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The Perfect Rear Naked Choke with John Danaher
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The Perfect Rear Naked Choke with John Danaher

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The rear naked choke. This technique could be the most recognized submission in all of combat sports. In fact, even most people that don’t take part in martial arts themselves can identify this popular finish. We learn and experience the technique quite early in our training and most of the time it’s a bit of a lightbulb moment for beginners. Who’d have thought that wrapping your arm around someone’s neck and squeezing could be such an intricate process. There are dozens of small details at work, that make a rear naked choke more effective, efficient, and a game over tactic. 

Throughout history wave watched the rear naked choke put down many practitioners of our art and other arts as well. I can recall watching the early Gracie challenge videos and MMA matches where the rear naked choke was constantly called up as a favorite finisher. The back position in general was somewhat of an arcane position at the time. The acquisition of the back and the subsequent choke was a new experience for many and once acquired, things got ugly. 

The truth is, the RNC is king. Regardless of an opponent size, strength, or abilities, if you can seize the back position and lock one in, there’s little anyone can do to keep from succumbing to its power. This is the essence of BJJ. Attacking a small part of the body with our entire being levels the playing field in more ways than we can count.

So, when it comes to applying this legendary sub, what are we missing? It seems simple enough, right? You wrap the neck, secure the choke at the bicep and just squeeze. Maybe so. If you wish to understand the rear naked choke on a deeper level, you’ll want to watch this next video with John Danaher. Here, Danaher sheds some light on this important subject and shakes up what we thought we knew about the RNC. Take a look at this!

 

So, why “strangle”? As per usual, Danaher imparts his wisdom on the masses with explaining why he uses the term strangle rather than choke. As he explains, a strangle is the constriction of blood and a choke implies an air obstruction. Cutting off the blood supply is a much more efficient way to get results, so Danaher prefers the term strangle. There’s quite a bit going on inside that neck, and as Danaher explains its tough to have one without a bit of the other but ultimately, we’re looking to constrict blood for the best results. Here’s a step by step breakdown of the sequence leading up to the finish. Enjoy!

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#1 Stopping Rotation

Danaher begins with an important theme, stopping rotation. If you’ve experienced any of Danaher’s work from his previous instructional on the back, you’ll see some common ideas at work here. In order to begin acquiring the choke, Danaher must stop the rotation of his opponent’s body. To do this he uses wrist control on the under-hook side and his elbow as a pinching mechanism on his partner’s shoulder, shutting down rotation on the over hook side. The strangle is the focus here, but Danaher mentions the addition of lower body hooks as well, which would only add more strength to this idea. The common seatbelt grip will also accomplish this job if the same methods are observed when applying it. 

#2 Getting Under the Chin

This can be quite the task when you’re dealing with an experienced opponent. As Danaher explains, we need to have a certain amount of space between the chin and the chest to achieve strangulation. More often than not, unless you’ve caught your opponent in transition and by surprise this area will be closed off and we’ll need to find ways to penetrate it. So how much space do we need to get started? Danaher’s simple answer is the width of your own wrist. Once the wrist gains access to the space under the chin its incredibly difficult for our opponents to stop the rest of the arm from following. 

Danaher uses the metaphor here of a knife to describe the situation were faced with. WE need to start with the absolute thinnest part of entire limb to begin getting under the chin. TO do this, Danaher constructs a flattened fist of his hand, resting his thumb knuckle on his index finger and creating a very small wedge. He starts behind the ear, using this tiny wedge and begins to dig in to the space underneath he jaw. Once the thumb penetrates the space, the fingers are next. Danaher allows the tiny fist he’s made to open and fans his fingers out, using them to crawl across his partner’s upper chest area. As the thumb and fingers have worked their way in to the space, this leaves only the wrist to follow. Once the wrist has entered the space, Danaher now employs a technical trick to complete the process. He creates a hump in his wrist, very quickly and only for a split second, to enter the forearm in to the space. At this point, Danaher’s partner is in a great deal of trouble.

#3 Capturing the Neck

With the critical space under the chin acquired, Danaher proceeds to begin wrapping the neck. He touches on a very important aspect of progression here. Notice how Danaher forms his hand in to a cup and reaches deep behind his partners shoulder, almost as if he’s reaching for the spine. This keeps his hand safe from being captured when his opponent begins to dig for the forearm to stop the sequence of events. Grabbing across the shoulder here or securing too low will give our training partners the opportunity to prevent us from working toward the finish.

Don’t forget to stay sneaky here. Danaher demonstrates the common mistake of bringing the free arm in to a region where it can be easily grabbed, again halting our progress. Instead Danaher covers his strangling hand with his opposite hand and then transfers his elbow to the front side of his partner’s body, minimizing the exposure of his hands. 

#4 The Finish

Danaher now begins to crawl his hands deeper, solidifying the position. Here he addresses another misconception. Palming the back of the head during the finish is something we see quite often in various settings, but again this exposes our hand and disrupts the finish. Danaher advises us to use a palm down configuration of the hand and secures the opposite shoulder. To finish the strangle, Danaher places his chin over his wrist, locking it in place and then begins to squeeze with the addition of one very important detail. He rotates toward his choking arm as applies the squeeze. with the addition of this rotational concept, even with both hands defending the strangle, Danaher’s training partner is not able to put a stop to the submission. 

Everything you need to set yourself up for rear naked strangle success is right here. As Danaher explains, we owe it ourselves as practitioners of BJJ to make sure that our rear naked strangle is as efficient as possible, as it will serve us in many ways. 

Danaher covers all of this and so much more in his Enter the System volume on back attacks, available from BJJ Fanatics. There, you’ll find a complete road map to navigate the back, breaking down all of the challenges we face and the intricacies of the position. This was incredibly enlightening and a joy to watch. I hope you feel the same! 

Back Attacks Enter The System by John Danaher
The Enter The System series CHANGED Jiu-Jitsu. Whether you are catching triangles, strangling the neck, or rippin’ Heel Hooks there is a good chance you have John Danaher to thank for the major changes he has helped influence. Check out the complete Enter The System Series!

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