Top 4 BJJ Attacks From The Kesa Gatame Position

There are several ways to win a match in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. One good way of doing this is to use positions to dominate the opponent. Using pins such as mount, north-south, side control, or Kesa Gatame (scarf hold) is a battle-tested approach that has helped grapplers for many decades. Another way to win is, of course, to secure a submission, forcing the opponent to quit. While these are both valid tactics, it is always recommended to use them in conjunction so that you can significantly increase your probability of winning. Today, we will discuss attacks you can do once you get to the dreaded Kesa Gatame pin.


What Is The Kesa Gatame In BJJ?

The Kesa Gatame is a pinning technique initially used in Judo. It is a variant of the side control pin where you lay in the cross-side position while controlling the opponent’s head and arm. It is one of the best pins you can do in grappling as it offers tremendous control; you can even submit opponents with pressure alone if you apply it correctly.

While the Kesa Gatame is an excellent option to pin the opponent, not all BJJ academies favor this position, as you can get your back taken if you are not careful. We recommend that you master the positional concepts of holding the Kesa Gatame before learning how to attack from there. Now, with that out of the way, here are some of the best attacks you can do from Kesa Gatame.


Attacks From The Kesa Gatame

In this video, BJJ black belt Stephan Kesting shares several attacking options from the Kesa Gatame position. He mentions that there are many ways to attack from the position, but not all are high percentage. He then shares his top recommendations to use while you pin the opponent.

The first technique is the leg-assisted americana, a surprising submission that targets the opponent’s near side arm. Start by separating their leg from their torso. Place your leg on the crook of the bent elbow, forming a configuration similar to the basic americana from mount or side control. Finally, control the head as you extend your hips for the finish. Be careful with this technique because you can easily tweak your opponent’s arm if you apply too much force.

The second submission is the leg-assisted straight armlock, an excellent follow-up to the first technique. The setup is similar to the americana, but you want to force their arm to be straight instead of bent. To finish the submission, shift your top leg downwards as the bottom leg goes up. This will place tremendous pressure on the elbow joint and will force a quick tap.

The third submission is the bicycle kick straight armbar. It is a slight variation of the second technique, but you use more of a kicking motion with your top leg as your base with your bottom leg. Note Stephan’s body position is different from the leg-assisted variant. This is a nasty submission and a fairly high percentage move.

The fourth submission is a kneebar to counter the back take. As discussed above, one of the common counters to the Kesa Gatame is the backtake. You can use the kneebar as a counter once they go on the offensive. If the opponent attempts to take your back, place your far leg between theirs, release the head, and transition to attacking the kneebar. Remember to place their leg close to you as you position your body and extend the hips. This technique is best done in transition for maximum success.


Pins And Submissions

The secret to a successful attacking sequence is knowing when to pin and when to attack. It is recommended that you first pin the opponent down so that you have enough time to use submissions. Attempting submissions while the opponent is still mobile is not a good idea because you might compromise your position, giving them opportunities to escape. As a general rule, control them using pinning techniques and, from there, use the most appropriate moves to force a submission.

Remember that while the Kesa Gatame pin is effective regardless of rank, you can still get countered if you are not careful. Be mindful of your body position, and always be wary of backtakes and reversals from your opponent. It is a smart approach to flow from one pin to another so that you can reposition your body correctly without compromising your position.

Drill the position with mastery in mind. Start by drilling with little to no resistance and slowly add common counters once you become more experienced. Introduce the technique slowly in your daily rolls, preferably during positional rounds. This is to help you get your reps in and ensure you fully understand the mechanics of both the pin and the submissions. From here, you can then use the Kesa Gatame in your sparring sessions and assess your progress every week.

Involving your coach and training partners in your plans is always a smart idea. Tell them your intent to learn this position and allow them to provide valuable feedback every time you use the technique. The process of learning techniques requires time and consistent practice. Keep practicing and be an open book whenever you go to class.



Overall, Kesa Gatame represents the synthesis of traditional martial arts techniques with modern BJJ strategy. What’s old can be used in today’s landscape, provided it has proven effective in training and competition. If you are interested in learning the Kesa Gatame and the options you can do from the position, we encourage you to watch legends like Rickson Gracie and Henry Akins. They are absolute masters of the position and have decades of experience using it.

This is one of those techniques that can be used effectively from white to black belt. Please study the techniques we showed in today’s article and find the time to drill them in training. They will be your foundation for building a strong attacking game from the Kesa Gatame pin.


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