The crossface is one of the fundamental concepts for pinning your opponent in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and controlling their head. In BJJ, the crossface is primarily used to hold side control, full mount, and is an extremely important aspect of passing the half guard and applying pressure. You might even get a tap out of it if you go for the Von Flue choke from top side control.
The cross face is one of the fundamental characteristics of holding down an opponent in side control. The mechanics of the crossface and the reason it is imperative for maintaining a good side control are that it allows you to control your opponents head. The goal of a good crossface from side control is to turn your opponents head away from you, therefore, taking his spine out of alignment and preventing them from doing a hip escape, or turning into you.
The body movement is limited when the spine is misaligned, and in BJJ, a good crossface is an essential component to applying pressure and controlling your opponent’s head. Check out this video below showing the benefit and importance of a good cross face for controlling your opponent from side control.
The crossface is also an enormous part of being able to have a good full mount. Full mount is a tricky position to learn the mechanics of. Many beginners will notice that when they mount their opponent, they get rolled back to full guard, or put in a half guard. Maintaining full mount is an art in itself. One of the key components to maintaining mount is the crossface.
For the same reason that you cross face from side control, you have to control your opponents head and neck. The crossface will nullify one side of your opponents escapes, therefore making it much harder on him to escape. You have to hook under his head, apply chest to chest pressure, and turn your opponents head one direction to misalign his or her spine. The crossface is also great for setting up submissions; it can be used to distract your opponent from potential attacks and make your submissions sneakier. Check out this Ezekiel choke from mount, shown by Black Belt World Champion, Rafael Lovato Jr.
The crossface is also one of the core concepts to passing the half guard. When passing the half guard, you typically would want to flatten your opponent, so both of their shoulders are on the mat. There are two ways to do this, one, is a cross face to force their head and neck one direction, the other is the underhook, the best way is to have an underhook and crossface.
If the underhook is not available, you can replace it with a strong crossface. There are various ways to apply the crossface from passing the half guard.
Ever hear of the Von Flue choke? This is a choke that has become popular due to its use in MMA fights that is executed on an opponent that stubbornly holds onto a guillotine choke even when they are in bottom side control. It’s a highly effective and unorthodox technique that many practitioners don’t even know yet.
The mechanism of the choke is to force the shoulder of the opponent’s far arm to act as one side of the choke by angling that shoulder towards the ground while the person executing the choke drives their shoulder into the other carotid artery (via the crossface). This choke is fast acting and can easily result in unconsciousness.
Check out this video by world-famous BJJ black belt and former MMA fighter Renzo Gracie for an explanation of how to use the Von Flue Choke to counter a guillotine:
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