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Don’t Get Stuck In Kesa Gatame Again
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Don’t Get Stuck In Kesa Gatame Again

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kesa

Have you ever had your guard passed and found yourself stuck in a headlock type position with your arm and elbow being controlled?  This is kesa gatame or the scarf hold.  It can be a supremely demoralizing position that could end up choking you at the worst and wearing you down and depleting your gas tank if nothing else.  It's time to become proactive and learn that all is not lost.  Jiu Jitsu is there for you if you let it help you escape.

The kesa gatame position…it can be tricky. It is a suffocating and uncomfortable position to be stuck in. While you do see it used by Jiu Jitsu competitors, it is huge with Judoka and Wrestlers. The name, kesa gatame comes from Judo. It is a position in Judo used for pins and some submission techniques. In Wrestling, it is known just as scarf hold, or head lock controls. It is used exclusively for pins in most Wrestling styles. While it can be frustrating to get put in, there is a simple escape that can easily work for anyone. This position means you won’t get stuck in kesa gatame ever again.

For a great kesa gatame, your opponent should really be controlling your bottom arm as well. But it is tough to get the arm, so many competitors will use the standard scarf hold position, just holding a head lock. Those people will usually try to crank on the head lock or obstruct your breathing in some way to make you tap. But you can play smart and escape. Here’s how:

Step by Step Guide: Escaping Kesa Gatame

As your opponent is playing the position, you need to get your bottom arm in the proper position. Make sure your elbow makes it to the mat, as it will help you to get your base back. Your other arm needs to work too. Take your free hand and grab around his far shoulder. Now use your elbow on the mat and the shoulder grip to help yourself go belly down then work up to your knees to get a nice, solid base. Your head will still be locked up and it won’t feel good, but the good news is that you are almost out of the bad position. Now pull on your opponent’s shoulder and lift up with your head. Because your opponent has both arms wrapped around your head, he will have no way to post his arms and you can easily rock him into side control. Just be careful, as he might try to roll you over again. Be prepared to post your arms to avoid that. Then you can work on escaping your head and get ready to do some damage.

 In the next example, the inimitable Kurt Osiander shows a very effective use of leverage to escape the powerful kesa gatame or scarf hold.

Launching the Reversal to Kesa Gatame

It's important to realize that even if your opponent is executing the kesa gatame perfectly, all is not loss.  This is the beauty of jiu jitsu.  By exploiting the control that they have, you can launch a reversal.  In this case first and foremost, one must address the possibility of being choked by the arm and shoulder that are immediately wrapping your head.  To counter this, we simply must turn towards the side that the opponent is sitting out to ensure that our airways are intact and protected.

Connecting Yourself to Your Opponent from Kesa Gatame

Next we must connect ourselves to the opponent by grabbing an S grip or a Gable Grip around their back with our shoulders.  Once we have secured this grip it's now time to bring our feet close to our butts to be able to power our hips up into a bridge.  Please note how Kurt actually does a jump that brings his feet a few inches closer to his butt than simply bringing his feet would.  This makes his bridge even more powerful.

Reversing the Opponent from Kesa Gatame

Once you've got the grip and the bridge ready to go, you will bridge straight up to force the opponent to use the arm that is controlling our arm and shoulder to base so as not to roll forward.  It is at that time that we will drive the bridge over thereby reversing the opponent.

Switching into a Gracie 101 after Escaping Kesa Gatame

Once you have reversed the opponent, if they continue to hold the headlock, you can easily switch into a classic Gracie 101 headlock escape and frame across their throat and face and break the hold.  This will also put you into prime position to begin launching arm bar submissions of your own.

This escape will save your butt at least once in your life. There are a few other kesa gatame escapes that work just as well and are fundamentally as easy. While these escapes seem to be pretty straight forward, you need the mat time with them. Getting yourself conditioned to use these will save you in some dire times during competition or hard rolling. All escapes need this kind of thought. An awesome resource for escapes that can help you is…

Escapes From Everywhere by Bernardo Faria. Click here!

DVD cover and DVDS for BJJ instructional video set titled "Escape from Anywhere" taught by Bernardo Faria

One of the best offensive practitioners in the history of competitive BJJ is world champion Bernardo Faria.  Though most widely revered for his pressure passing and half guard games, none of these aspects of his game could have been developed without a strong foundation of defenses.  Being able to escape any position is a crucial ability that should not be ignored and now's your chance to take advantage of his amazing "Escapes from Everywhere" DVD series.  Are you tired of getting caught in all of the bad spots without being able to escape?  Are you ready to become your training partners and opponent's worst nightmare.  Just when they think they've got you, you will squirt free and be ready to launch your own offensive attacks.  Don't miss it.  Check it out below!

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