In the highly challenging and physically demanding worlds of BJJ and MMA, continuous improvement is a never ending process. Instructor led training has students paired together for grappling practice. What if you want to practice your technique on your own after class or at home? Finding another live grappling partner to train with can be difficult.
Training with another person is obviously your best option but, when this isn’t possible or feasible, the next best thing is to utilize a grappling dummy. These aren’t simply human shaped punching bags. A grappling dummy is a specialized piece of equipment that allow fighters to practice, and give you a close approximation to the real thing.
Reasons for Using a Grappling Dummy
Is a grappling dummy as good as a living sparring partner? No, but a dummy can give you things a real person cannot. The ability to practice moves in repetition without the fear of injury to yourself or partner is valuable. Here are some of the other reasons that make dummies useful as a training device.
- Their joints limbs and joints are designed to give you some resistance, but without the possibility of hurting anyone if you use too much force or perform the move incorrectly.
- Likewise, a grappling dummy is not likely to injure the trainee, unlike a human training partner.
- You are able to slow down your movements while learning new moves.
- They allow near limitless repetition, improving your muscle memory and reaction speed in live training.
- The limbs can return to their original position after a submission move, hold, choke, or rough take down.
- They can weigh as much as a human being and, more importantly, their stationary weight is just right, proportionately, for your non-stationary weight.
- Depending on the model, dummies can assume human like positions suitable for either submission moves or take-downs, throws, and sweeps.
Then again, grappling dummies are deficient (compared to a human partner) in the following ways:
- The dummy can’t fight back.
- They generally don’t have hands or feet that you can securely latch on when performing submission moves.
- Most models are suitable for either submission moves or pummeling/throwing but not both.
- They can be expensive.
- Although generally made of durable materials, they can wear out. Life span depends on how many beatings they endure.
Top 5 Grappling Dummies Compared
Although there is a third type of dummy, sometimes referred to as a “hybrid” model, the best grappling dummies fall under one of two categories: Grappling/Submission or Striking/Throwing.
Grappling/Submission: These types of dummies are excellent for moves and techniques that pit opponents close to the ground or that mainly involve fighting for a good hold, choke, or bar. The ideal Grappling Dummy for these types of moves are those that are already kneeling or bending over or have limbs in strategically helpful (if you want to practice submission moves) positions.
Striking/Throwing: One of the typical characteristics to look for are dummies that are already standing or can hold an upright position. Although these dummies can sometimes be used for some submission moves, they are mostly made to take strikes, kicks, and sweeps. They are also light and flexible enough to be throwable, even by smaller youth fighters.
Features You’ll Want
Proper Size (Height & Weight): Ideally, you want to select a Grappling Dummy with a height that is as close as possible to yours. When it comes to weight, however, you want to remember that “dead weight” (i.e., anything not reacting to your movements but, rather, merely sitting there) is different than the fluid weight of a living person.
In general, you should choose a dummy that is much lighter than you in order to compensate for this dead weight phenomenon which makes a 100 lb. dummy seem much heavier than a 160 lb. living person.
Materials – Canvas vs Vinyl: Grappling dummies are made from a variety of different materials. Each material provides different levels of durability, strength, stretch, firmness, and pliability. Naturally, the cost goes higher as the ratings in each of these categories improves. Dummies are made from vinyl coated polyester, canvas, (200 denier) vinyl, nylon, etc.
Filled vs Unfilled: In most cases, it’s better to order a grappling dummy “filled.” If the model you’re interested in offers both versions (which is usually the case) and you’re willing and able to take on the filling process, then at the very least it will save you money. Fillings can be made of foam, shredded fabric/textiles, cotton, and even sand.
Grappling Dummy Reviews
The following 5 Grappling Dummy models offer something unique for everyone. The trick is for you to determine how you will use your Grappling Dummy—in other words, what moves and positions are you weakest at or need to practice the most?
Secondly, you need to decide what features you want or don’t need. Some people, for instance, wish that these dummies had hands and feet. At least one of the models reviewed here does. Lastly, you need to determine your budget. Fortunately, the models here offer a good range in price.
- Pros: Versatile dummy for grappling, MMA, comes filled or unfilled.
- Cons: Hard to make stand, not designed for takedowns.
Our top pick is the highly versatile Ring to Cage Deluxe Dummy 3.0. This dummy is very well designed, and can act as your main grappling dummy, except for takedown practice. The adult sized dummy weighs 65lbs filled and is equivalent to a 6 foot tall man. The body proportions are realistic and limbs are semi-posable. Practice your wrist and foot locks, leg triangles, arm triangles, omoplatas, kimuras, americanas, and more.
This dummy comes in adult and youth sizes, both filled and unfilled. Unless budget is a major factor, buy the filled version. Stuffing the entire dummy is no easy task, and will take several hours to complete. The Deluxe Dummy 3.0 is well constructed in all areas. Unlike cloth dummies, the heavy-duty vinyl doesn’t absorb sweat and is easy to clean and maintain.
- Pros: Tough and highly functional, multiple color options, easy to fill yourself.
- Cons: Canvas is tough, but can damage if hyper extended.
This grappling dummy is similarly built to the Ring to Cage, with a few key differences. First, the Celebrita Dummy is made from canvas. Canvas is a great material that can take a lot of abuse, but not the easiest to keep clean. Sweat from multiple people can absorb into the fabric and stay there. For that reason it’s a good idea to dress this dummy in a Gi. Second, both dummies are in the kneeling position, but the Celebrita has thicker overall torso and limbs. The Celebrita Grappling Dummy is easier to fill yourself than the Ring to Cage, but is still a hassle if you can avoid it.
