The Lowly Headlock: Worthy of Knowing how to Defend.

Today a newcomer showed up at my university’s BJJ club practice.  He had trained Hapkido before and had “done some grappling,” so we walked him through the basic positions of jiu-jitsu, gave him the jiu-jitsu spark notes, and then got him rolling.

You see, our club is small and relatively informal.  And Thursdays are the most informal day – more of an open mat than anything else.  Also, lets be honest: we’re mostly there to roll.   But I digress.

I paired him up with John (not his actual name mind).  John is probably 5’6″ and all of 140lbs – not a big fellow, but fit and tenacious.  He has been training at the club for a couple of months and knew enough to move through the positions, pass the guard, attack from the mount, and the like.  I figured it was enough for him to hold his own with Mr. Hapkido, who probably outweighed him by 40 lbs.

Well, I was right and I was wrong.

John did well – not great, but neither did he make any significant mistakes.  Mr. Hapkido tried to americana John from the guard, and John didn’t know how to take the back, but neither did he let himself get caught.  John was able to sweep and mount, but wasn’t able to get any attacks locked in before Mr. Hapkido escaped.

And then, in the midst of a scramble Mr. Hapkido put John in a headlock, and the roll abruptly came to a halt.  This playground technique was completely outside of John’s experience and he just didn’t know how to proceed.  Mr. Hapkido didn’t know how to submit John, but he knew enough to know that John was stuck.  And so the roll just stalled with John trapped in a very uncomfortable position.

Eventually I walked John through the details of escaping and he got enough space to return to a scramble – and the roll resumed.

But what stuck with me is that while John outclassed Mr. Hapkido in grappling ability a very simple technique (that seems to be nearly universal amongst new grapplers) was able to shut him down

And so, here for your edification is how to defend yourself from a headlock:

And, to round out your education, here is how to defend yourself from a standing headlock in a self-defense situation:


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