whether it is Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, or judo. The great thing about this takedown is that there is a high percentage chance of success, while having a low chance of leaving you in a bad position. To have an even higher chance of getting this takedown, there are some tweaks you can do to make your ankle pick a great weapon in your takedown game.

Below are some tips to remember to not only make your ankle pick better, but also make the rest of your takedowns better. 

  • Changing Levels: To have a higher success rate with the ankle pick, you need to change levels. As we said earlier it is an important step that some grappler’s forget when attempting takedowns. Change levels by dropping your chest to your knee and go for the ankle.
  • Start From A Tie Up: To have more success with the ankle pick, you need to start closer from a tie up. There’s different types of tie ups, so which one you use depends on your preference.
  • Attack The Front Leg: An ankle pick is best done when you attack the front leg. It’s generally on the opposite side of your clinch/underhook.
  • Use It As A Counter: When the opponent defends a double or single leg an ankle pick can be used as a backup when they fail. You can also transfer other takedowns off an ankle pick.
  • Break Your Opponent’s Posture: You need to break the opponent’s posture before going for the takedown. It throws their base off leaving them open to be taken down. Either push their  head down or away to make them leave an opening for the takedown.
  • Drop Your Knee: You need to drop your knee toward the leg you want to attack. Doing this brings you closer to the knee you want to attack.
  • Chase The Opponent: After you grab hold of the ankle pick the takedown it isn’t complete until they’re on the ground. You will need to control their body after they fall to secure the takedown.
  • Pull Their Leg Forward: You need to get the leg you want to attack as close as possible. Get it closer by getting them to bring their leg forward in range to do the ankle pick.

Ankle Pick Setups

The setups for an ankle pick start out similar to shot based takedowns like single and double legs. However unlike those takedowns, you’re less likely to get sprawled on top of or be at risk of chokes. Each style of grappling has their own from of an ankle pick depending on ruleset, grips etc.

For example the natural grips of the gi allow you to set up an an the ankle pick. . No matter what style of grappling you there is a setup here that will help your game.

David Taylor Setup and Finishes

David Taylor is a world champion freestyle and folkstyle wrestler that has a great setup/entry he uses that makes him avoid him being whizzered or cross-faced. There are four steps to his setup with different finishes.

The first step is to establish a collar tie or underhook on the opponent. In the second part you drop to one knee on the same side as the ankle you plan on attacking. For the third step at the same time you drop your knee, you are breaking the opponent’s posture by bringing their head down to compromise their ability to defend the ankle pick. Finally grab their leg with the same side arm as the knee that you dropped.

Taylor generally finishes the takedown by switching to a single or double leg. To further understand the details in his setup watch a complete breakdown here.

Fake Guard Pull To Ankle Pick: In BJJ the ankle pick is most commonly seen as part of a chain of techniques that includes a fake guard pull. This move takes advantage of the fact that many competitors expect their opponent to pull guard.

This fake guard pull to ankle pick begins with a grip of the Gi. The attacked then raises his foot in a motion that looks similar to a guard pull. Expecting the guard pull the opponent will plant their weight on the their heels. At this point the attacker shoots for an ankle pick. When they pull the ankle forward they drive into the opponent at the same time using the gi grip they established previously. See how Gui Mendes does this expertly in the video below.

The fake guard pull/ankle pick is a great option for people who are usually pull guard. When your opponent expects you to pull guard the fake pull to ankle pick is a great way to get some points and a strong position on top.

Fake Guard Pull to Ankle Pick - Gui Mendes
  • Ankle Pick From Clinch/Wrist Control: This setup is similar to the method Taylor implements, but here you have wrist control to go along with the inside collar tie. For this setup, you circle to the collar tie side and pull their wrist to bring their foot forward. Drop your knee, grab their foot, and drive forward to take them down.

Common Ankle Pick Mistakes

An ankle pick takedown looks simple when done well. Performing an ankle pick takedown is fairly easy to do once you’ve practiced it in training. However there are many common errors that can easily be avoided

Many of the mistakes are the same ones people make in other types of takedowns. Whether it is BJJ(GI and nogi), wrestling, MMA, and judo. Below are a list of the most common mistakes when executing an ankle pick.

  • Not Changing Levels: Not changing levels is a mistake that is made with nearly all takedowns and not just an ankle pick. After the set up you need to change levels and drop to your knee before you shoot.
  • Shooting Too Far Out: If you try to shoot an ankle pick from across the mat it’s not going to work. You have to be close to the opponent with some sort of clinch or tie up to make the takedown work. The opponent is going to move if you try dive at ankle from across the mat.
  • No Set Up: Similar to the last point. For just about any takedown you need a setup before you attempt an ankle pick. Ankle pick setups start from collar ties, clinch underhooks/overhooks, wrist control, etc.
  • Shooting For The Back Leg: Ankle picks are generally done shooting for the opponent’s front leg. There is a lot of space to cover when trying to shoot for the back leg and low percentage.
  • Not Dropping Your Knee: An ankle pick requires you to drop your knee to get as close as possible to the foot you’re attacking. It’s more of a dive than a shot if you don’t put your knee down next to their foot.
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