Control and Dominate Your Opponents With The Kesa Gatame (Scarf Hold) Position

Kesa Gatame, or the Scarf Hold, is an amazing controlling position that is often overlooked or even ignored in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is very little attention giving to it compared to other grappling sports such as Judo and Wrestling. This makes some sense seeing as how Kesa is a very strong pinning position which is the objective in Wrestling and Judo, and many throws land you directly in the Kesa Gatame position. I find my use of Kesa is much lower during pure BJJ training when I am not going for throws and landing right in Kesa.

Tai Otoshi Judo Throw to Kesa Gatame

Since Kesa prevents your opponent from turning away and exposing their backs it is seen as an inferior position for BJJ. There is also the argument that Kesa opens up a path to the back for the bottom person. While there are slight opportunities for them to take the back, the threat is slightly exaggerated. Because many players don’t regularly use Kesa they are lacking in the fundamentals of how to secure the position tightly and keeping their weight distributed properly. I’ve lost the Kesa position so many times early in my training until I learned where my body needs to be to keep them pinned to the mat while I work for a submission.

And the position itself can be its own submission. As I said before, it’s a very powerful pinning position that can put tremendous amounts of pressure on your opponent’s chest, sucking the life out of them. Personally I’ve tapped out some pretty decent guys with just my pressure from Kesa, and I’m only 150lbs! And much more famous is Josh Barnett’s submission over Dean Lister at Metamoris 4. Josh ended Lister’s 17 year unfinished streak with just pressure! Around the 8:30 mark in the following video is a breakdown on Barnett’s Kesa Gatame finish, and also note how Barnett’s body position makes a triangle like how we discussed the power of the triangle shape in my earlier article on the Triangle choke.

Josh Barnett Dean Lister Metamoris Breakdown

With Kesa putting so much pressure on your opponent, the position opens up quite a few high percentage submissions. Your opponent will often be struggling to breath and will be more concerned with that than with you slowly isolating an arm.  A simple armbar or an Americana with your legs are two of the most powerful submissions from Kesa as shown in the following video. And another personal favorite is the Bas Rutten Neck Crank, even though it’s not really a crank. It is way more a compression finish, it puts ridiculous amounts of pressure on the diaphragm not allowing your opponent to inhale.

How to Submit Your Opponent in Kesa Gatame

Bas Rutten Brutal Neck Crank from Kesa Gatame

Kesa Gatame can be a very powerful position if you train it (like any other position) and learn how to utilize it properly. On your path to a devastating Kesa, you will fail numerous times, getting your back taken, getting rolled, and just getting pushed off. But once you learn where your weight needs to be distributed you will be pinning everyone to the mat and attacking their arms. You may even get taps just from your awesome pressure. Train long and train hard and I’ll see you on the mats. Oss


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