Why do Some BJJ submissions fail to work sometimes? It happens to everyone along their BJJ journey, and there’s no way around it. There are times when you did everything right, but the choke just doesn’t seem to work. Regardless of how much you squeeze or pull, nothing is happening. There are a few factors here, but for the sake of argument, we’re going to presume that you know what you’re doing when you’re looking to strangle someone. So how come it won’t work? Well, you’re either messing something up, your opponent is a freak, or you’re missing a crucial, yet subtle element. Instead of going back and re-learning everything or completely abandoning a particular Jiu-Jitsu submission, why not find a workaround? There are certain hacks that can completely change a technique if you know how and when to apply them.
The problem with a Jiu-Jitsu submission game is that it makes you really restricted in your game. Submission hunting is great, but you need to know how to hunt, not just blindly jump towards moves. Even if you get a submission by sheer luck, you need to know how to finish it instead of rushing through and giving away a perfect opportunity. There is a reason why BJJ submissions are so sought after – they’re hard to get! This makes them even sweeter when you finally manage to sink one in. Out of all submissions, chokes or strangles, are particularly held in high esteem. All due respect to leg and arm locks, but a choke is an ultimate tool to finish even the biggest, strongest opponent. Moreover, they come in all shapes and sizes, allowing for lots of variety in attacking.
The trouble with chokes is that they might prove difficult to get in certain situations. If we remove the possibility of you messing up the technique, all that’s left are just a few options. One huge factor is your opponent. Against most people, you’ll get a tap from a solid choke without much-added effort. However, every now and then, you’ll run into that crazy partner with a neck of steel, or even worse, an overly flexible one. Remember that chokes are the Jiu-jitsu submission that truly works on everyone. All you need is a small hack to make sure you get taps 100% of the time.
The Essence Of Strangles
The reason why chokes work so well is because of their mechanics. Getting a chokehold in Jiu-Jitsu relies on the same principles as other submissions. The basic mechanics require you to use your strongest body part or a combination of a few against a significantly weak body part of the opponent. As such, there’s nothing more vulnerable on the human body than the neck. Applying a choke with your arms, legs or a combination of both against the neck of your opponent should always be a whole-body effort as opposed to an isolated one.
This brings us to positioning. There’s no way of finishing a Jiu-Jitsu submission without proper positioning. Positioning means getting your body in the optimal spot for finishing a stranglehold you already have in place. The arms and legs provide only the structure for the choking. the power of the choke, as well as the source of control, comes from correct body alignment in relation to your opponent.
From a more specific standpoint, chokes in grappling work in one of two ways. Very rarely there’s a combination of both methods that work effectively. The primary method is blood chokes. The way they work is through bilateral pressure on both carotid arteries. No blood to the brain means no oxygen, which in turn means no consciousness. Air chokes are a little bit more unreliable and brutal, but effective nonetheless. They work by preventing airflow at the level of the trachea.
Finally, the tool you use to apply the pressure is crucially important. You might use either the Gi or direct arm/leg pressure when you’re choking. Both kinds rely on different mechanics which you need to understand if you want to be successful.
What Exactly Are Slow Chokes
The hack we’re offering today is the skill of applying chokes slowly. Which chokes can you call slow chokes? The answer is all of them! The reason why this approach works is that it addresses a key BJJ principle – space. In the heat of rolling or a match, conditions are usually less than perfect, despite our best efforts. Since the goal is to take away space, in order to make everything tight. The reason why we want tightness is, first and foremost control.
Furthermore, no space means you can exert more pressure on your opponent. We’re not talking about direct choking pressure here. What you need to be aiming for is constant pressure on all sides of your opponent’s neck. The goal is to make them uncomfortable and cause them to make wrong decisions. Even more importantly, by applying constant and, preferably, ever-increasing pressure, you’re causing difficulties breathing. Every time they breathe out, they’ll have much more problems breathing in again. Inevitably, they’ll tap or nap.
In order to be able to apply such pressure, you need the aforementioned position. From the back, for example, you need to know how exactly you can use a body triangle and tight upper body control to finish with a Rear Naked Choke. From the front headlock, it is all about shoulder position and the tightness and type of your grip. All it takes is staying in position and patiently taking away breathing space while exerting pressure at the same time. Only when you’re sure you’re as tight as possible, you should look to apply direct choking mechanics, i.e. squeeze.
Jiu-Jitsu Submission Hunting
Remember that hunting for a Jiu-Jitsu submission is not a competition in who is faster. It is a slow and methodical way of keeping constant pressure on your opponent along with the never-ending threat of finishing. For successful finishing, you’ll need to be able to bot threaten with and tap an opponent with multiple different submissions.
That said, in order to obtain a perfect position to slowly choke your way to victory, you need to be able to confuse your opponent. Submission hunting is all about misdirection instead of openly attacking something over and over again.
Think of it like this. You need to start your matches patiently, like a tiger laying and waiting from an ambush. Keep creeping up until you see your opening and only then explode to get what you want. However, unlike a tiger, instead of going for a quick kill you want to transform into a python and slowly and methodically squeeze the life out of your opponent from a dominant position.
Lachlan Giles has a really comprehensive instructional getting, maintaining and finishing strangles. His “High Percentage Chokes: No-Gi” DVD set is a must-have for all practitioners, regardless of their affinity (or lack of it) towards the Gi. His stuff works, and it includes the principle we’re discussing today along with multiple examples. This DVD is a real bargain!