Where The Head Goes - The Body Follows
Any student of mine has heard this phrase dozens if not hundreds of times: “Where the head goes, the body follows”. It’s a good way to remember a simple fact. If you can direct uke’s head, you can direct his entire body.
I’ve long been a proponent of a high collar grip - since many of my favorite throws become easier to do. I like Hane Goshi, Harai Goshi, and Tai Otoshi - the first two require the close chest to chest contact that is easier if you don’t have your forearm in the way, and Tai Otoshi becomes infinitely more powerful if you can direct Uke’s head toward the direction of the throw.
Anyone who’s ever accidently (or otherwise) wandered into an Aikido class is well aware of how controlling the head can lead into some wonderful throws… Perhaps one throw, that’s virtually identical in both Judo and Aikido - Koshi Guruma, will illustrate the power of head control.
But even throws that don’t apparently rely on head control of any sort can greatly benefit - for example, the next time you practice Osotogari - see if you can ‘cant’ uke’s head toward the side that you’re entering… with a high collar grip, you can use the side of your forearm to roll uke’s head to the side. See if this works for you.
If you’ve never tried a high collar grip - give it a try, and see if your favorite throws will work. This isn’t for everyone - but another advantage that the high collar grip gives you is that most people are uncomfortable with this grip being applied to them. They begin thinking about it, and trying to break your grip - during which time they are not concentrating on throwing you.
There is, however, a corresponding weakness to the high collar grip - Assuming a right-hand collar grip - it gives uke a wonderfully large opening for left-sided hip throws. Fortunately, there aren’t too many opponents that can throw to either direction (and I’ll certainly speak more on this topic!).
It’s also a wonderful opening for your opponent to apply Waki Gatame…
But every technique has corresponding disadvantages, you merely have to know and beware of them.
Another place where control of uke’s head is critical - and perhaps even more useful, is in Newaza. Obviously - control of Uke’s head is extremely valuable when attempting a choke, but it’s also quite useful for turnovers, and preventing pin escapes.
So next time you put your gi on - think of ways to control uke’s head, and see if you can’t develop more power in your throws as a result.