JIU JITSU CHOKES
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a strategic system of grappling that uses dynamic transitions, heavy pressure, and a fully loaded arsenal of submission maneuvers. The modern form of BJJ involves a high impact of take down ferocity, and an extremely detailed series of intricate new age innovations like an inverted guard, the berimbolo, and the leg entanglement game. There is an unlimited list of submission techniques that can be accessed, as students of the art will practise many variations of choke holds, and joint locks. Athletes of today will utilise a high volume of arm bars, kimuras, heel hooks, and knee bars, but the fact remains that utilising choke holds like rear naked chokes, triangles, cross collar chokes, and jiu jitsu guillotine chokes are far more deadly. In fact the top two submissions used at the highest levels of IBJJF competition, is the rear naked choke, and the triangle, with an arm bar rounding out the top three.
What this article covers:
- Different Ways to Apply a Choke
- Are Chokes Better than Joint Locks
- The Most High Percentage Chokes in BJJ
- Gi Chokes
- How to Defend Chokes
Even though there are incredible submissions that athletes can use on the limbs of their opponent, nothing beats a good old fashioned choke. The lifeline to an athlete is their spine, as it is connected to the head, meaning this is the most vital area that an athlete must protect. In a real life fight scenario a person can fight on with a broken arm, but they cannot fight on with a broken neck. This just shows how important it is to protect an athlete's neck during a BJJ competition. There is an infinite amount of choke holds that athletes can use, as each choke has multiple variations. Athletes of today are always inventing new ways to choke out their opponents, and this can be done using their legs, their hands, their forearms, the crooks of their elbows, and the lapels of their Gi.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO APPLY A CHOKE
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an extremely diverse Martial Art, which has a high calibre of submission maneuvers. There are many different ways to apply a choke on an opponent, and they will vary depending on the size and strength, as well as the division of the athlete. Athletes that are bigger, and stronger will usually have thicker necks, and this can make it extremely hard to finish a choke hold. Chokes can be applied to the trachea which is in the front of the neck, as this can force an athlete to have trouble breathing, as well as causing severe pain in the front, and the back of the neck. Some athletes have explained this type of choke as a neck breaker, and this choke will commonly be applied with the blade of an athlete's wrist. This is a common mechanism found in a guillotine choke, or a paper cutter choke.
Another way to choke an opponent is to apply pressure to both carotid arteries, which are located in the sides of an athlete's neck, and this is commonly known as a blood choke. This choke will cut off the blood supply from the heart to the brain, which will force an opponent to lose consciousness. The carotid arteries act like a sponge when they are compressed, as no blood can flow through. Once a choke is let go, then the arteries will inflate back to its original state, allowing blood to pump back into the brain, which is what inevitably wakes up an opponent. These chokes are commonly seen while an athlete is competing in the Gi, as they can apply different types of chokes like a cross collar choke, a loop choke, or a bjj bow and arrow choke. Using a lapel from the Gi uniform acts like a rope, and can cause significant trauma to an opponent's neck if it is left undefended.
Chokes can also be applied with an athlete's knuckles, or their forearms, and these are commonly seen with fist chokes, and variations of a jiu jitsu ezekiel choke. Chokes are not only executed with an athlete's arms, or hands, as there are multiple chokes that an athlete can execute with their legs. The triangle is one of the most successful Jiu Jitsu chokes, and can be secured during the Gi and the No Gi divisions. Using the squeezing power of an athlete's legs can be quite brutal, and easy to choke an opponent. There are many variations of the triangle including the teepee, and triangle versions where athletes will also combine their arms into the choke. Some athletes are extremely dexterous, and can also utilise their shins to submit their opponents, and this was commonly seen by the famous UFC legend and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Nate Diaz, as he submitted an opponent with the gogoplata.
