Improve Your Front Headlocks With The Cow Catcher

In the wild world of grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, having a versatile repertoire of techniques at your disposal can significantly enhance your chances on the mats. Among these techniques, the front headlock is a basic and, in many ways, a fundamental skill that every grappler should understand. It serves as a powerful control position and a stepping stone to various attacks. One effective variation of the front headlock is the “cow catcher,” a move with origins in wrestling that can significantly level up your control even against the biggest opponent. Today, we will go over the cow catcher and explore how it can benefit your Jiu-Jitsu game.


What Is The Cow Catcher?

The cow catcher, also known as the “underhook headlock,” is a variation of the front headlock that is used in both wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It involves trapping your opponent’s arm and head at the same time, which provides exceptional control and opens up various offensive chances. This technique is particularly effective in neutralizing opponents who are aggressive with their takedown attempts and is usually set up after the front headlock.


Benefits Of Using The Cow Catcher

The cow catcher technique provides multiple strategic advantages that are invaluable across different grappling disciplines. This technique centers on controlling both the head and an arm of the opponent, which significantly restricts their movement and ability to counterattack. Such control not only secures a dominant position in the match but also severely limits the opponent’s options for escape, ensuring that the practitioner maintains the upper hand.

Furthermore, it offers versatility when launching attacks. Once the position is secured, a practitioner can seamlessly transition into a variety of attacks depending on the context of the match and the rules of the sport. In wrestling, the position can be used to set up pinning combinations, effectively restricting the opponent on the mat. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the same control allows for the execution of chokes and joint locks, capitalizing on the restricted mobility of the opponent to force a submission.

In terms of defense, the cow catcher is equally beneficial. It acts as a robust defensive mechanism against takedown attempts. By controlling the head and one arm, the practitioner can thwart most takedown strategies, making it a critical component of both offensive and defensive game plans. This dual capability ensures that the Cow Catcher is not just a tool for gaining points or submissions but also a fundamental part of maintaining positional security and control throughout the match.


Applications Of The Cow Catcher

This video illustrates the many applications of the cow catcher. As it stems from the front headlock, many entries of the cow catcher start by grabbing the opponent’s head. You can do this in many situations, but perhaps the most common ones are from the sprawl position (after you defend a takedown) or from the snap down. Once the head is controlled using the chin strap grip, the cow catcher can now be used. You can use it as a reversal against an aggressive opponent from a low stance; you can also use it as a throw when both are standing upright.

There are situations where you can use it as a sweep and submission. You can use the move as a variation of the sumi gaeshi (butterfly sweep), where you maintain the cow catcher grip and use your butterfly hooks to flip the opponent over. Tito Ortiz has used it as a submission by cranking the head from an angle, which is a surprising finish and definitely an uncommon case.

Also, remember that in cases where the cow catcher is hard to pull off, you can use the position to roll the opponent to the opposite side, using a technique known as the ‘cement mixer’. It is highly recommended that you study this follow-up move as it is extremely useful in many situations on the ground.


Mastering The Cow Catcher

Consistent solo or partner drilling significantly aids in mastering the cow catcher. Additionally, incorporating strength and conditioning exercises can improve your grip strength, which is crucial for maintaining this position.

Becoming an expert in the cow catcher technique in grappling demands dedicated practice and meticulous attention to detail. To enhance proficiency in this technique, several key strategies can be employed.

Firstly, consistent practice through drilling is essential. Regular repetition of the cow catcher in various drilling scenarios helps in recognizing the optimal moments for its application, enhancing not only the technical execution but also the speed of reaction. This repeated practice solidifies muscle memory, allowing for quicker and more effective responses during live matches.

In addition to technical drilling, strength, and conditioning play a crucial role in the effectiveness of the cow catcher. Focusing on strength training, especially for the upper body, enhances your ability to maintain strong, controlling grips on your opponent. This is particularly true for the arms and shoulders. Additionally, enhanced physical strength aids in executing the technique with greater control and resistance against counter-moves.

Analyzing performances by experienced practitioners is another valuable method for improvement. Watching matches and training videos featuring top wrestlers and grapplers who effectively use front headlocks and the cow catcher can provide critical insights. Observing how these athletes set up and transition from the technique offers practical examples that can be studied and emulated. Noticing the nuances in their movements and strategic choices deepens understanding and refines one’s own approach.

Lastly, seeking and accepting feedback is vital for continued growth in mastering the cow catcher. Talking to coaches and sparring partners to review and critique applications of the technique provides opportunities for learning and adjustment. Coaches can offer expert insights and corrective tips that might not be evident through self-assessment alone. Constructive feedback helps in identifying areas of improvement and finetuning the technique for better performance.



The Cow Catcher is an exceptionally versatile and powerful technique in the grappling sports arsenal. By mastering this technique, you not only improve your defense against aggressive opponents but also enhance your offensive capabilities. Whether you are a wrestler looking to secure more pins or a grappler aiming for submissions, integrating the Cow Catcher into your game can provide a significant tactical advantage. Remember, like any sophisticated technique, proficiency comes with practice and dedication. Keep training, studying, and refining your skills, and the Cow Catcher will become a formidable part of your competitive repertoire.


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