The one grip in BJJ to solve all your troubles – the mighty Chin Strap. As with most things in Jiu-Jitsu that are proven to work, this is a move borrowed from wrestling. After all, why not take something that has been tested and developed for centuries and proven effective? In the case of BJJ, though, this does not just mean taking the move and running with it, but also evolving it further. Today, the chin strap is the one grip you can use to attack, defend, escape, or apply the most BJJ control you’ve ever felt to most positions in grappling.
I first learned the chin strap grip from a visiting black belt that showed it as part of a guillotine choke class. I was a blue belt at the time and the grip was a huge revelation for me, although I only looked at it in the context of the guillotine choke. Fast forward to today, and the chin strap is my go-to every time a situation like a scramble happens. Actually, it is my go-to anytime I like to focus on BJJ control against an opponent that likes to move around a lot and do unpredictable things.
BJJ Control Points 101 – How to Make People Go Where You Want Them To
BJJ control is a very tricky thing. Unlike most sports, there are no absolute methods of control in Jiu-Jitsu. If you really want to get good at BJJ control, you’ll have to understand that it is a dynamic venture, rather than a static one. Sure, pins from wrestling and Judo might help you control someone completely, but then what? BJJ doesn’t end when an opponent has both shoulder blades on the ground. In turn, that means that even if you hold for time, an opponent will find a way to wiggle something through and escape. If you approach controlling people dynamically, though, you’ll find that you have more success keeping people where you want them.
The key to controlling someone in Jiu-Jitsu is easy – just think head & shoulders. Yeah, just like the shampoo. All it takes to have someone under complete control is deciding how and if they can move their head and their shoulders. Just think about the standing headlock as the favorite method of playground control with kids. There’s a reason why it works – it provides control over the head and shoulders.
In BJJ if you take a close look at all control positions, you’ll notice they all utilize a form of head and shoulders control. Whether it is side control, mount, half guard, back control, front headlock, etc, the same theme repeats itself – control the head and the shoulders. And it can get even more simple than that – if you can make the head turn to one side or another, or not turn at all, you gain indirect control over the shoulders as well. In other words, for complete BJJ control, you need to be able to really have a handle on the head and neck of an opponent. That is where the chin strap grip comes in.
How The Chin Strap Grip Works
The chin strap grip is actually pretty simple. It does take some getting used to, particularly in terms of BJJ control, but once you become accustomed to it, you’ll be catching it in an instant. The way the chin strap works is by giving you control over the chin of an opponent. Being a prominent feature on the head, the chin is actually the end of a lever when it comes to the head, meaning it offers a way to control the lever while exerting minimal force.
The way you grip is also very important. The area I find most people to struggle with is how to precisely position the palm on the opponent’s chin. The solution is simple – don’t overthink it. You just need the right shape of the palm, and everything will fall into place, like lock and key. The shape in question is the same one you make when you’re trying to dring water out of a hose with the help of your palm. That is a shape everyone knows how to make. Focus on it, and you’ll end up with the perfect chin strap grip, thumb tucked in and all.
However, gripping the chin is only a piece of the puzzle. You control the lever, but not every possible direction of movement. This is where your elbows come into play. The elbow of the arm that has a chin strap needs to be as close to your body as possible. Now you have lateral control as well as rotational control. That leaves movement up and down. Your shoulder, tightly propped up against the top of the head will take care of upward movement. As far as going downward or backward, there’s a simple little painful hack. Use the middle knuckle of the thumb on your chin strap arm and drive it into the throat of the opponent as you’re holding. Now you have the perfect chin strap for ultimate BJJ control.
That is just about enough Jiu-Jitsu theory for today. Let’s look at some practical examples now. Of course, the Guillotine choke will come up first. However else you’ve held a guillotine before, reconsider switching to the chin strap. That way, you can choose whether you’ll finish with a high elbow, low elbow or arm-in guillotine at will. You can even finish with just the chin strap arm in certain situations when you start getting the hang of it.
Another great way that I like to utilize the chin strap grip is to escape side control. Yeah, holding a guillotine from bottom side control will open you up for a Von Flue choke. However, holding a chin strap grip will not. In fact, it helps twist the head while making it impossible for an opponent to strip the grip. This will allow you to just wait it out until an opponent disengages, or simply do your favorite side control escape effortlessly.
The chin strap grip is also a great way to stuff takedowns. Whenever you’re too late sprawling or battling from single-leg, look for the chin strap. It will allow you to direct the head wherever you want. The shoulders will inevitably follow, and you’ll be able to stuff any takedown.
A personal favorite of mine is going for the chin strap from the mount. People seem to forget that lifting their head off the ground when caught in mount is a bad idea. It may deal with common attacks but will open up the chin strap. And, even if you don’t get a guillotine choke from there, you can rest assured that your opponent is going nowhere any time soon.
Last but not least, the chin strap is by far my favorite way of passing half guard. Anytime you’re caught in half guard, slap the chin strap on. If they try to play the Coyote guard or any underhook variation, you’ll get it on a silver platter. Once you have it, just lie down on the ground with your hip. The pass is as certain as is the fact you’ve got full BJJ control.
There’s a lot more to discuss the potential uses of the chin strap in Jiu-Jitsu. There are also unexplored areas, like using variations of it from the back. One thing is for certain, though, the chin strap will provide you with more dynamic BJJ control in more positions than any other single method of control. Try it out, experiment, and see where the chin strap leads you. I can promise you it’ll be fun!