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Submissions acre one of the most important parts of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Many people believe that the submission is the single most important part of bjj.  The goal in any competition or sparring is to submit your opponent, plain and simple.  So, for the beginners what are submissions?  We have all heard about them and we have all probably heard the expression “tap out.”  We see this on movies, T.V. and in the UFC so frequently.  One of the biggest clothing brands in the world was called “tap out.”

The art of submission is extremely old and dates back hundreds od years, it is one of the biggest parts of Jiu Jitsu and MMA because the goal is to beat your opponent into submission. Meaning that they will submit to your will, that is the martial arts perspective on the terminology.   Make them quit.  In bjj there are a myriad of different submisisons, we have chokes, chokes with the gi, arm locks, leg locks, wrist locks, neck cranks, groin locks, and so more.  To divide this more easily we can look at submissions in three categories, chokes, joint/ligament/and locks on the limbs, and attacks on the muscles. 

These three categories of submissions make up the clear majority of them.  Granted, there may be other ways to submit your opponent, in bjj, most of popular submissions fall under chokes, joint locks, and slicers.  Let’s delve deeper into this topic and learn more about all these submissions.


Chokes may be the most popular, most effective, and most devastating submissions that there are.  Contrary to popular belief, the chokehold is the most devastating attacks.  Let’s look at why.  If you have an arm lock and finish it and don’t let go, you will break your opponent’s arm.  If you have a knee bar, you will break the knee and potentially injure their ligaments, assuming you do not let go.

What many people think about the choke is that if you finish it, your opponent will just pass out, but if you held this after they passed out, you could cause brain damage, and potentially kill someone.  In order to understand how this works, we need to understand what a choke is. 

There are two types of chokes in bjj.  Most of them are focused on constricting your opponent’s carotid arteries, therefore, limiting the blood supply to the brain and rendering them unconscious.  The other attacks the trachea, or wind pipe and limits the oxygen to the brain.  With chokes on the carotid arteries, you are essentially giving your opponent a mini-stroke.  By cutting the blood supply to their brain, they can faint, have brain damage, or die.

When you constrict the trachea, you are essentially closing their windpipe and restricting oxygen which can also make them faint, or even cause death.  This is why chokes are actually the most devastating submissions, because if you finish them, assuming you hold it long enough, it can cause death.  The Gracie’s have always been infamous for saying “all men have the same arteries.”  This statement is basically said to imply that even if someone is much bigger and stronger than you are, you can still make them faint with a choke.  Imagine you are trying to arm bar a professional body builder, it might be hard, but if you get a choke on him, he can’t just curl his way out.  

There are so many different types of chokes that can be used in bjj, if we sat here and talked about them we would end up writing a book.  You can do chokes with the gi, without it, with your legs, with their legs, the possibilities are endless.  Let’s take a look at a cross choke variation below.  The cross choke utilizes the lapels on the gi to constrict the blood flow to your opponent’s brain.

Joint Locks

Joint locks is a broad term that refers to a multitude of different attacks.  For instance, the arm bar, wrist lock, knee bar, heel hook, toe hold, and all of these very popular submissions fall under the category of joint locks.  This does not mean that they only attacks joints.  For example, the arm bar can break a bone in the elbow and it can tear a ligament in the arm, this is a devastating submission. 

What are the benefits of doing joint locks?  Well, the fact of the matter is that sometimes it is difficult top attack someone’s neck and joint locks tend to present themselves often.  A good Jiu Jitsu practitioner is able to capitalize on the opportunities that his opponent presents him.  Sometimes there may be a limb exposed and you can jump on it and attack it.  This is why Jiu Jitsu is one of, if not the best martial arts to learn submissions from.  You will learn how to attack all kinds of submissions.

Sometimes the best option to submit your opponent may be a joint lock.  They can be devastating and extremely effective in self-defense scenarios, a joint lock can easily render your opponent useless and be extremely debilitating.  Check out this arm lock below and watch all of the fine details on how to apply it.


Slicers is another broad term that we use in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to describe attacks on the muscle.  There are bicep slicers, calf slicers, hamstring slicers, and neck cranks.  Neck cranks are not commonly perceived as submissions but they can easily be devastating and debilitating.  Neck cranks, contrary to popular belief, typically attack the muscles on the back of your head and around your spine towards your neck.  These muscles make it possible to turn your neck and hold it up.  For example, if you tear your calf, you have limited mobility and may not even be able to walk.  If someone neck cranks you and tears the muscles behind your neck it can make it hard to move, potentially paralyze you, and herniate discs.  Neck cranks are no joke and they are illegal in the majority of tournaments because of the risk of paralysis.  They are not like chokeholds where when you feel your opponent go limp you can let go.

Bicep slicers, calf slicers, and other slicers can also be devastating.  Many people perceive them as “pain” submissions and that is exactly what they are most of the time, but they have the capability to tear your muscle.  For example, if you finish a bicep slicer, you may tear your opponent’s bicep which requires surgery to fix, depending on the extent of the tear. 

There you have it guys, an overview on what submissions are.  Many times when we practice bjj we forget of the potential damage that these submissions can cause.  Not tapping quick enough can be a humble reminder of the risk associated with Jiu Jitsu.  If you want to sharpen your chokes, check out Travis Stevens DVD all about chokes.  Travis is a world class bjj black belt and a Judo Olympic Silver Medalist.


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