What Is The Half-Nelson In BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the fastest growing martial arts today. It is a place where people from all backgrounds can set their differences aside and train together as a team. It is a sport that serves many purposes, be it for general fitness, weight loss, self-defense, or competition.

Training other types of grappling martial arts can significantly improve your BJJ game. While similar, other grappling martial arts such as Sambo, Judo, and Wrestling are unique in their philosophies and can open your mind to new ways of approaching your Jiu-Jitsu. 

If you want to become better in gi BJJ, incorporating Judo can substantially help with standup and Newaza (ground techniques). In no-gi, learning wrestling techniques can help solidify your standup and tighten your ground control. 

Aside from the mental toughness it offers, wrestling moves can be used as entry points for submissions. Techniques like front headlock and half-nelson are some of the most widely used wrestling techniques in BJJ. 

Today, we will talk about the half-nelson, a wrestling move that will surely level up your positional dominance.


The Nelson Holds

The Nelson Holds are wrestling techniques that aim to pin the opponent by immobilizing the arms and neck to secure a dominant position. It is originally a Catch wrestling move named after Horatio Nelson, an Admiral of a British fleet during the Napoleonic wars. 

There are various types of nelson holds, such as the full nelson, quarter nelson, half-nelson, and power half-nelson. The full nelson is a type of neck crank and, therefore, cannot be performed under the rules of many BJJ tournaments that ban spine manipulation.

Nelson holds can be done both standing and on the ground. Depending on the variation, it is performed by placing your arm (or both arms) under the opponent’s. You then immobilize them by clasping your hands behind the neck. 

Usually done for positional control, nelson holds will help you control the opponent’s head and spine, as wherever the head goes, the body follows. By controlling the head, you can position your body near the opponent’s hips to monitor their movements. Holds like the half-nelson can force the opponent to turn when applied from the turtle position.


The Half-Nelson

The half-nelson is a move used to control and set up pins against an opponent. It translates well to BJJ as grapplers commonly use it from the turtle position and attack from the back. As its name suggests, the half-nelson is a nelson hold that uses only one arm to control an opponent’s arm and head, as opposed to the full nelson, which uses both arms.

Typically applied from the turtle position and back mount to help set up submissions, a key detail when using the half-nelson is to place your hand behind the opponent’s head (crown) and not the neck to create more pressure. Watch the video below by Deborah Gracie as she demonstrates the half-nelson to set up a submission.

Starting from the back position with a seatbelt grip, open the opponent’s collar using your non-choking hand (the arm below the opponent’s arm) and secure a deep collar grip with your choking hand. Once you get the choking grip, use your non-choking arm to stick out as deep as possible so you can reach behind the opponent’s head. Use the back of your hand to push the opponent’s head. 

Look at how Deborah positions her body against her training partner. You can tell that her half-nelson is applied with excellent technique. Finish the choke by using the half-nelson as an anchor while you pull.

The half-nelson can also be used as a transitional position from side control. In this video, Jason Scully shows the mechanics of the technique. If the opponent faces you in side control and grabs an underhook, start by overhooking their arm. 

When the opponent continues facing forward, shoot your overhooking arm through and place the back of your knuckles behind their head. If the opponent tries standing up to their knees, redirect your body by transitioning from north-south to the other side. Push your knuckles to the back of their head and drop your elbow down as you finish your positional transition.

In relation to the positional transition using the half-nelson, you can also apply a d’Arce choke from side control. If the opponent faces you and goes for an underhook, apply an overhook and straighten your near leg to create a solid base. 

Instead of going to the half-nelson using the underhook, go for the d’Arce by shooting your over hooking arm below the opponent’s neck as your other hand grabs it from behind. A good tip here is to gable grip to secure control. Finish the choke by squeezing at an angle. 


Power Half-Nelson

This video by Sonny Brown shows how the power half-nelson can be used as an alternative to the regular seatbelt grip. The power half-nelson is a variation of the half-nelson, a folkstyle wrestling move used to turn the opponent for the pin. 

The power half-nelson uses both arms to put pressure on the opponent’s head as opposed to one arm like the half-nelson. One arm should face palm down and underhooks the opponent from behind, while the other faces palm up and use the bones of the forearm as a lever against the back of the opponent’s head. 

Different grips can be used when executing the power half-nelson. You can use the S grip, gable grip, or wrist-to-wrist grip, as long as you can put pressure behind the opponent’s head. This will force the opponent’s chin to their chest. The power half-nelson creates so much pressure that it can submit opponents if they refuse to turn.



Applying techniques from different grappling martial arts will improve your overall Jiu-Jitsu. The half-nelson is an amazing technique that will keep many of your training partners on the defensive. Always ensure that you use proper control when doing this technique, as it may cause injury when applied recklessly. 


You may also like:

What Is The Reverse De La Riva Guard In BJJ?

More in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Also On Evolve