using your head in jiu jitsu
Rob Biernacki demonstration the cross collar choke with great head use.

Far more than just being the thing that holds your brain, the head is tragically underused in BJJ. But skilled players have learned how to use the head like a third arm or leg. Conversely, if you’ve ever had a person use moves like, “the shoulder of justice” on you, you know that when your head is controlled, you’re dead in the water. Here are some great ways to use your head as you roll.

As a base point in mount

Your main tools to keep you from getting bridged off the mount are your hands. But when it comes time to seal the deal with a choke, you’re going to have to sacrifice these weapons. With both your hands needed to collar choke your opponent, you can slide up and touch your head to the mat. When you do this, your head effectively becomes a posting hand. In the video above, black belt Rob Biernacki shows this and other details.

To drive a single leg forward

For years, the only advice I ever got on head positioning for a single leg was don’t put your head on the outside. This is good advice, you don’t want to get guillotined in your single leg. But eventually, I learned a real game changer for this technique, which was to drive forward with the top of your head. Before this, I had always tucked my head inside and been consequently folded down as my opponent sprawled. Using your head as a battering ram will engage the whole spine, and allow you to really power forward.

To improve your back control

There are two well-known elements of back control: leg hooks and the seatbelt grip. The head, is an often overlooked third element. You use your head to stall your opponent’s ability to slide off the back. This is especially true when you’re on the underhook side (aka the “weak” side). Don’t waste a body part by keeping your head behind your opponent. Embrace the awkwardness of going to cheek to cheek for optimal control.

Maybe whisper something creepy while you’re there like, “There’s no escape from my head.”

Try it.

Pinning down arms

If you’re like me, sometimes “two on one” isn’t enough to peel peoples arms away from their ribs so that you can work for keylocks, americanas, or armbars. In these cases, you can sometimes place your head on people’s forearms and get the ball rolling just enough until your hands can do the rest.

This principle works well from mount , half guard, or side control. Just remember that your head should never stray too far from your opponent’s body, or you may get rolled. Just use it to get the party going.

Controlling posture in half guard

This is a similar idea to the “shoulder of justice” concept. Where you put pressure on someone’s head (specifically their chin) from side mount.

From top half guard, you can literally push someone’s chin up with the top of your head. You’re basically forcing them to look up. This is especially good if you are too low on their body to use your shoulder. It’ll kill their mobility and make them uncomfortable.

Hey, if you like this concept, check out our last article on the cult of the underhook and why you should join it.