ARE CHOKES BETTER THAN JOINT LOCKS
There will always be heavy debates in the Jiu Jitsu community about whether chokes, or joint locks are more effective in the submission game. An arm bar, or a heel hook will always prove extremely effective against a competitive opponent, but when you look at high level black belts competing, the most common submissions are rear naked chokes, and triangles. It is hard to say that chokes are definitively better than joint locks, but in the opinion of many high level athletes, chokes are definitely at the top of the mountain. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a Martial Art that is heavily compared to the game of chess, as it can often be referred to as human chess. In chess the Bishops, and the Knights represent the arms and the legs, the Queen represents the heart, and the King represents the brain, or the spine. All athletes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu must protect their spine, or their centreline, as this is what is connected to their brain, which is what controls all functions in the human body. Furthermore in a real life street altercation getting an arm broken, or a leg broken is a far better fate than having a neck broken, resulting in death. This is why chokes are considered better than joint locks.
THE MOST HIGH PERCENTAGE CHOKES IN BJJ
Chokes have always been considered the number one submission during all BJJ competitions, and this is due to the nature, and the aggressiveness of the submission. An opponent that can be put to sleep can no longer fight, as opposed to an athlete who is trapped into a joint lock, they may be able to escape, even once they have hyperextended the joint. The number one submission that has the highest strike rate in black belt world competition is the rear naked choke. This choke is secured after an athlete has taken back control over their opponent. There are many entries into a back take, and a good back control is where an athlete will have both of their hooks around their opponent's waist, and secure a tight grip with both of their arms. To finish the choke athletes just have to use one of their arms underneath the chin of their opponent, before applying significant pressure to the neck. There are different forms of rear naked chokes like the military choke, the fist in choke, and the full blown rear naked.
The triangle choke is the second highest percentage choke that is used in world class level BJJ competition. To secure a triangle, an athlete will commonly be in the guard position. There are many ways of executing a triangle choke, and one way is to secure two wrist grips, as one is pushed into the sternum of their opponent, while dragging the other wrist towards their own chest. At the same time the athlete will shoot one of their legs over the neck of their opponent, and lock into a triangle position with their legs. This choke will only get deeper once they can secure their opponent's arm underneath the throat, as they clamp down tighter, and lock their legs into a figure four position, while cutting the angle, and adding significant squeeze pressure. There are numerous setups into the triangle submission, and they can also be done from side control, mount, or even a flying triangle from the standing position.
One of the more modern chokes that has become extremely popular amongst higher level athletes, is the bjj darce choke. This formidable choke has been made famous by Jeff Glover and the Rotoulo Brothers, as their innovative entries and finishes of the darce choke have become synonymous with No Gi grappling. The beauty of a darce choke is there are entries everywhere, as they can literally be done from every single position there is in the BJJ arsenal. The darce choke has its own system, which combines with its brother chokes in the guillotine, and the anaconda. The most common position to secure a darce choke is when an opponent is in the turtle position, and the athlete threads their closest arm underneath their opponents arm, and reaches out to the furthest point of their neck. The mechanism is then locked by moving their other arm over the top of their opponents head, and cupping their own bicep. Finally the athlete will use their chest to trap their opponents tricep, whilst adding a significant squeeze power. The darce can be extremely brutal, and has now become one of the more popular submissions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The guillotine is another one of those chokes that has some serious street application, as it can be achieved from the front headlock position. In a real life situation it is probably the most common submission that will come to pass, as attackers will often stick their head out allowing an athlete to secure a grip around their neck. To initiate the guillotine, an athlete really only needs to have the front head lock position with their wrist firmly underneath the chin of their opponent, whilst their other hand grips together pulling up underneath the throat. To make this even stronger an athlete will pull guard, and allow their legs to have a tight control around the hips of their opponent. This is how an athlete can stop any form of escape, while they are stuck in a guillotine choke. There are other high percentage chokes like the head and arm triangle, which is basically the same as a normal triangle, except only using an athlete's arms to create the choke. Another good one is the north south choke bjj, and an athlete will commonly secure this choke once they have moved out of side control, and transitioned into the north south position. This choke is almost like an upside down guillotine, where the chest of the athlete will force their opponent's chin up, resulting in a brutal choke.
