Life can be tough as a beginner in BJJ and the fact that there are so many different gi chokes available to use can be confusing even at the best of times. Rather than trying to learn dozens of different chokes from different positions and ending up not being able to perform any of them, it’s far better to learn a small number of chokes that can be used from a variety of different positions. That way, it’s easier to get practice performing each one and none of them require complex setups or the ability to weave the bottom of an opponent’s lapel around them. They’ve all been used at the highest levels of competition too, with plenty of examples of elite grapplers being submitted by these chokes.
5 Gi Chokes Every BJJ Beginner Should Know
Chokes are actually the most obvious difference between gi and no gi BJJ, as there are so many more available to a beginner and an experienced practitioner when the opponent is wearing a gi jacket. It’s easy to mix grips up or misunderstand where each one can be applied, so it’s important to understand the fundamental gi chokes that are available to practitioners. There are many more chokes available than just these 5, but these are undoubtedly among the simplest chokes that many people will find easiest and quickest to learn. Along with watching the tutorial videos included, it’s also helpful to watch top competitors performing these chokes in competition too.
The Cross-collar Choke
Out of all of the gi chokes available in BJJ, the cross-collar choke is perhaps the easiest to learn and simplest for a beginner to understand. It can be done from mount or guard and it involves each hand gripping the opponent’s collar on the opposite side of their body so that the arms cross, as close to the neck as possible, and then drawing the arms back in order to close the space. It’s one of a handful of techniques that are incredibly easy to understand and can be performed pretty much immediately after learning it, but can also take a lifetime to master. Many competitors look down on fundamental techniques like the cross-collar choke due to their simplicity, but Roger Gracie proved time and time again that a deep understanding of a basic technique can be virtually unstoppable.
The Baseball Bat Choke
The baseball bat choke is an incredibly tight choke that is generally pretty simple to understand once someone understands the way that the grips work. This choke is done by both hands gripping either side of the opponent’s collar, but this time the arms are not crossed and each hand is gripping differently. When the body turns, the forearms start to move in a scissoring motion and the gap between the arms closes in order to apply the choke. The baseball bat choke can be done from any top position and even from bottom side control, something that Magid Hage is famous for making good use of.
The Loop Choke
The loop choke is among the most versatile of all gi chokes, and a BJJ beginner might be confused at first when they hear the name used so often. It can be done from any position imaginable and although there are some minor differences between how the loop choke is set-up or applied in each position, the fundamental concept remains the same. The loop choke is done with a single collar grip reaching for the opposite side of the gi, while the other arm ‘loops’ over the back of the opponent’s head and allows for a huge amount of force to be generated. It’s a very common technique even at the highest levels of BJJ competition and understanding how loop chokes work will give a beginner attacking options from everywhere.
The Ezekiel Choke
The Ezekiel choke is one that is seen significantly less often in BJJ competition than the other gi chokes in this list, but it’s still a useful option for a beginner. It actually requires no grips of the opponent’s collar and is instead done by reaching around the back of their head, gripping your opposite arm’s sleeve. The opposite arm then reaches across the front of the opponent’s neck and a tremendous amount of pressure can be generated. It’s most commonly seen being used from mount or from closed guard, although it’s been seen from inside closed guard on top and from underneath mount too. MMA veteran Aleksei Oleinik has used the no gi version of this choke multiple times in his career to surprise opponents.
The Bow and Arrow Choke
The bow and arrow choke is a classic BJJ technique that is often one of the first techniques taught to a beginner, even though it’s also one of the most limited gi chokes in terms of opportunity of application. It can only be performed from behind your opponent, so it requires you to either have control of the back or at least be attempting to control the back in order to set up. One hand reaches around the opponent’s neck and grips the opposite side’s collar, while the same-side leg is used to trap the opponent’s arm. From there, you angle off to the side and control the opponent’s lower body with your free hand, using your whole body to extend and apply the choke. This is also among the most common gi chokes used in BJJ competition, from the beginner ranks all the way to the highest levels of the sport.
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