Front Head-lock

good post chip....I gator roll and shuck to side mount all the time in practice......Also do cheap tilts if they get deep on a single....Rock on

Very informative post Chip.

Denis K.

Thankyou, I like the front headlock. I get it a lot. But I never knew what to do with it. Thanks.


Personally, I LOVE it when someone locks their hands when they've got me in a front headlock. Admittedly, I've never done any MMA, but even in wrestling, I know some of these guys are trying to choke me out a little bit to take some of the fight out of me. But it usually doesn't work, and I can get out pretty quickly (usually).

Coming from a purely wrestling background, I would say that locking hands is a bad idea. But again, I've never competed in MMA, where it might have more effectiveness if someone is very good with it.

That's my two cents, anyway. If anyone else has done this effectively in MMA, please let us know.


Nice post! Good to see you back Chip!


Question for all you guys...

When you do a front headlock do you keep your head in the ribs and lock your hands into a quasi-guillotine choke Mark Schultz style?

Or do you grab the tricep with one hand, lock his chin with your other and keep your head up?

The first one is easier to defend for a good wrestler but is more painful and can be used as a choke. Actually the Schultz boyz were putting people out in the Worlds and Olympics with that move when they made it illegal. However, the 2nd one, is harder to defend but not as effective pain wise.

snap down to a front head - maybe the easiest/laziest takedonw known to man. it's a shame not enough people use this combo anymore. the brands built careers at iowa with it.

The Front Head-lockThe Front Head-lock is a great position to transition to takedowns, often after a failed takedown attempt from your opponent or in a scramble situation when you are both squared off on your knees. There are many, many ways that you can get a front head lock, whether you get it after your opponent shoots in and you sprawl out and lock it up, or you do a simple snap-down into a front headlock, or snap him down from an underhook, and many more. I won't spend too much time on how you get into one, but will discuss what proper front headlock position is, some options on what you can do with it, then some quick notes about how to defend against it. First of all, as with any move, it's great to practice this from both sides to become "ambidextrous" with it, so you can attack either side. For now, I'll describe it all on one side.To practice this with a partner, have him get down on all fours (hands and knees) with his head down facing you. You are basically in a sprawling position on top of him (to start with, anyway). I'm going to reach down and grab his chin with my right hand, keeping my right forearm tight to the left side of his face (his left), sucking my elbow back toward my right hip. This should pull his chin to the side so that he is looking to his left. My left hand will grab his right arm on his tricep, closer to his elbow than his shoulder, and will also keep this elbow tight to my side and pulling my left elbow to my left hip. Now, shoulder pressure is VERY important here. I will put my RIGHT shoulder on top of his RIGHT shoulder, on his trapezious (sp?) muscle/upper shoulder blade area. I will then pull his chin to my right hip, his right arm to my left hip, while bearing down very hard (driving off my feet) with my shoulder on top of his shoulder. To understand the proper mechanics of this, imagine grabbing his chin and arm as described above, but putting a foot on top of his shoulder. You're pulling his head and chin toward you, while pushing his shoulder away from you with your foot. That's the kind of pressure this guy should be feeling. This WILL NOT work without proper shoulder pressure! How do you help ensure that you've got proper shoulder pressure? Avoid the number one mistake: hitting a front headlock while on your knees! You MUST be on your feet, driving into him to keep pressure on that shoulder. Proper shoulder pressure will help immobilize him. Knees are bad, mmm'kay? PLEASE do not lock your hands here! This is a very common mistake, and you lose most of your pressure! I always get worried when someone gets me in a front head-lock, but then relax if they lock their hands. They lose a lot of their pressure, and 9 times out of 10, I know I'll be out of it very soon. Keep those hands on his chin and his tricep! OK, you've got the basic position down, now how do you finish from here? There are really a lot of options here, I'm only going to list a few...

1. Knee tap: I'm going to drop my right arm (the one that's on his chin) down very far and reach under his body to the opposite side knee (his right knee, in this case) and cup his knee (palm on the outside of his knee, my thumb touching the mat) and drive him with my feet to crumple up his body over that knee.

