Call me the Head Hunter!

“We learn from failure, not from success!”
― Bram StokerDracula

This quote is so true in BJJ. I must have been a purple belt before I really understood how important head control is when grappling.  It took me having my guard passed at least a 1000 times before I started understanding the real importance of “head control” when playing guard. From white to purple belt, I heard “control the head,”  “push the head,” or “move his head,” over and over. Thinking back, I never really understood why or where I needed to put their head, I just pushed. Like most of the time in Jiu Jitsu, it just clicked one day when I was training . I kept feeling Vicente Jr. pushing my head to the mat every time I tried to pass. After training, we always sit and talk about the session. I started asking some questions about where to push, how to push and even more important, where NOT to push the head. After that class, I must of felt like a Head Hunter to all my teammates. From that point on, anytime someone started to pass my guard, they had one or both of my hands on their head or face pushing them back.

Where should you push the head?

We can start with them passing the guard. Controlling the head when they start their pass is super important. During most tight guard passes, your opponent will want to get their head across your body or hips. They want to keep their head on one side, and their body on the other side of you, crossing your body. This is where you need to start controlling the head. Your goal at this point is to control the head by not letting them cross the center of your body and definitely not letting them glue their head to your hip. When I see or feel my opponents head crossing my body, this is when I must react. I need to redirect the head back to the same side that their body is on. Never push the head across your body. Putting their head on one side of you and their legs on the other side of you will just help them pass. Once their head and body are on the same side of my body, I like to push their head to the mat. After the head is pushed down, I can start hipping out (shrimping out), starting to recover my guard.

Another great example of head control is when you have your opponent in cross body side control. This is a super dominate position, that everyone hates to be in. The way I like to control this position is with a ton of shoulder pressure. I will put my top arm under their head or neck and drop my shoulder on their face. The goal is to make them look away from me, with my shoulder pressure. The pressure can be so intense, I have had people tap out from just holding this position.


Side Control with Shoulder Pressure

Side Control with Shoulder Pressure


The concept is if they can’t look where they want to go, move, or stop something, they will be weaker. Spine and neck alignment is very important for strength, once you start interrupting that alignment, you will start weakening your opponents movements and defenses.

I hope this article gives you something to think about when it comes to controlling your opponents head movement. If you have any questions about this subject or anything else BJJ related, be sure to send it my way. I always love to hear what is on your mind and how you like my stuff.

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Drilling is the key, so just do it.

Talk to you soon, and thanks for sharing this.

Lance Trippett



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