Top 5 BJJ Choke Holds with Andre Galvao, Travis Stevens, Fabio Gurgel and John Danaher!
Today we are going to learn 5 powerful chokes from 4 of the most sought after instructors in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world! Some of these techniques utilize the gi others do not, meaning they are applicable to no gi submission grappling and Mixed Martial Arts competition as well (find No Gi Choke Mastery by Gabriel Almeida). The first choke taught by ADCC Champion Andre Galvao is the knuckle compression on the arteries, or “nutcracker” choke followed by an ezekiel choke from the back position taught by Judo Olympian Travis Stevens (instructor of Understanding Collar Chokes). Our third technique to study will be a clock choke performed by the mastermind John Danaher followed by a Brabo Choke taught by 4-time World Champion Fabio Gurgel and finishing with our last technique the rear naked choke again taught by John Danaher!
The first technique we will learn is from Andre Galvao. The starting position for this technique is the mount. Before showing the setup, Professor Galvao stresses the important detail that when doing this technique your goal is to get your knuckles on the soft sides of the neck, not where the neck is hard on the front. Your goal is still to constrict the arteries not necessarily to crush the front of the trachea, your pressure should come from the side.
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Andre Galvao starts by having his bottom partner push up on his chest to try to remove him from the mount. As the opponent pushes Professor Andre’s chest, Galvao will look to swim his hands through the inside of the opponent’s arms. Notice when Galvao swims, he is trying to get his shoulder through the hole to remove the hands. Once Andre has swam through the arms he will grab a 4 finger grip on the inside of the collar on both sides of the opponent’s neck. Once he has his grip, Professor Galvao makes sure to keep his elbows flared out for stability, he then lifts his arms up slightly to put pressure on the carotid arteries and not on the necks muscles. To finish his submission Andre will squeeze both hands together, trying to connect his fist through the opponent’s neck using his two big knuckles.
Our second technique is the ezekiel choke from the back, taught by Travis Stevens. Our starting position from the back is both feet hooking the inside of the opponent’s thighs and a seat belt grip to control the opponent's torso. Travis will place his left arm as the over hook (meaning his left arm is over the opponent’s left shoulder) and his right arm as the inder hook (meaning his right arm is under the opponent’s right armpit). From this starting back control position, Travis explains his first goal is to make an angle on his opponent’s back and that he needs to get his under hook arm deep around the opponent’s neck.
The first to make his angle and to make his under hook arm deeper, Travis Stevens removes his left hook and threads his right hook deeper, going across the opponents waist and hooking the outside of the thigh with his foot. Once his leg is across the waist Travis can put his right hand fingers into his left sleeve and then places his left forearm on the other side of the neck for ezekiel choke. To finish the choke, Travis falls to his side and tosses his left leg over the opponent’s shou;der allowing him to finish his choke.
Travis Stevens has additional details that will make this technique more effective. The first is when he makes his angle. Notice that because he is missing a hook on one side, the opponent may be able to rotate out of your back control. What Travis does to remedy this is he grands the opponent’s belt with his over hook side arm while pinching his left knee into the opponent’s hip. Now, once you make your angle, notice what Travis does with his under hook shoulder. Travis must lower his shoulder and get it under the opponent’s arm pit (similar to a head and arm choke position) this allows Professor Stevens to thread his under hook as deep as he needs. To get that under hook deep, Travis does what he calls “rocking the ship”. This means he will fall to the under hook side and pull the opponent up and over him while simultaneously using his free thigh to bump the opponent’s butt to help put him where Travis needs him. Check also American Judo System: The Koshi-Guruma Encyclopedia by Travis Stevens.
Onto the third technique. We have a clock choke from the turtle position, taught by John Danaher. The starting position over Professor Danahers hands is his right hand under the opponent’s armpit, feeding the near side lapel across to his left hand on the other side of the opponent’s neck, catching a thumb in grip. His now free right hand will then grab the other lapel down low. Once John has his grips he will look to remove the slack in the collar by pulling down on the lapel with his right hand. Pulling out this slack stops the lapel from shifting and sliding out of place on you while you try to finish your choke.
