BJJ 101: The Rear Naked Choke (Videos)

The rear naked choke is one of the most effective techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Favored by smaller grapplers such as the legendary Marcelo Garcia, this choke requires little strength to complete, and it can be applied on opponents of all sizes. One of the things that makes the rear naked choke such a powerful submission is the position from which it is executed—the rear mount. The rear mount is considered the strongest position in BJJ—and for good reason. When the rear mount is secured, the mounted opponent faces a number of disadvantages, including:

  • The inability to effectively strike
  • The inability to see his opponent
  • Limited mobility

When combined, the above factors make the rear mount an extremely powerful position. In addition, the rear naked choke creates an anatomical mismatch that no amount of strength can negate. As opposed to other parts of the body, such as the arms and legs, the neck is uniquely vulnerable to attack. An opponent can, for example, resist an armbar attempt by clasping his hands together and using strength to fend off the attack. The rear naked choke, however, offers no such options. Once the choke is locked in, the opponent is rendered virtually defenseless. These factors make the rear naked choke an ideal self-defense, MMA, and competition technique.

Below are some concepts to keep in mind as you work on perfecting your rear naked choke.

1) Take the back

There are a number of ways to take an opponent’s back. And while the purpose of this article is not to provide step-by-step instructions on taking the back, it is important to understand that this position must be obtained prior to applying the rear naked choke. An effective method of taking the back from the closed guard involves crawling around the opponent’s body until the position is secured. This technique is favored by Roger Gracie, and it is extremely effective.

An effective no-gi method of taking the back is the arm-drag. This technique, favored by the legendary Marcelo Garcia, can be accomplished both from the ground and standing, and it provides a simple and quick way to achieve the rear mount.


2) Maintain control

Control is of the utmost importance in BJJ. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain control of the rear mount position once it is achieved. When a submission is attempted before control is established, the opponent’s chances of escape increase greatly. And this applies not only to the rear naked choke but to the majority of submissions in BJJ. Control from the rear mount position is obtained by using both the arms and legs. The arms are used to establish a seatbelt grip, which involves positioning an arm over the opponent’s shoulder and the other arm under the opponent’s opposite arm. The attacking student must also “get his hooks in,” which is the process of placing the legs around the opponent’s waist and using the heels for control. The combination of the seatbelt grip and hooks make it difficult for the opponent to escape the rear mount position. A few additional tips for maintaining control in rear mount include:
  • Focus on the upper body – This should include gripping, controlling, and threatening the choke.
  • Focus on the lower body – The primary goal here is to keep the hooks in the correct position. Usually, this will involve pressing one’s calves against the front of the opponent’s thighs with the heels pressed into his legs.
  • Focus on keeping the opponent on a particular side – Usually, it’s best to keep the opponent on his side with the choking arm closest to the ground.

Above is a video of Marcelo Garcia demonstrating his method of maintaining the rear mount position.


3) Apply the choke

Once the back is taken and control is established, the rear naked choke should be applied as follows:
  1. Transfer the top hand of the seatbelt grip to the opponent’s opposite shoulder, gripping it in a claw shape. This movement places the top arm under the opponent’s neck.
  2. Pull the bottom arm out from under the opponent’s armpit, clasping both hands together. The non-choking arm can be placed flat against the opponent’s back for additional control.
  3. At this point, the opponent will ordinarily attempt to remove the choking arm. When this happens, unclasp the hands and reestablish the claw grip on the opponent’s shoulder. Simultaneously, shoot the other hand forward to remove the opponent’s hand from the choking arm, thus limiting his ability to block the choke. This motion should be performed quickly, as its purpose is to catch the opponent off guard and impede his ability to defend himself from the choke.
  4. Once the defending hand has been removed, the palm-to-palm grip should be reestablished. At this point, there should be very little space around the opponent’s neck, and his hand should be removed from the forearm. The lack of space between the arm and neck make it extremely difficult for the opponent to reestablish a grip on the forearm.
  5. Finally, the non-choking hand should be positioned behind the opponent’s neck and locked into place. As this is done, the choking hand should be placed on the bicep of the non-choking arm. Once this position is established, the arms should be squeezed together as additional pressure is created by leaning forward slightly. The focus at this point should be on creating pressure from all directions. In addition, in order to make the choke even more powerful, the opponent’s body can be stretched out by extending the legs and arching the back. This, in addition to the squeezing together of the arms, creates a tremendous amount of pressure around the opponent’s neck.


Do you have an efficient method of taking the back? Do you work to establish control prior to attempting a submission? Do you have effective methods of thwarting your opponent’s rear naked choke defense? Incorporate the above concepts and techniques into your game, and your opponents will fear your rear naked choke.

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