Understanding The Reverse Scarf Hold In BJJ

Understanding The Reverse Scarf Hold In BJJ

Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the most number of World Champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, Evolve MMA is the top rated BJJ gym in Singapore.

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the common route towards pinning the opponent is first getting past their legs. This means that you have to pass their guard to get to their upper body. A successful guard pass often leads to side control, which aims to pin and isolate the opponent’s upper body. Often taught as an absolute controlling position, side control can be performed in many ways, one of which we will discuss today. In this article, we will talk about the reverse scarf hold in BJJ.


What Is The Reverse Scarf Hold?

One of the most challenging positions to escape in BJJ is the side mount with heavy top control from the opponent. The reverse scarf hold is also known using different names, such as the reverse kesa gatame, ushiro kesa gatame in Judo, and twister side control in the 10th Planet JJ system. While this position may be uncommon to some BJJ practitioners, especially beginners, it is an effective way to make your opponents uncomfortable while pinning them on the mat.

As its name suggests, the reverse scarf hold is the opposite position of the standard scarf hold, where your body faces the opponent’s lower body instead of their head. Initially, the reverse scarf hold is performed by hooking your near arm around the opponent’s neck, similar to the north-south choke, while dropping your weight from your hips to control the head, as your opposite arm underhooks the opponent’s near arm. Often modified, the reverse scarf hold can be applied without head control and is typically used to get straight to the mount. This variation is usually seen from the reverse half-guard pass.


Reverse Scarf Hold To Top Control Pin

The reverse scarf hold is a valuable technique if you don’t have access or have difficulties pinning the opponent from the regular side control or scarf hold. To some grapplers, the reverse scarf hold may be their go-to position because it is an advantageous position that can give you access to the mount or attack the opponent with different upper body submissions or their legs as your body faces that way.

An example of how you can dominate your opponents from the reverse scarf hold is by setting up the knee split position. Starting from side control (right side), set up the reverse scarf hold by taking your near arm (right arm) from head control and underhook the opponent’s far arm. From there, bring your knees off the mat and get on your toes. Face the opponent’s lower body by sitting your right leg out (the leg beside the opponent’s shoulder) until it is aligned and near the opponent’s hip.

Now that you’re in the reverse scarf hold, shrimp backwards to open their elbow if the opponent’s arms are framing firmly on your back. From there, think of the movement as you transition to the mount. Grab the opponent’s far knee, and pull it to fold, which becomes the top leg over the bottom leg. Use your far leg to break the gap between the opponent’s top and bottom leg as you bring your knee to the mat to create a knee split.

Your underhooking arm is already positioned so that you can use your elbow to wipe and lift the opponent’s far arm until you secure the crossface. Now that you’re in the top position, rest your chest on their shoulder and connect your palm-to-palm grip as you scoot your knee.


Reverse Scarf Hold To Mount

Transitioning from the reverse scarf hold to mount comes with the risk of the opponent taking your back when not done cautiously. From the reverse scarf hold position, if the opponent’s near arm is behind your back, they can use it to frame on your near knee as you come up and start going to the mount by using the back door and landing behind you.

To eliminate the risk of getting your back taken as you transition to the mount from the reverse scarf hold, you must close the gap between your hip and the opponent’s arm. One effective way to do it is to hook the opponent’s near leg. It brings the opponent towards you as it tweaks their hip, but as you start moving to the mount and they try to apply the same escape, you’re already controlling their leg like the grapevine. Remove the opponent’s frame with their hand before moving your knee up to the full mount.


Escaping The Reverse Scarf Hold

The reverse scarf hold is an uncomfortable position to be in if the opponent knows how to tighten the connection while utilizing their body weight. Like the north-south position, you must know how to escape from these unconventional controlling positions, especially when matched against heavier opponents.

If you are pinned in the reverse scarf hold, you should keep the opponent from separating your elbows by coming up, as it will be difficult to escape, and the opponent can directly transition to the mount. Lock your elbows against your body to ensure it’s tight while using your forearms to push the opponent down.

Keeping the opponent low by your hip will make it easier for you to hip escape if they try to transition to the mount. Successfully framing the opponent down already prevents you from getting mounted. If the opponent’s lapel is open, you can grab it with your near hand and pass it to your far hand while framing with your forearm behind their back. This makes it difficult for the opponent to turn towards you. Lift your torso and post your near elbow on the mat. Next is to free your near leg by bridging towards their body to create space as you swing it from under and around the opponent’s back to secure the back mount.



The reverse scarf hold is a practical and unorthodox controlling position to pin your opponents, especially the lighter ones. It is a great way to initiate arm submissions and allows you to transition to other dominant positions like the mount and back mount. Practice the reverse scarf hold and see how it fits your game.