5 Fundamental No-Gi Chokes

Submissions are one of the most important aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and grappling based martial arts; they signify an instantaneous, undeniable triumph. The most effective way to win a match is via submission because there is no doubt of who the winner is. When it comes to No-Gi, the submission rate is often different than in the Gi due to the smaller number of opportunistic submissions available, so sometimes it can feel difficult to submit your opponent (plus all of the lycra sweat and slipping around can add to the difficulty).

If you are a beginner, you may feel overwhelmed by the wide variety of submissions available and struggle to execute them. Stick to the submissions that resonate with you. The higher belts submitting everyone in the gym are usually submitting people with the basics over and over again (because they have learnt to get really good at a few subs instead of trying to learn them all). There are some submissions that you can always rely on. If you want to get the most out of your training, you should focus on high percentage finishes that will be useful from white belt all the way through black belt.

Below we are going to go through 5 fundamental No-Gi chokes, and one thing to note in mind is that, all of the submission techniques that work in No-Gi translate to the Gi as well – but the opposite is not true. In no particular order:

1. Guillotine

The guillotine is one of the first submissions many white belts learn, and can be performed from a variety of positions including mount, open guard and even standing, and in both gi and no gi applications.

The front headlock position is one that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu borrowed from wrestling. The guillotine is such a great submission because it is attainable from the first point of contact and can quickly take a fight from standing to a submission very easily.

As well as being a simple choke to execute, the guillotine also has the added benefit of being either a blood or an air choke. There are plenty of Guillotine choke variations available out there, but the highest percentage ones are, the arm-in guillotine and the Marcelotine (Marcelo Garcia inspired high elbow guillotine).

This simple choke can be performed from several grappling positions, including: the closed guard, standing position, butterfly guard and mount. This technique can be employed against opponents who have shot in for a single- or double-leg takedown (often mistakenly when the opponent has their head on the outside whilst shooting), against a turtling opponent, or set up from the guard and varying positions listed above.

Check out this in video of the high-elbow guillotine choke instructed by its inventor, Marcelo Garcia,

2. D’arce

The D’Arce is a variation of the arm triangle which uses the practitioner’s forearm combined with the opponent’s own arm, head and shoulder. The D’Arce choke is commonly applied from: side control, turtle, north-south and half guard. The D’arce and Anaconda choke are very similar but are also very compatible with each other. Whenever you have an Anaconda choke on one side, the D’arce is there on the opposite, and vice-versa. The only difference is in the direction the arm goes through.

For the d’arce choke, you thread your choking arm under the opponent’s armpit first, and then across the neck. For the Anaconda, you start with the neck and end across through the opposite armpit. The D’arce choke attacker will utilize his arm as deep as possible to manipulate and produce a lot of pressure on their opponent’s neck.

A must have choke in your choking arsenal.

Watch World No-Gi black belt champion Jeff Glover demonstrate the d’arce with Bernardo Faria,

3. Head and Arm

Also known as: kata gatame and arm triangle. The head and arm choke is one that uses the practitioner’s arm wrapped around the opponent’s neck, and the opponent’s own shoulder to finish. It often starts from the mount position, and usually requires the practitioner to dismount to complete.

The arm triangle choke is very much like the traditional triangle choke, only done with the arms. In terms of positioning, it can be set up from multiple positions, such as north-south, mount or top half guard but is best finished from side control. The arm triangle choke is another simple and successful submission often used at the highest levels in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts (MMA). Remember when Islam Makhachev submitted Charles Oliveira via arm-triangle at UFC 280? Savage.

The head and arm choke is among those blood chokes that put massive pressure on the opponent’s carotid arteries; just like other head and arm chokes (anaconda, d’arce etc).

Below is a great in-depth instructional analysis from Welsh Gi and No-Gi world champion, Ffion Davies,

4. Rear Naked Choke

The rear naked choke can also be referred to as the rear naked strangle, the lion killer, sleeper hold, the mata leão in Portuguese, hadaka-jime in judo, or abbreviated to RNC for short. The staple of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and arguably the king of chokes, the RNC is simple and one of the highest percentage chokes in the sport. While also applicable in the Gi, it is tailor-made for No-Gi or MMA conditions as the ‘naked’ emphasizes it is a choke designed without the need for a Gi. This choke can only be executed from the back position.

Recent studies have shown that the rear-naked choke takes an average of 8.9 seconds to render an opponent unconscious regardless of the grip that is used. The Rear Naked Choke is the choke you see in movies that instantly puts people to sleep (albeit, usually performed wrong, but we move).

The armbar comes in first when it comes to the highest percentage finishes in BJJ, but following next is the Rear Naked Choke. This again, is a simple choke that is successful all the way from white belt to black belt.

The main goal is to restrict the blood flow to the head by blocking the side of the neck. Alternatively, you can also apply pressure to the front of the neck to directly attack the windpipe, making this both a blood choke and an air choke.

Watch New Wave Jiu Jitsu founder and renowned BJJ coach, John Danaher display his techniques for finishing the RNC,

5. Short Choke

This choke is the perfect fallback option if you are failing at an RNC, however, it can also serve as a checkpoint when setting them up. To finish it, all you need is a forearm across the neck, and to clasp your hands together. One main difference is that this choke is more of a crushing- the-windpipe kind of choke than a blood choke, due to the forearm running across the throat.

When you can’t manage to get the Rear Naked Choke because the opponent is grip fighting too much, or whenever the arm cannot go all the way over the shoulder, you should opt for the short choke instead.

The Short Choke sets up from the same control as the RNC. However, it differs in that it can be done with one hand and doesn’t need to be as deep as the RNC. With an RNC you would still need to connect both arms together to generate the squeeze. However, it is possible to finish the Short Choke with one arm.

Unlike the RNC, the Short Choke focuses on getting your forearm under the throat, as opposed to the crook of your elbow. Because of this, the initial depth of your arm doesn’t have to go as far. However, ideally, the Short Choke is finished with both hands connected as it adds to greater control. Typically most people would use a gable grip to create this position.

The short choke is great because it can be unexpected, difficult to defend, and is quick to learn.

Watch Corey Guitard, the first black belt under Louis Ho demonstrate how to execute a short choke,

How long does it take to make your opponent unconscious?

According to Stellpflug et al (2020), a study that was conducted last year and published in the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, the time it takes until unconsciousness from sportive chokes in fully resisting highly trained combatants are:

  • Bulldog Choke- 6.2 seconds
  • Arm Triangle – 7.2 seconds
  • D’Arce choke – 8.6 seconds
  • Headlock – 8.8 seconds
  • Guillotine – 8.9 seconds
  • Rear Naked Choke – 8.9 seconds
  • North South Choke – 9.4 seconds
  • Anaconda Choke – 9.5 seconds
  • Triangle Choke – 9.5 seconds
  • Arm in guillotine – 10.2 seconds
  • Von Flue Choke – 10.5 seconds

Lucy Wynne

BJJ Purple Belt living in, London, England. I began training BJJ back in 2017, when I was at university, and have trained ever since. #OSS Instagram: @journowynne

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