He might tip over straight to his back. In a wrestling match, this is great! I'm less sure of the implications here in MMA (no real MMA experience). In a wrestling match, he will likely try to flatten out here. If he flattens out, I'm going to circle over his trapped arm (towards my left side) and finish up for the takedown.

2. Bury the head: I'm going to bury my head down next to his right arm that I have extended, next to his armpit/upper rib-cage area. I'm going to circle to my left, keeping his chin tight, and shoot my left hand down to the mat behind his ankle and grab that ankle. Many people here grab his knee, this not bad, but grabbing his ankle and pulling it towards you and torquing his knee will help, er, "encourage" him to stay put.

From here, you have two options. The first one is more relevant to wrestling. Basically, once I circle about half way around him, I'm going to put my head right in his hip, left hand goes up to his knee, and I try to pinch my elbows together, which brings his head closer to his knee. I lock my hands and I am basically in "bow and arrow" cradle position. From here, I drive straight into him to bring him to his back.

What if I'm going against a tough opponent and can't get the cradle? I will simply keep my left hand down on the ankle, my head still tight up against his armpit, and continue circling until I get around behind him for the takedown.

3. Shuck: If my opponent is a good scrambler, and keeps circling with me while I'm trying to get around behind him from option #2 above, I will then shuck him. Basically what happens is that I am chasing him around in a circle, like we're both doing the "Curly Shuffle" (you Three Stooges fans will understand that), then I plant my left foot, let go of his right arm, and "throw" his head to my left with my right arm. This must be done hard! You're going to be throwing his head in an underhand fashion, so do it hard, like those 190 lb. female fast-pitch softball pitchers! For a split second, you will both be basically side to side, facing in the same direction. Scoot around behind/on top for the takedown.

Note: shucking seems like it's pretty quick and easy, so why not just do it right off the bat? Because it won't work. You need some momentum to get him moving in the same direction you're going to throw him. If you want to shuck him by, you must at least take a step or two in that direction first, then shuck him by and move in for the takedown in the opposite direction.

Defending against the Front Head-lockIt seems like you can get used and abused in a front head-lock, right? So what happens when someone gets one on you? There are a number of ways to get out, I'll throw two good options at you for now. 1. Shuck from the bottom (I've also heard it referred to as a Drag Out): I'm going to reach up with my free hand (the one on the side where he has my head) and try to yank his elbow down in front of my face, releasing some of the pressure on my head. Once I've got it down far enough, I will reach across with my arm that is held up and take that elbow that was on my chin. Now I will step up with my outside foot (the one on the side of the arm that was on my chin) and rotate my body to my right, pulling the elbow that was on my chin in front of me and to my right. Hopefully, this will pull him right by and I can get a takedown out of it. Even if I don't get the takedown, I'm happy because I'm out of a front head-lock. 2. Circle out: this option is a little more conservative than the above, but is usually necessary if the guy has a really good front head-lock. Similar to the above, I'm going to try to pull down on his elbow that has my chin with my opposite side arm (using the same side arm to help get it down if need be). I'm in bad position here (on my knees, head down, etc) so my main goal is to regain good positioning. While trying to pull/pry his arm down off my head, I'm going to circle into the same side as he has my head (away from my trapped arm). While I'm circling away, I'm also circling backwards a little bit, slowly working my chest/shoulders back over my hips. I'll keep prying and circling 'till I'm back on my feet and squared off with him (maybe with an Russian two on one!) DO NOT try to get your hips back under you by stepping forward! You are in very bad position here and he can pick your ankle with a front head-lock (shudder Bad things, man. Bad things). Instead of moving your hips underneath your chest, move your chest backwards over your hips, all while slowly circling back to your feet. *Note: Option 1 above must happen QUICKLY. Option 2 is more of a battle of attrition, slowly prying his grip loose and circling in fits and starts back into good positioning. Sometimes, you might try Option 1 and it doesn't work well, so you immediately start into Option 2. Remember this: he needs TWO hands to have a proper front head-lock. So if you compromise just one of those hands, you're as good as out.