One of the most popular submissions in Jiu Jitsu is the rear naked choke. This submission is likely the most widely recognized submission from the those outside of the sport. The rear naked choke is a soul crushing submission that once you get it setup, there is very little the opponent can do to defend or escape. Their fate is truly in your hands.
Quick safety note: because a rear naked choke occurs from the opponent’s back and is such a quick submission in some cases, it’s very important that you remain aware of your training partners condition as you work on the submission. What I mean is ensure they haven’t passed out while you are still trying to land the submission. In competition, this is not your concern, the referee’s will handle that, but on the mats at the academy this should be something you are cognizant of at all times. It is important to take good care of our training partners and ensure they too are enjoying the training. To be clear, I am in no way saying you should take it easy on them, or sacrifice the technique in order to make the experience more comfortable for them, simply make sure they are still with you and awake while you are training.
Getting your arms in position for the rear naked choke can be quite the challenge, especially if you have not yet been able to trap one of the arms with your leg, meaning you are engaged in a two on two hand fight to get the position you desire to finish the rear naked choke. There are many thoughts and approaches to getting to position. Some people will tell you to dig under the opponent’s chin with your thumb, while others will tell you to pull the opponent’s forehead back towards you in turn exposing the opponent’s neck. Still others will tell you things like push the opponent’s top shoulder away from you forcing them deeper into your choking arm and typically causing the chin to “pop out” from blocking your forearm.
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While I think all of these have a place in our training and in the execution of the rear naked choke, I think that Kazushi Sakuraba has an interesting approach that is very simple, yet effective. Using the wrist lock to get to the rear naked choke is a different approach, but makes sense and fits the Jiu Jitsu problem solving mindset of creating more problems for the opponent to solve, and ideally forcing them to solve a problem that in turn forces them into a position that is more desirable for us. Let’s take a look at how Kazushi does this.
To start, Kazushi has his opponent’s back and the opponent is defending with a two on one grip on Kazushi’s choking arm. Kazushi then uses his other hand to wrist lock his opponent by coming under his choking arm with a palm up grip from his other hand and pulling it back towards his face, in turn wrist locking his opponent or forcing them to let go. It is likely the opponent will not tap here as there is a way out, and although they are giving up the defense to the rear naked choke, they may feel there is other opportunity to defend it. That being said, as soon as they let go of your arm due to the discomfort of the wrist lock it’s important to immediately slide that arm up to the opponent’s neck reaching deep, ideally being able to cup their shoulder on the opposite side of their face.
If you like this style from Kazushi Sakuraba, check out his video instructional titled “Anti Jiu Jitsu” Where in 4 parts he covers joint locks from various different positions, using knowledge from a combination of martial arts such as Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Catch Wrestling and many others. His goal is simple, finish the match, regardless of position, Kazushi is looking to finish the match with some sort of a submission, be it a fundamental Jiu Jitsu technique, or a joint lock that no one sees coming. If it’s wrist locks specifically that interest you, first of all, you are evil, but secondly, check out “Wrist Locks for Everywhere” by Travis Stevens.
These two video instructionals are sure to give you the sneakiest, most effective game in town combining techniques that are often overlooked in our Jiu Jitsu training, and sometimes even shunned as less honorable submissions. The reality of it is this, a tap is a tap, and in self defense, breaking someone’s wrist is certainly going to disable the person more so than not, so in my opinion, knowing wrist locks is not sneaky at all, it’s smart, and we should all train them more. One of the most challenging purple belts I train with at our academy knows wrist locks well and it’s very aggravating, but also eye opening how truly unsafe you are even in positions that you have been using for years, thinking you were the dominate one and everything was ok. Wrist locks can happen, learn them, know them, and even if you don’t use them, know where they can be found so you know how to prevent getting tapped by one.
If there is a Mount Rushmore of MMA you HAVE TO include Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba is known as the “Gracie Hunter” for his legendary battles with the Gracie Family. Anti Jiu-Jitsu By Kazushi Sakuraba contains the strategies he used to defeat MULTIPLE members of The Gracie Family. The time to learn from the LEGEND himself is NOW!