Grappling is an umbrella of martial arts techniques that includes takedowns, throws, sprawls, and clinches. Using grappling dummies is the norm in most combat sports, including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ), and judo. But given their cost, it’s easy to wonder whether grappling dummies are worth it.

Grappling dummies are worth it for anyone looking to hone their skills without a human opponent. Although most grappling dummies are pricey, having one will help you practice and review learned techniques, ultimately making you a better grappler.

In this article, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about grappling dummies, including their advantages and disadvantages. Read on to learn why buying one may be a worthwhile investment.

What are Grappling Dummies?

Grappling dummies are simulation gear that wrestlers or martial arts hobbyists use to practice grappling techniques. They’re usually heavy enough to imitate a human opponent, and some have movable joints. 

You can get a specific dummy to master a preferred grappling position. Grappling dummies come in handy when learning combat sports that involve a lot of practice, discipline, and resilience. More often than not, you need a partner to master techniques such as takedowns and submission holds.

There are mixed opinions about the use and benefits of grappling dummies in combat sports. Some experts acknowledge that grappling dummies are effective in learning and perfecting grappling techniques. Others argue that the dummies are a waste of time and money.

Well, both viewpoints may be right or wrong, depending on the context.

Grappling dummies can be beneficial if you use them appropriately. For instance, if you’re learning some techniques online, a grappling dummy can help with the practical part. It can also come in handy if you have limited time at combat classes and need a way to perfect what you learn in class at home.

Grappling dummies can also be a waste of resources if you don’t use them appropriately. Also, if you’re not sure about what technique you want to learn, you may end up buying the wrong dummy.

To help shed more light on this divisive subject, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of grappling dummies:

Advantages of Grappling Dummies

Combat sports enthusiasts, including MMA, judo, and BJJ participants, find grappling dummies useful in several ways. Although some don’t need them now, most experts have used grappling dummies in their learning journey.

Here’s how you stand to benefit from using grappling dummies:

  1. Grappling dummies are effective in reviewing difficult techniques. Learning a particular technique in an MMA or judo class can be nerve-wracking, but retaining and practicing it correctly can be an even bigger headache. Grappling dummies help with both. You can use them to learn and perfect complex skills to hopefully minimize rigidity in your movements and make transitions smoother and more measured.
  2. A human partner is not always available. The best way to learn grappling is by involving a human opponent who can react and respond promptly to your moves. However, you may not find a willing partner all the time. A grappling dummy comes in handy when your human partner is unavailable, unwilling to practice, or unwell.
  3. Grappling dummies are durable. You’ll find that most commercial grappling dummies comprise heavy-duty materials that will last for ages. Additionally, they can withstand intense pressure without breaking down. So, you don’t have to worry when taking them down or trying some risky moves that could hurt a human opponent.
  4. They help in workouts. Training with a grappling dummy is also a form of exercise. Although grappling dummies are not as heavy as humans, they’re not too lightweight either.You need to flex your muscles when clinching, throwing, or taking down your grappling dummy, and that can be a work out on its own. 
  5. Besides improving your upper body muscles, drilling with a dummy will increase your grip strength. You will hone your core muscles due to the intense lower back movements involved and train your posterior chain ( including hamstrings, calves, rotator cuffs, and glutes muscles).

Disadvantages of Grappling Dummies

A grappling dummy will not be effective in all situations. Moreover, it’s not ideal for learning or practicing techniques in all martial arts. So, to be on the safe side, it’s crucial to know the drawbacks of grappling dummies.

Here are the disadvantages of using grappling dummies:

  1. Grappling dummies are not cheap. Due to their popularity in martial arts, grappling dummy manufacturers can set hefty prices for these tools. Professional grappling dummies can go up to $750.
  2. You risk practicing flawed techniques. Many martial arts enthusiasts learn some skills online and then practice them using grappling dummies. The problem with this approach is that grappling dummies are motionless, and you can’t interact with them like human opponents. They don’t have realistic reactions, and you might not get the correct response to a specific technique. As such, you might end up practicing a flawed technique repeatedly. 
  3. Using grappling buddies can lead to boredom. People have different learning approaches, and what works for someone may not be ideal for another. If you buy a grappling dummy because of the hype, you might end up bored after using it for a while and probably dump it. For some, having a human partner to challenge is priceless.
  4. Making a grappling dummy is time-consuming. If buying a grappling dummy is way beyond your budget, making one can be an alternative. However, you’ll have to spare a lot of time to do that; not to mention that the effectiveness of your dummy during training will depend on how well you make it and your choice of materials. If your skills or materials are below par, you’ll end up with an ineffective grappling dummy.

Which Martial Arts Can you Practice With a Grappling Dummy?

You can practice several martial arts with a grappling dummy, including BJJ, Judo, MMA, and Wrestling. A grappling dummy will only help if the sport involves grappling. So before buying one, determine if it’s appropriate for the kind of combat sport you want to practice.

Let’s have a detailed look at combat sports that you can practice using a grappling dummy:

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is a modified form of traditional Kodokan judo invented by two Brazilian brothers in the 1920s. However, the BJJ we have today has evolved significantly through innovations and additional practices. The BJJ that governing bodies recognize involves techniques such as grappling, submission holds, and ground fighting.

