Top 3 Chokes for BJJ & MMA
Top Chokes for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
“For the choke, there are no tough guys”. This is an old saying from Helio Gracie and it is absolutely true. A strong, tough, athletic person can very easily ignore the pain of a joint lock and eventually power out of it, especially if the person applying the lock is Helio Gracie’s size (which I am about). But the choke, oh the beautiful choke, they can struggle and take the pain, but if that choke is locked in tight they are going to sleep. Chokes are one of the great equalizers for us small guys, no way would I be able to out strength a 250lb gorilla of a man to fully extend his arm to the breaking point or lock up a Kimura and be strong enough to rotate that shoulder. A good amount of time I can’t even isolate arms on my larger training partners. But I sure as heck can out maneuver them and get my arms around their neck, and once that happens it is either tap or nap. That massive size and strength difference means nothing when the blood flow to your brain is being cut off.
Chokes are the great equalizer in Jiu Jitsu, MMA and all grappling arts. If you are not exploring chokes in your jiu jitsu game, you are not a complete jiu jitsu martial artist.
Today we’ll go over some of the highest percentage chokes you can get on the mats. Some will be personal favorites, some will be ones you see in high level competition, and some will be ones I find myself victim to. So strap in and let’s explore the wonderful world of chokes for jiu jitsu.
Cross Collar Choke:
Most likely the first choke you ever learned in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and most likely a choke that does not work too well for you. If you do struggle with this choke, don’t worry about it, you’re just one of the countless grapplers that have struggled with this choke. Hell, I never really started hitting this in training until I was a several year purple belt, and that’s perfectly normal. Because this is a choke everyone learns to do right at the beginning of their Jiu Jitsu journey, this is also a choke everyone learns to defend right at the beginning of their Jiu Jitsu journey. But that does not make this a bad or low percentage choke at all, we just need to understand the small details better and then it is a killer. Roger Gracie is the perfect example of this, he has broken down the little details so much that he is the only high level black belt that I can think of that chokes people with this regularly. He is still doing the exact same choke we struggle with, he has just gained a better understanding of it and you will too.
Roger Gracie Cross Choke:
Keenan Mounted Cross Choke:
Rear Naked Choke:
The Mata Leao in Portuguese translates to “The Lion Killer”, and that is exactly what this choke can do. The ancient images of Hercules killing a lion with this choke is what earned it its name, but get any decent grappler on someone’s back and it is a very likely conclusion that someone is getting choked out. Looking at stats from UFC 1 – 168, the Rear Naked choke is by far the highest percentage submission, like it is not even close. The Rear Naked Choke accounts for 32% of submission victories, the next closest, the guillotine, only accounts for 18% of submissions. And just in recent history, Conor McGregor has been finished in both his UFC losses to variations of the Rear Naked Choke. It is a truly powerful move that earns the distinction of being called “The Lion Killer”
Stephan Kestin Rear Naked Choke:
Bas Rutten Rear Naked Choke:
As I mentioned in the Rear Naked Choke section, the Rear Naked Choke is the highest percentage sub in UFC and the guillotine is the second highest. It is also worth noting that the top two submissions are chokes, and out of the six highest percentage submissions listed, four of them are chokes.
For some other great takes on guillotine chokes check out some of these other grapplers: Marcelo Garcia, Kron Gracie, and Jeff Glover.
The guillotine is amazing against wrestlers. it is quite common for wrestlers to expose their necks a little bit when going for a shot allowing us Jiu Jitsu guys to snatch up their necks getting the tap. Once they learn to tuck that chin and shrug their shoulders to protect their necks, it becomes more difficult but not impossible. Also pressure passers, like myself, often rely on making pressure with their heads which can expose the neck. When I do get caught in a guillotine this is usually why. And as I’ve mentioned a bunch before, all my favorite techniques have many variations and options you can easily switch to, and the guillotine is no different. You have the regular guillotine choke, the arm in, the high elbow, or the power guillotine just to name a few, can finish it standing, in guard, or in the mount. A truly effective and versatile choke.
Stephan Kesting Guillotine Choke Choke:
Those are just a few of the best choke options in BJJ, but there are countless others out there. I’ve written dedicated articles just on the triangle choke and the baseball choke. If you are interested in detailed breakdowns of those two particular chokes you should check those out.
Chokes are truly an amazing tool for the grappler and a great equalizer for us smaller ones. It is definitely worth your time and effort to get as proficient with chokes as you can. Study them and learn the details and I’ll see you on the mats.