The Importance of Head Control in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

“Where the head goes, the body follows”. This is a common wrestling mantra that could easily be applied in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well. In Jiu-Jitsu, head control is a significant part of being a dominant grappler. If you can successfully control your opponent’s head, you will have full control over the rest of their body. As a result, it is extremely important that you learn the Jiu-Jitsu strategies involved with proper head control.


Fundamental Ideas and Principles – Head Control

Before we dive in and talk about head control techniques, let’s talk about why it is so important first. The head is attached to the top of the spinal column. So, if you can control this area of the body, you can also “steer” the entire torso in whatever direction you’d like.

Twisting an opponent’s head can cause a significant amount of discomfort, which will dramatically limit space and mobility. And since a person’s head is their primary awareness center, you can disrupt thinking patterns by interfering with their head. As you can see, controlling an opponent’s head is very important.


Is This Control Always Required?

Head control is a fundamental part of Jiu-Jitsu that should be mastered. But to use the words “always” in the sport of grappling would be silly. There are obviously times when it wouldn’t make sense or be required to control an opponent’s head. For instance, when you are in the knee-on-belly position, reaching over to acquire head control might not be a good idea because it would essentially throw you off balance. The key is to recognize when Jiu-Jitsu strategies like these come into play.


Portland Jiu Jitsu Technique: Crossbody Crank/Choke

Head Control in Side Mount Position

When you are in side mount position on top, head control is something that you should be striving for as often as possible. If your opponent is experienced, he or she is going to keep their heads glued to the mat so that you cannot reach under their heads. But you’d be surprised by how many grapplers (even experienced ones) keep their heads up, which makes it that much easier to obtain head control.

Once you acquire head control in this position, you make it that much harder for the bottom person to attempt any kind of escape. You are in full control, and can now work towards a submission or dominant position at your own pace.

Final Considerations to Keep in Mind

The same concept should be applied to regular mount position. When on top, you should always check to see if the bottom opponent is keeping their head off the mat. If they are, capitalize on this by scooping up their head from behind their neck. It will make going for chokes and arm locks much easier.