For the most time, BJJ seems very straightforward to the untrained eye. You either get the position, you apply a technique and you’ve done it or you’re on the receiving end. However, things are not that simple. Apart from the plethora of small details involved, BJJ is all about deception. Especially when two opponents are evenly matched, the one who’s more capable of making their actions and provoking responses is the one that holds the upper hand. As such, BJJ is an art full of deceptively simple and sneaky techniques. One such move is the infamous Von Flue Choke.
The founder of the Von Flue choke is MMA fighter Jason “Livewire” Von Flue (14-12-1). A veteran with stints in the UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce, he came up with the choke in the octagon. He pulled off his trademark submission on the big stage, at the UFC – Ultimate Fight Night 3 event in 2006. Since then, the move has gained popularity in both the MMA and Jiu-Jitsu scenes, mostly as the most effective way to counter a guillotine choke.
Mechanics Of The Von Flue Choke
The easiest way to describe the Von Flue choke is a shoulder choke from top side control. In a basic holding pattern of side control, one shoulder of the top grappler is usually close to the head of the bottom one. The usual positioning puts the top partners arm deep under the head of the bottom partner, in the cross face position. Unlike the crossface position, though, control and pressure are not the objectives. For the Von Flue choke, the top partner looks to place their shoulder on the neck of the bottom grappler, placing pressure on one of the carotid arteries. The finishing pressure is then applied by lifting the butt and driving with the toes, as shown below:
It is important to direct the pressure under the right angle which is upwards, from the chest towards the opponent’s chin. The simplicity of the move is what leads to its high effectiveness. The choke requires precise timing and correct positioning, but it is accessible fairly easily and can catch opponents by surprise. The choke comes off strong from the get-go and takes almost no time before the opponent goes to sleep.
Setting Up The Choke
When it comes to setting up the Von Flue Choke, there are two main positional pathways. One is as a defensive counter to the guillotine choke, while the other is as an attacking move from side control.
Countering the guillotine
The most common way to get the choke is as a counter to an arm-in guillotine choke. When caught in the choke from the bottom, you should aim to circle away from the side where your head is. This is important, as going to the other side will get you deeper in the guillotine. In order to correctly set yourself up for the choke, you need to make sure that you reach behind your opponent while you’re circling around. Once you obtain the position, you’re already in the perfect position to apply the choke. Just make sure that you get the right angle before driving into the opponent’s neck. Here’s how Renzo Gracie does it:
As a point of caution, make sure to remember that the Von Flue Choke is only effective against the arm-in guillotine. If you’re caught in a high elbow guillotine (aka Marcelotine) the choke cannot be applied because you can’t place your shoulder on the opponent’s neck. Furthermore, getting caught in a closed leg configuration while in a guillotine can also scupper your Von Flue choke attempt. Both the closed guard and the half guard can neutralize the choke because of the distance created between your shoulder and your opponent’s neck.
Going on the attack
Offensively speaking, you can look for the choke from the crossface position in top side control. While this way is far quicker than circling around, it can also be more difficult. If the opponent is aware and hiding their neck it might take some time to dig under the chin. Otherwise, the angle is off and the only thing you can accomplish is crossface pressure from hell, but without a choke. As you can see below, the choke sets in almost instantly:
The “Von Preux” choke
The first time Ovince St. Preux (22-10) finished a fight in the UFC via a Von Flue Choke, he earned an honorable mention in every article on the subject. Managing to pull it off three times, though, has made him the new face of the submission. Apart from a an impressive total number of Von Flue choke finishes in the UFC, St. Preux can boast with having two of those in succession. It is hardly surprising that the name “Von Preux” is catching on quickly.