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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

19 February 2020

19/02/2020 - Teaching | Closed Guard | Cross choke (palm up palm up)

Teaching #940
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 19/02/2020

The classic cross choke from guard starts with a grip on their opposite collar, up high past their neck, getting your elbow to their chest. This can lead to all sorts of attacks and sweeps, but the cross choke is probably the most traditional. However, it can also be tough to finish, not least because everybody is expecting the attack. Make sure you've broken down their posture when you go for this, as it will be really hard to submit with a cross choke if they are still upright and have their arms in place.

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It is the second grip that generally proves to be challenging. Jason Scully has a good tip here, recommending that you angle off to help shoot your second arm underneath the first. You're aiming to get both hands together behind their neck: in practice, you are unlikely to get them to touch, but get as close as you can. Suck your elbows in, pulling their head down in the process. Do not flare out your elbows: they can easily defend that by simply wrapping over your elbows and bringing them back together. To finish, twist your hands inwards to press the sharp bony part of your arm (i.e., the side your thumb is on) into their carotid arteries.

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There is a handy Roy Dean trick you can try if your grip has slipped down too low to apply the choke. Shoot your arms up straight, aiming to get your thumbs touching behind their neck at the back of their collar (ideally, gripping right by the tag), then pull them back down. Your grips can then progress as normal: don't try to choke with your arms extended. Also, remember to turn your thumbs inwards rather than out (or to put it another way, turn them away from your face rather than towards it. Imagine they've been tied together with a string, so you can't open up any space between them). Turning them outwards will work too, but inwards should be tighter.

A handy variation is to get a really deep grasp of the collar. I learned this from Roy Dean's demonstration on his Brown Belt Requirements DVD, where he calls it the 'Relson' choke: I've been using it regularly ever since. To get the deep grip choke, first establish that grip. You may find it helps to sit up to get it in really deep. As Dean discusses on his DVD, an especially deep grip can help your choke as well as give you authoritative control.

Often people will let you get a grip on their collar from guard, unlike the same situation from under mount, despite the threat being similar. If possible, it's a good idea to open up the collar with your same side hand to help get your other hand in as deep as possible. Like John Will says, this will also take the slack out of their gi.

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Once you have it, this deep grip provides three main advantages. Firstly, you get great control, as you can pull them down towards you. Secondly, it could be the beginning of a choke. Lift their chin with your forearm to make some space, then insert your other grip. Due to the depth of your first grip, the second hand doesn't need to go as far. Turn your thumbs inwards (away from you, towards them) for the choke, pulling in with your elbows (don't flare them out).

Jason Scully has a number of great tips over on The Grapplers Guide, with a couple of videos about collar chokes from closed guard. He suggests angling off to help get that second grip in, rather than staying square on. He also advises grabbing their collar with both hands to pull them down and insert your first grip, should you have trouble breaking their posture. As Scully points out, you can also push with your initial grip, towards their neck, to help open up the space.

Secondly, even if you don't land the choke, just having the grip will make them start to worry about that choke rather than thinking about passing. Thirdly, it means you can establish a collar and elbow grip. There are various attacks you can do from there, the most common of which are probably armbars, scissor and push sweeps. Should that grip slip, then you still have a more orthodox collar choke available, or the numerous options from a collar and elbow/sleeve grip, if you established that hold.

It is the second grip that generally proves to be challenging. The 'palm up, palm down' variation goes some way to solving this problem, as your second hand grabs their opposite shoulder rather than having to fight through for a collar grip. Drive your forearm into the neck from there, making sure that with both arms, you are cutting into the neck with the sharp part of your arm next to your wrist. It shouldn't be the back of your arm, as that's squishy and flat. By contrast, the side of the arm is sharp and narrow.

Another Jason Scully tip from The Grapplers Guide at this point is to bring the elbow of your second arm up high by your head, preventing them from blocking it as easily or pinning that arm to your chest. If they do try to block with their same side hand, you can dig your elbow straight past their hand and into the neck. He again recommends angling off, this time towards the shoulder you're trying to grab. To help that spin, punch your initial collar grip away from you, towards their far shoulder. That will expose their neck and help you swivel into position, plus it connects well with an armbar.

In order to save my fingers, my preference is to use the gi tail for this choke. The application is the same, except that rather than establishing a tight collar grip, you pull out their gi and pull it back across. Feed that to your other hand, grasping the gi tail and locking your forearm tight to their neck. Your other hand comes over the top, grabbing the gi you've pulled over. Pressing both forearms into the neck, twist your arms and squeeze for the finish. The arm placement is the same, again getting that acute angle with the wrist bone to press into their arteries. Be careful you are only twisting your arms, not their neck. Twisting their neck will end up in a crank (which can do lasting damage), not a choke (which won't).

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Teaching Notes: I can't remember if I've ever gotten this choke in sparring, but that's kinda a moot point now because it mashes up my fingers too much for me to try it much. Still, it's good to throw it in as a technique, given it's an important fundamental. I think the class feels pretty good at this stage: angle off is usual, so is shooting the hands up Roy Dean style. I also always emphasise that it's a good platform for trying other attacks (especially armbars), plus sweeps.

I did also show the palm up palm down choke, which I think you can combine in one class, plus the gi tail variation.

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