BJJ isn’t as rough as other types of martial arts. Nonetheless, it has gained popularity worldwide due to its effectiveness in self-defense. One needs years of practice to perfect its techniques.

Practicing BJJ helps sharpen the mind because it entails mind-boggling techniques, including grappling and submission holds. In BJJ, you have to use your mind to control your partner (opponent) and dominate them. With proper technique, you can subdue and take them down even if they’re twice your size.

BJJ is a perfect way to work out as you learn how to defend yourself. The martial art enables you to burn extra calories through its intense techniques. Since it entails training your mind, it can also be a great way to learn how to stay focused.

So, how do grappling dummies help in BJJ? Here are some skills that you can practice and master using these simulation dummies:

  • Positional skills. These include advancing from scarf hold to side control and then mounting, knee to knee rides, guard passing, and half guards.
  • Submission skills. Think takedowns, throws, knee rides to armbar, close side, and far side armbars.
  • Other skills. Examples include the basic collar choke from mount and chokes from side control.

Judo

Native to Japan, judo is a combat sport that has derived techniques from other martial arts such as jujutsu. Although some of its root martial arts involved harming or killing opponents in warfare, contemporary judo isn’t dangerous. It entails subduing an opponent through balance, movement, and power.

Judo is currently among the Olympic martial arts, having been recognized as a competitive combat sport. But unlike other combat sports, it doesn’t involve kicking, striking, or punching techniques. It also doesn’t involve weapons. And, judokas don’t apply pressure to the joints to throw their opponents.

Judo skills that you can practice using a grappling dummy include:

  • Basic throws. Examples include Ippon Seoi nage, Osoto gari, Harai goshi, and Ogoshi
  • Throws using a gi. For instance,Tsuri komi Goshi and Morete Seoi nage
  • Advanced techniques. Popular examples include Tani otoshi, Uchimata, Tai otoshi, and Koshi guruma.
  • Combinations and transitions. Think the likes of Kesa gatame and Juji gatame

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

MMA is a combat sport with roots in Ancient Chinese and Greece sports. It is a combination of different forms of martial arts that have evolved over the years. However, modern MMA is a blend of two Brazilian martial arts, jiu-jitsu and vale tudo.

Modern MMA involves two opponents who seek dominance over each other through control, strikes, and finishing hold tactics. The combats can use kicks, punches, chokes, throws, takedowns, and joint-locks. These techniques reflect the three styles (i.e., Amateur wrestling, Submission wrestling, and Kickboxing) that modern MMA utilizes.

MMA fighters can use grappling dummies to practice several drills, including:

  • Punches such as superman (from the ground) or guard and elbow (from the side control)
  • Crucifix position and elbow throws
  • Attacks, including knees to the body and mount
  • Cage takedowns and Thai clinches

Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the renowned modern combat sports where participants employ grappling techniques. Wrestlers can engage in this sport for either entertainment or competitive purposes. Whatever the purpose, wrestling involves tactics used in MMA, such as joint-locks, clinches, takedowns, and throws.

Competitive wrestling is more diverse. It entails several styles such as freestyle, judo, Greco-Roman, and sombo. It’s a physical match where wrestlers seek to achieve a dominant position. Typically, a wrestler wins the match by pinning down the opponent.

You can use a grappling dummy to perfect wrestling techniques such as:

  • Takedowns
  • Throws
  • Submissions

How Much Does a Grappling Dummy Cost?

Grappling dummies prices range from as low as $16 to over $750. However, the cost of a grappling dummy will depend on several factors. These include design, size/weight, type, and purpose.

You’ll find a wide array of grappling dummies with differing price tags in the market. Most kid-sized grappling dummies are pocket-friendly, retailing for less than $20. However, adult-sized dummies can either be cheap or expensive, ranging from $49 to $750.

Apart from cost, here are a few things to consider when shopping for a grappling dummy:

  • Size and Weight – A good-sized grappling dummy should suit your height and weight. Also, its size and weight should be appropriate for the type of combat sport you’re practicing. For example, shorter dummies are best suited for takedowns and throws.
  • Shape – While most dummies have human shapes, others look like balls or punching bags. The best shape will depend on what techniques you want to hone. For instance, a human-shaped dummy is ideal for BJJ, wrestling, and judo.
  • Positioning – Grappling dummies are either upright or bent (stiff/pliable) positions. While upstanding dummies are good for takedowns, bent dummies are ideal for ground techniques.
  • Filled or unfilled – Filled grappling dummies are more costly than unfilled due to shipping charges. But while unstuffed dummies are cheaper, you’ll invest a lot of time and energy filling them with the appropriate materials.

For the perfect buy, I’d recommend the Fairtex Maddox Grappling Dummy (Amazon.com). It’s a perfect choice for most people looking for a simulation dummy for MMA and BJJ. This adult-sized dummy weighs 7 pounds and has a forward-leaning position, making it ideal for practicing chokes, mounts, and controls.

Parting Shot

Grappling dummies come in handy when reviewing or practicing grappling techniques in several combat sports. Although they can be expensive, they’re worth the cost if you use them appropriately. However, you can also make a grappling dummy at home but ensure that its features match the intended technique.

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