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The Cross Choke

The Cross Choke

The cross choke is one of the first gi chokes that you learn in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Many people say that “it is the first choke you learn and the last one that you master.”  Bjj has a multitude of different gi chokes, but the cross choke is one of, if not, the most powerful and versatile choke.

The cross choke has several benefits; one of the biggest of them, is the fact that it can be applied from a variety of different positions.  Some of those include full mount, side control, knee on belly, bottom half guard, top half guard, and when someone is in your closed guard.  We are going to discuss the cross choke from when you’ve passed your opponents guard, when you’re in top half or knee slice position, and when someone is in your half guard or closed guard.

So with all of the possibilities that a good cross choke can bring, this is a weapon that you need to add to your arsenal.  You need to embrace the lapels and use this choke to help expand your game.  Let's dig a little deeper on this topic and see what possibilities lye with the cross choke. 

The Cross Choke from Full Mount, Side Control, and Knee on Belly

The cross choke is one of the chokes that can be applied from nearly any position once you have passed your opponents guard.  In bjj, there are so many gi chokes, but none as versatile as the cross choke.  You can effectively apply the cross choke from knee on belly, side mount, and full mount.  We recently posted on knee on belly attacks and showed some cross choke set ups, if you’d like to sharpen your knee on belly arsenal, click here.

 The cross choke has several different set ups, and grips.  You can go palm up with both hands, you can go palm down with both hands, or with one hand, and you can put your left hand over right, or vice versa.  That being said, it can be a choke that surprises your opponent and is applied quickly, or you can be more methodical with your approach and set it up.  Check out this video from 10x World Champion, Roger Gracie, who is known for his devastating cross choke showing how to apply the cross choke properly.  You can implement these details to finish your cross choke from anywhere.

The Cross Choke is not only an excellent option from the top position because of the devastation it can cause and the high percentage success rate, but also because of the chain attacks available with this submission.  Many times when you are trying to get a cross choke your opponent will expose a limb or something else so that they do not get choked.  This is one of the best reasons to threaten the cross choke even if the neck is not open.  If your opponent lets you get your grips, than they need to pay.  this is a serious mistake. 

The Cross Choke from Top Half Guard or Knee Slice

The cross choke is also very effective when in top half guard or when passing your opponents guard with a knee slice.  You can use it as a submission or you can apply the choke in order to distract your opponent to make the pass easier. If you want to learn about a cool set up from knee slice check out our post "Leandro Lo's Cross Choke from Knee Slice."

Sometimes a good strategy to pass is to threaten a submission so your opponent focuses on defending the submission, not the guard pass.  Many top level bjj competitors such as Leandro Lo, Roger Gracie and Romulo Barral constantly utilize the cross choke from top half guard or knee slice position.  Check out this slick set up from Black Belt World Champion, Romulo Barral, demonstrating a cross choke from knee slice.p

When you are threatening a submission with the intent of finishing it, this can be an excellent way to pass your opponent's guard.  This is because you are going to force them to choose on what they need to defend.  If they are about to get choked out, then they will need to alleviate the the pressure from the choke and by doing so they will need their hands.  When their attention is on the choke you can use this opportunity to pass.

Not only is the cross choke an excellent distraction to allow you to get the pass, you can also use it stop them from sweeping you. Sometimes your opponent may be trying to sweep you and the best way to make them give up on their sweep is to force them to defend.  The best defense is a good offense.  In the half guard, it is very common that your opponent will try and come up for a single leg or something and by doing so they will expose their neck and their collars.  The versatility of the cross choke is almost unparalleled. You can use this attack to stop the sweep.  

Sometimes when you are in a grudge match in a tournament, this can be your saving grace.  Picture this, you are up 6-4 in a tournament and in the half guard.  Your opponent is getting closer and closer to the sweep, you jump on the cross choke in an attempt to get the sub but in fact you are able to stop his sweep and win the match.  As much as people may hate reading this, the reality of point based tournaments is that we need to play the rules and use strategy for our victory. 

The Cross Choke from Bottom Half Guard and Closed Guard

The cross choke is not only a useful submission from top positions; it is also very effective from the bottom half guard, and closed guard.  Just like you can threaten a cross choke to pass, you can threaten a cross choke to set up a sweep or another submission. 

The same principle applies.  Anytime you threaten a good opponent with a strong submission, they will defend the submission and forget about the sweep or their guard.  Jiu Jitsu is all about action reaction.  Check out this cross choke set up from closed guard and how he also uses it to set up other attacks from the closed guard.

Just as you can use this submission to distract your opponent and get the sweep, you can also use the cross choke to get other submissions.  For example, a popular double attack from the closed guard is to threaten a cross choke and when your opponent addresses the collar grips you can create an angle for an arm bar, wrist lock, or triangle.  The cross choke is something that almost all of us need to master.  they say as we said earlier, it is the first choke you learn and the last you master.  The cross choke can be your best friend or your worst enemy. 

If you want to sharpen your skills and add some attacks to your arsenal, check out Black Belt World Champion, Leandro Lo’s DVD, “The Lo Guard and Matrix Passing.”