Taking people down is an aspect of BJJ that offers as much variety as the ground game. Still, there are a lot of people that do not spend much time on takedowns. Or, like me, they start doing it later in their BJJ career leaving them much behind others. So, for both the people that are just starting and those that have ignored takedowns for a while, there is a solution. There are no shortcuts, but you can choose a different approach and thus ensure you catch up faster. The trick is to choose a subject of the takedown game and develop a system that suits you from there. For me, it turned out that the front headlock is a great position both standing and on the ground. So I went on to work on a front headlock takedown system, that is a perfect fit for me.
First things first. The following front headlock takedown system is not my invention. All the moves are based on wrestling. I only put together a few things as a concept and gave it a name for easy reference. To be honest, the goal was simp[licity. And there’s nothing simpler than “the 4 corners front headlock takedown system”. While we’re on the subject of clarifying things, I started working on this as a purple belt. So, it is not something you can do as a beginner unless you have some wrestling background, The reason for this is that there are other takedowns like ankle picks and the double leg as part of the system.
The main reason the front headlock is a perfect position for executing takedowns is control. ti offers a lot of control when standing. Furthermore, it allows you to transfer that controls once you hit the ground. POus, it opens up direct submission options without ever letting go of your grips. Plus, on top of all that getting it is fairly easy. Especially if you’re a tall and lanky guy, or if you’re good at takedown defense. The only trouble you might run into is with Judoka who tend to stand upright. Worry not, as I also have a Gi grips version of the system. First things first, however, let’s see what the 4 corner front headlock takedown system is all about.
Getting The Front Headlock
Getting the front headlock depends on a few different things. There are basically there great ways of getting there for me, so I’m going to share them. These are the ones that work for me in different situations during the stand-up battles. There are many more, and arguably even better ones, so feel free to explore and get back to me!
The first one is probably the best for taller grapplers, which I am not. It is the snap-down, where you guide your opponent’s head down by jumping up slightly. Since I’m not very tall, I use it off an arm drag attempt, when the opponent looks to lean back forward after escaping.
Next up is the over-under setup. This is a fairly technical one, that includes establishing grips first. For example, if you’re stuck in an endless pummeling exchange, you can actually use the pummel to get to the front headlock. Simply place the palm of your underhook arm up on their shoulder and use it as a hook. Step back and to the side with your opposite side leg to break your opponent’s posture. From there on simply go back to the front and slap on the grips.
The final way of getting into the 4 corner front headlock takedown system is from a defensive position. Every time you’re up against a wrestler that keeps shooting for double or single leg takedowns, you can look to counter with a front headlock. This is the hardest one because you need a good sprawl as well as fast transitions And, most importantly, you need great timing and anticipation.
The 4 Corner Front Headlock Takedown System
In order to be successful with the 4 corner front headlock takedown system, you’ll need to know how to retain control once you enter. There are two basic things to remember about the front headlock as a control position.
Look at it like this – one arm is for control, the other is to create openings. The arm that goes around the head should end up with a chin strap grip. The elbow should be close and you need to place the shoulder of that arm right on the middle of the back of the opponent’s neck. This is where control comes from, in a dynamic fashion.
The other arm has the task of controlling your opponent’s arm. As a basic rule, you need to have the opponent’s arm at an angle of 90 degrees or more in order to have an effective front headlock. The best place to grip is right above the elbow so that the opponent can’t pull ti back. having this grip both secures your position (prevents them from grabbing your leg) and opens up attacking options for you (helps keep their posture broken).
From there on you simply pick a side and start with the 4 corner front headlock takedown system!
Check out how to finish from the front headlock with Neil Melanson. THe catch-wrestling based grappler know everything there is about takedowns, finishes and other attacks from the front headlock. “The Headhunter Guillotine Series” DVD set explains them all, across 4 information-packed volumes.
First up, you have the double leg takedown. It is a power double so the takedown directions is to your opponent’s backside. Setting it up is easy because it is your opponent that’s actually going to set it up for you. Once you have perfect control, you’ll release their arm and place a grip right behind their knee, on the same side. This is the beginning grip for three out of four directions in the system.
The double leg works best when your opponent manages to retain a bit of posture. This can be because you have weak control, or because they’re really strong. Or, perhaps, you might want to set them up there because they have an unusually strong base. Whatever the case, you need your opponent to get their head out and straighten their body. The grip you already have and your low base place you in the perfect position for a double leg.
As your opponent straightens their spine, simply place your head on their near side ribs and place your other hand behind their other knee. Their motion of straightening up is actually going to help you take them down. Simply step forward and drive to take them down to their back.
The ankle pick is the next option in the 4 corners front headlock takedown system. It is a takedown to the side where you control the opponent’s head. When you have good head control, this is the easiest side to take an opponent down to.
To begin with, you’ll go for the same grip behind the knee. This time, the opponent is going to pull their leg back, getting out of the grip. Once they do that, you’re all set. You’ll need to place your near side knee down so that you control their head even tighter. It also allows you to cut the angle and grab their far side leg’s ankle, as low to the mats as possible. From there you’re just a simple push away from side control.
This is the most attractive takedown of the system. As the name suggests, you’re going backward for this. Note that simply pulling back forcefully (like sprawling) with good control is enough to get your opponent to their knees. Rolling back, on the other hand, is going to land you in the mount with a submission-ready to finish. So it is the better option, despite requiring more experience.
For this takedown, you need to grip your arms together. A butterfly, palm to palm, or an S grip works perfectly. Once you have it. get as close as you can to your opponent with your feet, while compressing their head and neck. Once your feet are close to the opponent’s just sit down and do a backward break fall. Remember to maintain a tight grip at all times, because this is what’ll pull you on top of your opponent, and even offer you a mounted guillotine finish.
The outside trip works perfectly when you’re up against a really strong opponent. It is the final one in the 4 corner front headlock takedown system, as you can guess. The setup is similar to that of the double leg. Your opponent is going to try and regain their posture, only this time, you’re not letting go of their head and neck.
Once they manage to get past their hips, it is time to go for the outside trip. make sure all your weight is on their neck and place your leg on the outside of their leg, on the opposite side of the front headlock. You then finish by falling to the same side, just as you would with an outside trip.