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Basic Gi Chokes From the Back: A BJJ Tutorial

Original art from Revolution BJJ student Aaron Hollander

Original art from Revolution BJJ student Aaron Hollander

About Gi Chokes

Very early on in your Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, you are likely to learn that the back is one of the most dominant position—if not the most dominant position—in all of grappling. Not only can you attack your opponent with near impunity, but your opponent can't effectively attack you or even see where the attacks are coming from.

As you progress through the ranks in BJJ, one thing will remain constant; being on someone's back is a great place to be. Here are some very good, basic options for finishing the lapel choke from the back.

Sliding Lapel or Okuri-Eri-Jime

Here's the first option for finishing a gi choke from the back' the "sliding lapel" choke. In judo, this is called okuri-eri-jime, and you will see a large number of matches finished with this powerful choke, not only from the back with hooks, but also from the turtle position. Note that it's important to start all of these from a "seat belt", "harness", or "over/under" grip from the back, starting with phenomenal control and never relinquishing it until you have the submission.

Start each of these chokes by opening the lapel with your left hand (the one that is under the arm of your partner), and then turn the lapel out, so you can reach very deeply with your right hand. Once you have a firm grip, your second hand can go to work. While the first hand pulls across the neck (think about a combination of "Jack the Ripper" and casting a fishing line), your left hand pulls down, tightening the lapel. It's helpful here to see the lapel for what it is: one piece of fabric, not two. If you take the slack out of one side, the other side will tighten as a consequence. Finally, leaning back into the choke and using your body's position really helps stretch your partner out, making the choke super tight.

Kata-Ha-Jime, the Single Wing Choke

This is a classic, dominant finishing position. Starting from the same position as before (over/under or "harness" position), your partner is defending the second lapel grab with your left hand. This time, you're simply going to pull your arm upward against your partner's elbow, elevating their arm up above their head (and, by the way, completely negating their ability to defend with their left hand). From here, you just need to "karate chop" behind their neck, closing their neck's ability to move backward, and making your right hand's lapel grab incredibly tight, incredibly quickly. Expect your partner to tap or go to sleep within 2 or 3 seconds.

Bow and Arrow Choke

Here we see the most popular choke finish in all of sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition, the bow and arrow choke. Start with the same grip, but this time, you are unable to grab your partner's lapel or hook under their arm for one of the previous options. In this case, all you have to do is reach down with your free left hand (your right hand is in their lapel as before), and grab the outside of your partner's pants, preferably right at the knee. This will keep your partner from being able to defend the choke by turning into it. Before you start making the "bow and arrow" pulling motion, you need to create an angle. Start by stepping on their hip with your right foot, and then follow up by swinging your left foot to replace your right foot. Try to hook their hip with your "live toes" if possible (this will make it insanely difficult for them to catch your foot in a "half guard" type position).

While you may be able to get the submission with a simple angle (and keep in mind that this is a very, very powerful choke), it might be helpful to step over their far shoulder with your free right leg (the one that isn't hooking their hip). Note that the arms do very little work with the finish; it's actually the straightening of your left leg that ends up applying the choke. Always use your body positioning and maximize your leverage any time you can to finish a submission!

All Levels

These three chokes work at all levels of sport BJJ, but as you work up the hierarchy from white to black belt, you will likely find that your opponent's defenses evolve quickly. For this reason, the bow and arrow is the preferred finish for black belts on other black belts, and this is evident when watching jiu-jitsu competition videos. Keep working on the fundamentals, developing a deep understanding of the basics, and you will be well served along your jiu-jitsu journey! For a more advanced way to get to the back in the first place, check out BJJ Kimura Grip Rolling Back Take.

© 2015 Andrew Smith