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The Power of the Head and Arm Choke
The head and arm choke, arm triangle or kata gatame is a very powerful blood choke submission that can be introduced early in a student's BJJ training because of the relative simplicity of it's fundamental details and continue to pay dividends at all levels of progress due to the variety of angles and positions from which to secure the position and the small refinements that can be added along the way.
As a student develops their top game, I find most people tending to favor side control over mount. We are all told from the very first class we take that top mount is one of the most powerful and favorable positions, but as we train due to our own technical errors and our opponents skill, we find ourselves swept or losing mount to end up in a less powerful position. For that reason, side control, in my experience, is where most beginning and intermediate students begin to focus their attention. The head and arm choke can be applied very effectively from side control. But the true beauty of the head and arm choke is that it can build a bridge back to the mount and help to develop the confidence of the student who wants to start building their mount attack arsenal.
In the video below, Emily Kwok shares her own personal story of developing a more confident mount. The details she shares on the head and arm triangle are guaranteed to improve your ability to strangle an opponent from the mount.
Key Details of Emily's Head and Arm Choke
Secure the high mount to begin setting up the Head and Arm Choke
The details Emily shares about engaging her abdomen and lowering her hips to strengthen her base and further make her opponent carry the weight of her body are crucial to force the opponent to make adjustments which allow one to use your knees under the elbows to secure a higher mount.
Control the arm and use the weight of the chest
Once the opponent's arm can be isolated and controlled the chest is used to hold it into place, while the same-side knee is brought up to further strengthen the hold. It's key that you keep your body at a slight angle to maximize control and pressure on the back of the opponent's tricep to prevent them from bringing their elbow to the ground.
Roll the elbows to further tighten the Head and Arm Choke
Once your arm wraps around the opponent's head and neck, the goal is to reach for the bicep on the opposite arm (closest to their trapped arm). Then by shifting the weight back and forth on your elbows and reaching further up your tricep each time, more and more space can be removed, making the strangle a foregone conclusion.
Dismount and keep hips low during the finish of the Head and Arm Choke
Once the head, neck and arm are held as tight as possible, it is now time to dismount and put your hips flat to the mat next to your opponent's hips. Then by moving your hips away from their hips, as if you were moving to a North/South position, the submission will be secured and the opponent will tap or go to sleep.
A great recent example of a head and arm choke was demonstrated by one of the most highly decorated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu artists of all time, Roger Gracie in his One FC MMA match against Michal Pasternak. Watch how with textbook precision, Roger locks in the choke and secures his opponent's fate.
Are you looking to add to your choke repetoire with more chokes than the classic head and arm triangle? Check out this BJJ Fanatics article focusing on all of the variations of head and arm chokes here.
Once the mechanics of the kata gatame or head and arm choke begin to settle into muscle memory, a student will begin to see all of the different places from which they can land this powerful and effective strangle. Learning its set up from side control might be the first place we learn to attack this choke, but with some practice, one can begin to apply it from the mount, closed guard or even standing, to name just a few positional variations.