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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

09 June 2011

09/06/2011 - Teaching (Attacking Mount)

Teaching #005
Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 02/06/2011

Now that we have an idea how to maintain mount, I wanted to show some attacks from there, in high and low mount respectively. The material I'm going to cover owes a lot to a training partner of mine at RGA Bucks, who was promoted to purple alongside me: Sahid Khamlichi. A little over a month ago, he taught a fantastic lesson on Roger Gracie's version of the cross choke from mount. Many of the details I'm about to cover come from Sahid's lesson, so the wording will be very similar to my earlier write up.

I have seen this choke taught a few times over the years, including by Roger himself, but it's always useful to go over the details again. As has been said many times before, it may be the first submission you learn, but it's one of the toughest to master.

I'll put up the same bunch of pictures showing Roger choking out Lovato Jr in 2009, though like I noted last time, I'm going to cheat and put them out of order: Roger also didn't set it up exactly the way I'm about to describe, but hopefully the photos will still help. You could also take a look at Trumpet Dan's videos, and here's Roger teaching a slightly different variation of the cross choke ( turn on the subtitles by clicking 'CC' at the bottom right).

Start in that high mount I showed last week, keeping low, your arm based out, putting your head on the same side to concentrate your weight. Remember to keep your feet tucked under them bum for control.

Your other arm goes under their head, cross-facing, also using your shoulder to turn their head towards your basing side. It will now be tough to bridge you off. It is also important that you are really tight with your chest, so that there is no space for them to slip an arm inside to defend their neck.

Grab their same side collar with your basing arm, or just the material by their shoulder. This isn't going to be involved in the choke, as at this stage, you are simply looking to yank the gi material to your basing side. That should take out any slack. The grip comes next, as you pull your arm out from behind their head, instead reaching through (raising up as little as possible) for that collar you've carefully prepared. Grasp with your four fingers, palm facing up. Your free hand can continue to cinch up their collar if it still isn't tight enough.

If they are blocking with their arms, as is likely, you'll need to drive your hand past their hands. Pull open their collar before their elbows (rather than trying to yank it out from directly underneath their tightly crossed arms), then slide your arm through. Good advice I remember from Roger is that if you need extra leverage, brace your own elbow against your hip. You can then wriggle forwards, driving your arm in front of you. Also form your hand into a wedge, as this will help cut past their blocking arms.

Either way, once you have the grip, lift them up towards you slightly, twisting your hand so that you clear a small gap between their neck and collar. Into that gap, insert the thumb of your free hand, to establish your second grip. I forgot to mention here that you can drop your elbow to the other side, so that you're pressuring into their neck.

Slide that thumb behind their head to the other side of their neck. As you do, also move your head to the other side of their head. Next, bring the arm of your thumb grip to the other side of their head, 'shaving' close to their face. This is to set up the choke, putting your wrists on both sides of their neck.

Once you've got the thumb arm into position, so that both carotid arteries are blocked off, move your forehead to the floor directly above their head. Twist your wrists and drop your weight into them to finish the choke. Roy Dean provides a handy tip here, which is to shift your hips forward slightly, still basing on your head. That will give you a little extra leverage, should you need it.

From low mount, I mentioned last week that this position isn't well suited to submissions, but there is at least one reliable option. For the Ezequiel choke, you again need to get one arm under their head. Many people will just give you that space as they try to escape, but if not, you can press into their neck to get them to raise their head.

You have one arm in place. To get the choke, you need to block off both sides of their neck. For the first side, you're going to use your gi. With the hand you have under their head, grab your free sleeve. Pull it tight to the nearest side of their neck.

To block the other side of their neck, make a chopping motion with your free hand, as if you're trying to decapitate them. Make sure you're pressing into the side of their neck, not the throat (although crushing the windpipe may still get a tap, it isn't as efficient).

Obviously it isn't going to be that easy in sparring. They're going to be blocking you with their hand, trying to buck you off, disrupting your attack any way they can. To avoid that, there are a couple of options. One is to slip your arm inside their defending arm until your elbow gets to the mat. Alternatively, they may give you the opportunity by pushing on your knee.

Either way, slide their arm out of the way and clamp it to their side with your elbow. Fill up the space by sticking your head right next to theirs. Use this as both a means of control and a barrier against their efforts to get a hand back inside. Stay low, then gradually slip in your second hand.

Again, they may give you the opportunity by bridging. If they are staying really tight, use your head to push into their skull, aiming to get them to turn. Follow your head with your hand, then slip through for the choke.

You can also try bringing a leg to their shoulder for leverage, chopping into their neck with your hand as before, raising up to generate even more pressure. However, that does give them more space for defence.

Finally, I showed a nastier variation, which I was in two minds about demonstrating. It is a bit unpleasant after all, and that isn't the kind of jiu jitsu I generally want to be teaching. Then again, it combines fairly well with the Ezequiel, so can be used as a way of opening them up to other attacks, rather than a finish in itself.

I'm referring to what Roy Dean calls the 'fist choke'. The set-up is similar to the Ezequiel, as again it involves having an arm under their head and grabbing the sleeve of your free arm. This time, you don't pull that sleeve in tight to their neck. Instead, you simply drive your fist into their neck instead. That closes off one side.

To block the other artery, cross-face them. The bicep of the arm you have under their head should be as close to their neck as possible, after which you can just roll your shoulder to apply pressure. Pull on the gi sleeve, and that combination should result in either the tap, or loosen them up for an Ezequiel, an armbar or some other attack.

I did emphasise that this isn't something you should regularly be attempting during training, as it is probably going to annoy your training partners. Best to stick with smooth technique if possible, and save more crude applications like the fist choke for competition. I'd be interested to know what anyone reading this thinks: is the fist choke a 'dirty' technique, or something legitimate you regularly use in class?

A few people had problems getting the Ezequiel right, as their sleeves were a little short. The fist choke still works in that situation, but it did make me wonder if I could make some adjustment of angle or pressure that would mean a shorter sleeve wouldn't be a problem.


  1. Fist in the neck is a legitimate, sparring-practical tactic to me. It's attacking the same things that'd be attacked by a regular collar choke (the carotids). It's a slightly different sensation, but not necessarily a more painful or dangerous technique.

    I'd shy away from techniques like can openers or full out Twister-style neck cranks. Spines are tetchy stuff to mess around with too cavalierly.

  2. No worries on that score: I would never teach or advocate any kind of neck crank or cervical lock.

    I'll have to think about the fist choke for next time. I guess I could just ask someone to drill it on me at full speed a bunch of times, so I can get a good feel for how nasty it actually is. ;)