Scarf Hold 101
Kesa Gatame, aka the Scarf Hold, is a Judo-based pinning or “hold down technique’ (Osaekomi waza) from side control. Unlike many of the fairly complex, multi-step and specific maneuvers in Judo, the concept of the scarf hold is easy to understand with a brief learning curve to grasp the basics. It’s taught to white belts in the first year of Judo, yet it’s an essential technique for all levels once the action hits the mat. Kesa gatame is considered one of the most powerful and effective positions in Judo competition and, though in sporadic doses, has thereby wiggled its way into BJJ and MMA competition over the years.
While common in Judo, from a mainstream MMA perspective, your highest likelihood of having witnessed the technique is probably via Ronda Rousey, the former UFC bantamweight champion and the first female American Judoka to snare an Olympic medal (bronze; 2008 Beijing). After executing crafty trips or powerful throws, Rousey often employed the scarf hold as a side-control variant to secure and/or maintain a dominant position, nullify a scramble or submission attempt, transition to full mount or just pummel her vulnerable opponent with her free hand.
Rousey’s dominant scarf-hold game also attracted the attention of UFC commentator Joe Rogan, who, along with being genuinely fascinated by her consistently successful implementation of the technique, often voiced concerns or queried whether it left Rousey vulnerable to a back-take. This was fueled when Liz Carmouche nearly accomplished just that and was later analyzed nicely by Bloody Elbow’s T.P. Grant, Judo Chop style.
Bent armbar from Scarf Hold
This guileful and cunning bent armbar from scarf hold comes courtesy of scintillating flyweight prospect Rei Tsuruya, the undefeated (7-0, all finishes) 20-year-old King of Pancrase. The scarf hold is relatively rare in MMA overall, or at least somewhat uncommon, and it’s almost always utilized for positional control – so snaring a “no-hands” submission like this one (that’s right – feet/legs only to finish) is undoubtedly a marvelous accomplishment. This took place at the Road to UFC event in Shanghai, which unfolded as a rousing and action-packed two days of technical violence – enough to warrant its own section (below) in this week’s installment of “Finish Him!”
Road to UFC
Not a finish, but this near-Twister above is still worthy of mention.
Lumps aplenty at ONE LUMPINEE 18, taunting gone wrong
LFA 159, wheel-kick KO and err’thang else
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