WATCH: How To Defend the Schoolyard Headlock During a Fight

Welcome to part six of our self-defense series with pro MMA fighter Sullivan Cauley. So far Sully’s shown us how to use the bear hug in a fight, a push kick to create distance, the long guard to defend against a punch and how to escape from a full mount. Last week’s episode was using the whizzer and sprawl technique, in case you missed it! If you find yourself in a headlock this week, we’ve got you covered.

The headlock you see in most street fights is locked around the head only whereas the version from higher level wrestling includes the opponent’s arm. Without an arm in the lock controlling your opponent’s body with a headlock is actually very difficult. Very often you can slip out the back of a schoolyard type headlock. Simply push on your opponent’s elbow and back out. This video shows one easy option for escaping a schoolyard headlock that’s locked very tight on your face or neck. 

Getting Out of a Headlock

The first key to this move is to lock your hands around your opponent’s waist. This immediately limits his control over your body by attaching you and your weight to his hips. From here, you need to shoot your outside leg behind your opponent’s legs. This will allow you to trip him backwards. In the same motion, sit all the way to your far hip. Sitting to your near hip might result in your opponent coming down right on top of you with the headlock still in place; you’ve got a tough fight to get out.

Shooting your leg behind your opponent and rotating to sit to your far hip should knock him over backwards. At this point you need to move quickly to square your hips up to the mat (belly down). The first person to do so will likely end up on top. From here mount or otherwise cover your opponent. If he’s still locked around your head, relax and take your time getting out. He can’t choke you from here and he’s going to burn his arms out if he keeps squeezing. Post on his face and push his arm off your head to break the lock. Proceed to punch or maintain position to neutralize the threat. Head to your local BJJ gym to learn all the ways to counter a headlock or do a more proficient one yourself.  

Watch the video above to see the move in action. Also, be sure to grab the most recent issue of Skillset Magazine at

1 Comment

  • Or drive your fist into his balls and at the same time sink your teeth into his chest and rip out a chunk.

Leave a Reply