Grown adults should buy the largest version of this dummy. Multiple reviewers have stated they tried to save money with the shorter version, but it’s just not realistic for an adult. When filled properly, the dummy stays on its knees making it great for practicing mount and side control as well as your guard. You can pose the dummy in other positions to practice triangles and armbars. The key to this dummy (like all others) is to stuff is properly. Try using pool noodles for the limbs to give some structure, then fill the rest with scrap cloth.
- Pros: Best takedown dummy, good for striking and throws, tough vinyl hide.
- Cons: Doesn’t fully stand on its own, striking is OK but short arms not for armbars.
The Combat Sports Submission Dummy is a great dummy for practicing strikes, takedowns, and some throws. The dummies come in four models that vary by weight and height. It’s important to buy the right size dummy, or you may find it awkward. If you intend to do more throwing than takedown, the 70lb size is recommended. You may think you can handle more, but the weight is “dead weight”, which makes it more difficult to move compared to a live person. Here are some general size choice guidelines.
- 70lb Size = 5’-4” tall, use for takedowns, grappling, and throws.
- 90lb Size = 5’-6” tall, use for takedowns, grappling, and throws.
- 120lb Size = 5’-10” tall, use for takedowns, striking, and ground/pound.
- 140lb Size = 5’-10” tall, use for takedowns, striking, and ground/pound.
The Combat Sports Submission Dummy comes pre-filled. All you have to do is unbox and drag it to your training area. Dress it in a Gi or sweatshirt for a more realistic look and feel. You will notice that the dummy doesn’t quite stand on its own. You must lend it a partial hand while practicing your techniques. The arms are short and fixed in the forward position, making them good for grappling, but for armbars. Overall this dummy exhibits good durability and toughness, and could be a worthy addition to your training gear.
- Pros: Holds multiple positions, tough vinyl body
- Cons: Narrow neck, requires assembly
Like all the other unfilled dummies, stuffing this one is time consuming and occasionally difficult. The arms, shoulders, neck and head get filled first. The torso is made up of two chunks of rubber type material. The entire upper body gets aligned with a hole on the lower half, and held together with some bib type fabric. This design is why the dummy is so versatile.
The Submission Dummy uses exterior stretchy paracords to manipulate and hold the limbs in different positions. The cord provides just enough tension to simulate a live opponent. Practice your mounts, side control, open and closed guard, knee on belly, and more. The knees are reinforced and made to bend, but the arms are not unless you use a little less fill. Overall, this is a good value for an MMA and Jiu Jitsu grappling dummy.
- Pros: Affordable, multiple sizes, good stance.
- Cons: Unfilled, cover material has strong odor for a few days.
This is the standing version of the Celebrita grappling dummy. This one comes in a useful “fighting” position, with arms out and slightly bent. There are four sizes, all of which come unfilled. It takes a lot of fabric to fill, so use recycled fabric or cut up old t-shirts. The guidelines for choosing a size are below.
- 40”/25kg (55lbs) – use for takedowns, grappling, and throws.
- 47”/35kg (77lbs) – use for takedowns, grappling, and throws.
- 59”/45kg (99lbs) – use for takedowns, striking, and ground/pound.
- 70”/55kg (121lbs) – use for takedowns, striking, and ground/pound.
The dummy is made from a thick leather type material. Don’t be alarmed if it smells out of the box, this is normal and will fade away after a few days. Use this dummy to build muscle memory for various punches and knee strikes. It’s also a good options for developing your throwing and takedown moves. If you are willing to do the filling yourself, you end up with a solid dummy to practice on.
Last Minute Tips & Guidelines
- Look for hard, durable materials that resist tears and rips. If possible look for a waterproof fabric. Dernier Cordura or triple-ply synthetic leather are excellent materials.
- Look for dummies with multiple rows of stitching, tight stitching and reinforcement stitching. This decreases the likelihood of ripping.
- Remember that the best, more durable materials may at first feel stiff but this stiffness is easily conditioned and broken in with frequent use.
- It is difficult to find a grappling dummy that excels at both submissions and throwing/striking. Decide what area you are weakest at and choose a dummy accordingly.
- In general, submission dummies lend themselves to more techniques and moves than are possible with striking/throwing models.
- Durability is more important for striking and throwing dummies that absorb more pounding.
- Dummies that allow for the most types of techniques come with bends at the elbows and knees. Limbs and joints that offer some resistance and return to their original position on their own are very versatile.
- The best grappling dummies for BJJ allow for a variety of submissions. Triangles, arm bars, kimuras, and omo platas can be practiced from the dummies guard, your guard, and side control.
- Grappling dummies for MMA allow for a variety of moves like the guillotine, rear naked choke, straight arm bar, triangle choke, straight ankle lock, and more.
The bottom line is that a Grappling Dummy can be a great investment for those who know how to put them to good use and, as a result, get much better at BJJ and MMA moves and techniques.
Which of Grappling Dummy Is Best?
As we’ve covered, the grappling dummy best suited for you depends on what you’re looking for. Ask yourself what training do you hope to accomplish and how much you’re willing to spend.
If you are on a tight budget and want a dummy that you can throw, kick, punch and even perform some submission moves on, then the Celebrita (Standing) is your “man”.
On other hand, if you want something rugged that can take everything you’ve got outside of submission moves, then the Combat Sports Dummy will probably fit your requirements. Pound for pound, it’s one of the most realistic stuffed “thugs” you’re going to find, at least as far as striking/throwing dummies go.
All things considered though, the Ring to Cage Deluxe seems to be the best grappling dummy for the money. It consistently gets some of the best reviews. It reportedly can accommodate a huge range of moves, including triangles, arm chokes, and arm bars. Position-wise, it’s versatile and is sure to help you practice a rather large number of moves.