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I was wondering about it because I have recently been watching out for some big men. I think leg sweeps are a good way to defeat them. But do they work with muscular people?

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    What is your definition of a leg sweep?
    – mattm
    Oct 30, 2021 at 2:54

2 Answers 2

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I'm roughly 105kg. One day at the gym, a guy who was maybe 70kg caught me with a low spinning back sweep which almost snapped my achilles.

I wasn't very experienced back then, and I like to think I'd never get caught be such a move now, but yes, a sweep can be very effective against heavier opponents. I was unable to continue.

The primary reason his sweep was so effective was that I had never trained for them, and was utterly caught by surprise. Any well-executed technique that surprises your opponent will typically be more effective than one which does not.

In all the street-fight footage I've watched, and in the few serious street fights I've encountered, a sweep has never been executed, so performing one would likely have some surprise value.

But should you use a sweep in a street fight? There are a variety of sweeps available. I certainly wouldn't recommend relying on the same sweep that proved so effective against me, because it requires excellent agility, is highly energy-intensive, requires relatively fine motor skills and puts you in a very low squat. This renders you extremely vulnerable if you miss or are ineffective, and the margin for error is very, very high. This is far from ideal in any fight, let alone a street fight against multiple opponents.

A more standard close-range standing sweep is also fairly high-risk, low reward against a half-competent opponent who is significantly heavier than you. Physics dictates that unless you successfully combine a perfect sweep with well-executed upper body techniques to unbalance your opponent, they will likely remain untroubled by your attempt and be free to strike you whilst you are occupied and vulnerable.

Rather than address a variety of sweeps here, it might be sufficient to say that if you go into a fight situation with the intent of executing any single technique, you risk diminishing your capacity to respond appropriately to the situation as it unfolds. This advice is especially relevant for fighters you're unfamiliar with, such as those you will encounter on the street.

When you focus on one particular technique, you prime yourself to perform that technique. This can adversely impact upon your ability to defend, attack and move. When you wait for a particular opening, it is easy to neglect other, more appropriate offensive opportunities and to become overly defensive, which enables your opponent to attack you relatively unimpeded.

It is a much, much better idea to incorporate sweeps into your training, just as you would with any other technique, until you get to a point at which you are able to employ a strong sweep if an opportunity arises.

When you say that you are "watching out for some big men", I assume you are concerned for some reason that they might cause you trouble. If this is the case, do your best to avoid them. A group of bigger men, even if untrained, will be almost impossible for you to beat. Improving your free-running ability would likely prove more valuable than learning how to sweep.

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    A group of men and/or women of any size is almost impossible to beat, I've seen it with my own eyes
    – Tom
    Oct 31, 2021 at 0:10
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If it's a sweep that involves trying to kick both legs out from under the opponent (such as the highly cinematic Dragon Tail Sweep), it becomes less likely against larger and stronger opponents. It's an almost textbook case of strength against mass, and unless you can stack the deck, the mass generally wins and you're crouched down with an aching achilles tendon from crashing it against 200+ lbs of grounded mass.

That said, sweeps can work extremely well once you recognize that they're no more magic than other technique, and require proper setup. If someone is unbalanced, it generally doesn't take much more to unbalance them. If you can sweep the supporting leg as someone is kicking, that helps. If you can give a bit more of a push, that further unbalances them. For that matter, if you can sweep a leg right before someone puts their weight on it (the classic case is pulling the lead foot off-balance as someone puts their weight on it for a jab), you can get a huge tactical advantage.

Ultimately, in a case where you don't have a strength advantage related to their mass, the key is to time it for when they're most off-balance and yes, in that case, someone with more mass is often going to take more punishment from being off-balance, or falling, because they have to apply force against that mass to recover, or that mass is what's going to fuel the potential energy that takes them to the ground.

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