Photos by Ricardo Azoury / Text by John Donaher, excerpt from the book "Renzo and Royler Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Theory and Technique"
The headlock is one of the most common forms of attack, both in a street fight and in grappling training and competition. Most unskilled fighters instinctively as a means of dominating the opponent, both in a standing position and on the ground. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not favor the use of the headlock. It presents a skilled opponent with too many opportunities to counter and gain a superior position; however, because it is so common, it is essential that you practise escaping quickly and efficiently. There are several ways in which your opponent can hold you down on the mat with a headlock. Some are more efficient than others; again however, it is important that you familiarize yourself with them all since it is more likely that you will run into one of these variations in a real fight than any other grappling move.
Royler is holding Renzo in a typical street-attack headlock. Royler has his right arm under Renzo’s head and has joined his hands.
This kind of headlock is relatively easy to escape from. It can feel intimidating to the inexperienced, but it offers little control over the man underneath for the simple reason that it cannot prevent the man on the bottom from turning to his side. Renzo capitalizes on this by immediately turning in toward his opponent. He then places his left forearm across Royler’s jaw and braces his left wrist with his right hand. This prevents Royler from bringing his head down toward Renzo.
Note how Renzo grips his wrist. His palm is facing Royler and his left arm in bent at ninety degrees. This forms a very strong brace to prevent Royler from bringing his head down.
At this point, Renzo scoots his hips away from Royler, still pushing on Royler’s face. This creates space between the two opponents and brings Royler’s head closer to Renzo’s hips.
Renzo throws his legs up behind Royler’s back, his hips coming off the floor. His left leg is the key element here. It comes around Royler’s head and over his face. Royler cannot duck his head under Renzo’s left leg because his head is braced by Renzo’s arms.
Renzo now crosses his ankles and uses the strength of both legs and his hips to push Royler’s head back. Royler is forced to roll onto his back.
Renzo comes up to his knees to take a top position. Royler is still holding onto Renzo’s head but is now doing so from an inferior position.
Having attained the top position, Renzo hugs himself tightly to Royler. Note how Renzo keeps his hips low to stop Royler from rolling him over again.