BJJ 101: Collar Choke

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling-based art that focuses on subduing an opponent using various methods. One of the most essential techniques in BJJ is using the gi to control and submit an opponent. 

The gi (or kimono) is the uniform worn in BJJ. It is usually made of cotton canvas and sometimes denim. It is robust and is built to resist tugs from your rolls in the gym. Today we’ll discuss one of the most important chokes in BJJ, the collar choke.


Importance Of Learning Gi Techniques

In theory, you can become good at BJJ just by learning no-gi techniques. No-gi is practical and does not rely on what a person wears. While that is true, learning gi-based techniques has a lot of benefits as well. It gives you more options to control as you can use the lapel and sleeves as controlling mechanisms. Many powerful guards are gi-based, like the de la Riva, collar and sleeve, and worm guard. 

Also, using the gi makes the neck and arms more vulnerable to attacks. This is especially the case with the neck. The collar can always be grabbed and used to strangle the opponent. 

The collar choke is a prime example of a gi-based attack. It is a technique where you use the collar to restrict the blood flow on a person’s neck. It is one of the most powerful chokes in all of grappling. The essence of the technique is to wrap the fabric of the gi around the neck, thereby strangling them. This means that you should be able to tap someone easily (or even put them to sleep) if you apply the choke properly. 

This is, therefore, an excellent attack for smaller and weaker individuals because you can defeat anyone regardless of size if you have the proper understanding of the move. Helio Gracie, one of the central figures of the art, is a big fan of this technique for this exact reason. 


Lifelong Techniques

One of the special traits of the collar choke is its ability to stay with a grappler for decades. Since the collar choke does not require unique attributes like strength and explosiveness, it can be used by practically anyone who is training BJJ. It is also very useful as you become older since controlling an opponent using the collar is a common tactic. 

A typical sequence would look like this: You start by holding the opponent inside your closed guard. You shift your body towards a side and execute a scissor sweep, bringing the opponent crashing to the mat. Next is, you secure the mount and slowly work your way to a collar choke from the top position. 

Notice that all techniques mentioned above involve gripping the collar; this sequence flows naturally and is a great starting point if you want to build a solid game. 


Collar Choke From The Guard

In this video, MMA great Kenny Florian demonstrates the details of a cross collar choke inside the guard. The technique can be applied in both closed and open guards. 

You start by grabbing the opponent’s lapel using a cross grip, meaning you use your right hand and hold the collar on your opponent’s right side. Ensure that you get a deep initial grip; a good indicator is your thumbs should touch the back of your opponent’s neck. You do the same with the opposite hand, grab the other collar, and remove the slack as best as possible. 

Next, you twist your wrist to put pressure on the side of the neck. This will enable you to restrict blood flow and tap someone out. Remember that you can always move your body if you need to so that you can directly apply the choke to the side of the neck. 


Collar Choke From The Mount

BJJ black belt Jason Scully demonstrates his approach to the collar choke from the mount. The first step is to separate the opponent’s elbows from the body. The purpose is to limit their defensive options, which gives you more time to attack. Jason prefers to stay low to get the initial grip; he advocates using your head as a post to add more stability as well. It is good to keep a low posture because it kills the most common counter to the cross collar choke: the bridging escape. 

The next step is to move your arm to the other side of the neck. Use your elbows to create space as you get a grip on the collar; you may have to grind your elbow on his face as you do this. Once you get the second grip, go back to the center, tighten your elbows in, put your head on the mat while you twist your wrist to complete the choke.


Easy To Learn But Tough To Master

The collar choke is perhaps one of the first submissions you’ll learn in your grappling journey. It is, after all, one of the most efficient techniques in BJJ. It is also a great illustration of how you can use technical skills to overcome any disadvantage in size. 

But as you begin to roll with more experienced training partners, you’ll notice that it gets harder to finish the choke. This is why it is critical to understand the common reactions to the choke so that you can move around them to complete the technique. As always, drill the technique with a partner, starting with no resistance, and slowly add common reactions as you get more experienced. 

We highly encourage you to try the collar choke. It is one of the most enduring techniques out there and has been battle-tested for many decades. It is the recommended first technique to learn if you plan on training and competing in the gi. 

If you are new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, please watch highlights of Roger Gracie, BJJ legend and former ONE World Champion from the Evolve Fight Team. He is a master of the collar choke and has submitted many high-profile opponents in competition. 


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