How to Do a Head Scissors (Carlson Gracie Choke) - a BJJ Tutorial

Say what?

When you hear the term "head scissors", you probably start thinking about professional wrestling more so than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. That's fair enough, because it certainly sounds like something that just wouldn't work on a trained, respectable opponent. The fantastic thing about it is that it actually does work in real time. Carlson Gracie made the move semi-famous among students within his lineage, and I was lucky enough to learn this move from Julio "Foca" Fernandez and Eric Burdo a long time ago. It has since become a nice part of my Kimura system. I hope that you can swiftly integrate this move into your own game, and enjoy doing things that aren't supposed to be real BJJ moves on your training partners!

The set up

This technique arises when you're going for a north/south Kimura, and your partner is defending by either grabbing their lapel (if it's gi) or by hooking inside of their own thigh (gi or no-gi). This is a solid defense for the shoulder lock, but it does leave you open for quite a few other things. Start by leaning forward, shifting your weight off of your knees and onto your partner's midsection. From here, you can sort of scoop your right knee (the one that's on the same side as the Kimura grip) underneath your partner's chin. Note: don't do this if you can't get under your partner's chin, unless you really don't mind your partner disliking you for the rest of the time you're training together. If it's a "head squeeze" as opposed to a pure blood choke, you're not going to be very popular. From here, it's just a matter of crossing your feet, extending your legs, and choking your partner until their eyes pop out of their head (more on the specifics of the finish below).

The finish

There are two reasons you want to lean forward once you have your Kimura grip, and both center on your leg positioning. First, you really want to make sure you're under your partner's chin with leg #1 (let's call it your right leg). If you can't get this under their neck, you're far better off transitioning to the back or to an armbar finish. Assuming you can get the leg under their chin, you're using your hamstring in order to cut into their neck. Have your partner turn their head to the side while you're finishing this technique, so as to avoid their windpipe. The second leg is equally important. As you're still leaning forward, make sure to scoop your left leg under your partner's head, going all the way to their neck. It's easy to miss this detail and sort of end up with a crappy head scissors, with your partner's head slipping out. If you get under their head, though, your thigh squeeze is going to be 100% neck.

A simple entry

One very easy way to set this technique is to start with the Kimura grip from side control, then to allow your partner a little bit of space to escape onto their side. Most people are already going to hide the arm, and many will take the bait of the allowed space to turn toward you. From here, you can easily step over their head with your left leg, just as you might set up a basic Kimura from side control. Once you have the aforementioned setup details down, it's just a matter of extending your legs fully so that your knees squeeze together. Don't try to treat this technique like it's a triangle choke; it's not!

Head scissors or reverse omoplata?

  • Reverse omoplata!
  • Head scissors!
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Carney moves

Doing unorthodox moves, like funky leg attacks or weird side control escapes, can catch your opponent off guard. It should be noted that these moves shouldn't be used as a replacement for solid fundamentals, but instead should augment an already competent, growing BJJ game. If you've had success with the head scissors, let me know! I'd love to hear from you.

About the author
Andrew Smith teaches gi and no-gi seminars across the country, and runs Revolution BJJ in Richmond, VA. Check out a complete index of his tutorials here. Subscribe to the Revolution BJJ Youtube page here.

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