Escaping Two Scarf-Holds (diary entry)

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Wednesday night consisted of a special 1 ½ hour lesson for my senior student, where we focused entirely on developing escapes and counter-moves from scarf-hold. We trained and tested defences against both the traditional head-lock scarf-hold – found mainly in Judo but also present in various other Wrestling sports as well as primal grappling in general – and the adjusted under-hook scarf-hold common to submission grappling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The lesson began with a series of ground callisthenics designed to promote better ground fighting movement and conditioning for escapes and fighting from underneath – upa bridging, snaking/shrimping, triangle leg raises and arm-bar leg-raises. We then partnered up for an overview of escaping from pins. This consisted of drilling ways to defend from each of the major pinning positions as these pins were transitioned. My client bridged up and over for side control as well as to the side, to the side against BJJ scarf-hold, up and turn for north south position, up and to the side for knee-pin, to the side for reverse scarf-hold, and repeated the same escape behaviour against the mount as he did for side control.

Then we focused entirely on the two scarf-hold positions. Over time I have come to the conclusion that it is important for submission grapplers to fully respect and work to defend against side head-locks. A symptom of the huge success and progressive sophistication of submission grappling is a disregard for more primitive techniques, to the point that they don’t get drilled on the belief that good fighters simply won’t use them. The problem here is that unfamiliarity with the move can lead a student to get caught out with it when applied by a stronger and confident opponent. For a very long time the classical scarf-hold position won many grappling-based competitions even being used as a submission in its own right.

The escape from this type of scarf-hold hinged largely on two things. Firstly, the fighter needs to ensure they are on their side. This is a point that is relevant to the adjusted scarf-hold. Secondly, the fighter breaks the head-lock grip by pulling on the far shoulder. From here it is all a question of which way the opponent is trying to go. If he doubles down on trying to retain or regain the head-lock the fighter can quickly shift to a kneeling position and isolate the opponent’s arm by pinning his head down. An arm-trap submission can be used from here. Alternatively, if the opponent attempts to flatten out the fighter by compressing his chest and diaphragm, the fighter can bridge up his hips and use the momentum to send the opponent over into side control. If the opponent still clings to the head-lock from this position the fighter can wedge his arm into his neck, pinning the head and isolating the arm for an arm-bar.

The adjusted or BJJ scarf-hold involves the opponent using an under-hook instead of a head-lock. He has more control here and also can protect his back. In order to escape the fighter needs to utilise the snaking movement, allowing him to scoot out to the side. This puts him in a position where the opponent is technically within his guard, using the knee-shield. From here the fighter can counter by putting an arm-bar on the opponent’s under-hooking arm.

We then sparred for 2 x 5 minute rounds. The first round was a progressive round where the fighter fought against both types of scarf-hold with increasing levels of resistance. The last round was free-sparring ground-fighting.

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