There are many high percentage Gi chokes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as many of these submissions are taught to students over the course of their journey. One of the first chokes they will learn is the bow and arrow choke, which is commonly executed after an athlete has secured back control. As an athlete is looking for the rear naked choke, they proceed to grab a collar grip underneath the chin, pulling it across the throat at the same time as unhooking their legs. Then shooting one leg over the top of the belly, and using the other hand grip to secure the pants. This will create a significant leverage within the body, forcing an opponent to tap. There are many other variations of the bow and arrow choke, as some of them include using their second hand around the back of the neck, which creates almost like a loop choke, or a reverse ezekiel. The best part about attempting these types of chokes is that the rear naked choke is still always a viable option even in the Gi, as after all it is the number one submission in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The cross collar choke is another extremely dangerous submission which is utilised by many professional BJJ athletes. The cross collar can be performed from the mount, or the guard position, and even from side control. To secure a cross collar choke an athlete needs to attack the lapel with a four fingers in, and one thumb out grip with their first hand, as they tighten the slack in the lapel underneath their opponent's throat. Their other hand reaches over the head, and grips onto some of the Gi fabric on the shoulder, or even the collar, before crossing their hands into a scissor like position, which will cause significant pressure around the neck of their opponent. This position can also be used for a similar choke called the baseball bat choke, as an athlete will switch their grips using a four fingers out, and one thumb in grip, and a four fingers in and one thumb out grip on the opposite hand, placing both grips on either side of the neck. Once they have secured these grips they will wait for their opponent to try and pass their guard, as they drop one forearm into the throat, causing a tight pressure around their opponent's neck.
Understanding how to become a Gi fighter in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu takes longer, and is significantly harder than the No Gi discipline. There are a multitude of different chokes that an athlete can secure while wearing the Gi. The Gi is an extremely strong piece of fabric, which has reinforced stitching, and an extremely strong lapel that acts like a rope. This uniform is a formidable weapon against an opponent, as athletes will commonly use many lapel tricks as a way of submitting a competitor. The lapel can be used to wrap around an opponent's neck, and pulled like a lawnmower to initiate chokes. Loop chokes are also similar, as an athlete will use the lapel to create loops, where they can feed the lapel through the gap, and submit their opponents. The brabo choke is another classic example of a brutal Gi choke, and this is where an athlete will open the lapel and feed it around their opponent's neck, giving it to the other hand, and finishing with a cross collar style of choke. Learning Gi chokes is a great way to finish off an opponent at the competitive level, and can also be used to stifle, and neutralise their opponent in a controlled position.
HOW TO DEFEND CHOKES
Defending chokes has become an art form, and the lifeline behind survivability in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Any athlete can learn techniques, or pressure control, and set up different chokes. Defending, and escaping from chokes will not only annoy an opponent, but will help the athlete gain a significant advantage back over their opponent. There are many different ways to defend chokes, and they all depend on which choke is initially being applied. It's common knowledge in BJJ that when an athlete is dealing with a Gi choke, they should always address the grips of their opponent, and not allow them to take significant control of their Gi fabric. This will ultimately help them to identify, and stop most chokes before they get too deep.
It is important to use frames as a way to defend chokes, because in most instances all the opponent needs to finish the choke is a restrictive space, and leverage. Using frames will help an athlete create space, and therefore will result in an easier defense for most chokes that are applied. Furthermore an athlete should be trying to get off of their back, and onto their side, so they do not get affected by a choke attempt. Defending chokes like a rear naked need to be fast, and once again the choking arm needs to be addressed. An athlete cannot allow their opponent to get underneath their chin with any sort of control, as this is a hard position to escape from. Using the chin down method, and a shoulder block on their carotid artery, will help stifle many choke attempts, making it harder for their opponents to secure. A lot of choke defense relies upon posture, especially when trying to defend the darce choke. An athlete should be posturing their neck, and spreading their shoulders, which will create an impossible angle for their opponent to squeeze. Defending chokes all have slight variations, and the most important part about these concepts is that an athlete can identify how they are being choked, so they know how to defend each choke attempt.
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