The next step for Professor Danaher is to enter into what he calls the wedge position, where his right knee is behind the opponent’s tricep. From the wedge, John will sit his right leg through his left so he can clear the opponent’s shoulder line. Once past the shoulder line, Professor John Danaher will begin to sprawl his hips back while simultaneously placing his head to the floor. All of this done together with the proper grips will put a tremendous amount of pressure into the opponent’s neck.
Technique 4 is a Brabo choke performed by Fabio Gurgel. The starting position for this technique is a cross side control. Professor Gurgel will have a cross face with his right arm and an under hook with his left arm. For this technique, the partner on the bottom will have one frame on Fabio’s hip and the other arm framing his neck. Because the hands are inside, it is difficult for Fabio to attack the neck. Professor Gurgel’s first step is to start opening the opponent’s lapel with his left hand where he will feed it under the opponent's elbow to his cross face hand.
Once Fabio Gurgel has the lapel grip he will then look to transition to a knee on belly position so there is room for his second grip as well as prompting the opponent to roll to their side. When in knee on belly a common reaction is for people to turn towards you and to hip away, Professor Gurgel knows of this reaction and plans on exploiting it. Once the opponent hips away, Professor Fabio will keep his knee up so his shin continues to block the opponent’s legs from retaining their guard while he simultaneously switches the lapel from his right hand to his left. This allows him to grab the same lap over the neck with his now free right hand. To finish his choke, Professor Gurgel will place his head over top of the opponent’s head, not forward. Fabio will continue to keep his knee up because this helps him lean in the proper direction for the choke to work correctly.
Our final technique is the rear naked choke. The rear naked choke is the highest percentage submission in combat sports because it is simple, powerful and is performed from the most advantageous position, the back control. Professor John Danaher starts by showing the most common mistake people make when trying to perform this technique, they wrap the opponent’s neck with both arms. When wrapping with both arms it is very easy for the opponent to fight your grips and rotate towards you. To prevent the rotation, John will get one arm under and one arm over. His left hand goes under the partners left armpit and controls the wrist while his right arm goes elbow over the right shoulder. This seatbelt grip makes it difficult for the opponent to rotate. Professor Danaher then says that if he had hooks in as well it would be even more difficult for the opponent to rotate as well. Another variation John can do that is also very effective is he can clasp his hands together instead of holding the wrist.
The first goal for Professor Danaher is to get his wrist under the opponent’s chin. The opponent will almost always be looking to keep their chin tucked in tight. Danaher states that if he can atleast get his wrist under the opponent’s neck, the rest of his forearm will follow easily. To get under the chin, Professor Danaher says to think of your hand like a knife. You want to make a thin edge that can cut through underneath of the opponent’s jawline. Once under the jawline with your wrist, you can progressively continue to advance your choking arm deeper and deeper until ultimately your elbow and forearm are under their neck. An effective way to make this happen is to use your thumb knuckle at the top of the jawline by your opponent’s ear. Once he slides that thumb knuckle under the starting jawline, John will use his fingers to crawl his hand deeper until his whole hand is under the chin. Once John has walked his hand deep enough that his wrist is under the opponent’s neck he will lift his wrist then shoot his whole forearm and elbow through.
Once under the chin and around your opponent’s neck John will look to grab at the nape of the neck, like he is grabbing the opponent’s spine. Danaher does not want to grab the shoulder because his opponent can easily grab John’s hand and strip the grip. Once his choking hand is hidden, John must move his second arm into position. Another common mistake people do is they try to grab their bicep right away. This extends your arm, allowing the opponent to control your second hand.
To minimize hand exposure, Professor John Danaher will put his left hand over the right hand. Once he is wrist over wrist, Professor Danaher will place his left elbow over the opponent’s shoulder while his left hand goes for his own right shoulder (Professor Danaher does not put his hand on the opponent’s head, this exposes your hand for them to grab and defend). Once the elbow is over the opponent’s shoulder, John is now safe to pop his right hand out from behind the opponent’s neck and can grab his left bicep. To finish the choke, Professor John Danaher will rotate his right elbow, trying to place it behind his opponent's right shoulder. Also check Triangle Chokes From Everywhere by Antonio Carlos Junior.