How To Perform The Clock Choke In BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a popular martial art that primarily uses a uniform known as the gi. BJJ is regarded for its sophisticated approach to grappling and is known for using the limbs and the gi to generate attacks. Leveraging the fabric of the gi (lapel, pants, and sleeves) gives you many options for guard work, passing, and submissions. 

Today we will talk about a variation of the lapel choke that originated from Judo, known as the clock choke. 


What Is A Lapel Choke?

A lapel choke in BJJ is when a grappler applies a choke against the opponent by gripping their lapel using one or two hands to apply pressure on the neck. Doing so restricts the blood and airflow. Most of the time, lapel chokes are done using the opponent’s lapel, but it can also be done with the help of your lapel to choke the opponent.

Lapel chokes can be finished from any position, such as the closed guard, side control, mount, back mount, and turtle position. To maximize the finishing potential of the choke, you can turn your body perpendicular to the opponent to gain better leverage. 

Also, ensure that you have a deep grip inside the opponent’s lapel as you squeeze your elbows in while maintaining a straightened wrist. Lapel chokes have many variations, but the fundamental mechanics apply to all.


The Clock Choke

The clock choke is a one-handed lapel choke typically done when the opponent is in the turtle position. It is performed by grabbing the opponent’s gi collar and dropping your bodyweight on their upper back to put pressure. 

The reason it is called the clock choke is that as the fundamental way of doing it, you have to grab the opponent’s collar as you walk towards the opposite side as you pin the upper body with your bodyweight, mimicking the movements of the arm of a clock. It is a powerful choke and is highly effective when not addressed early on.

One of the most memorable applications of the clock choke was in 1998 when Royce Gracie fought Wallid Ismael. Wallid used the choke on Royce and left him unconscious minutes into the match. 

It was the time when Royce Gracie was dominating the early UFC events with his exceptional BJJ. The match was a shock to many as Royce revolutionized mixed martial arts and was one of the faces of the UFC during that time. This is also a good reminder that BJJ should be taken more seriously. It is a necessary skill to learn if you want to become a great fighter.

Just like other lapel chokes, the clock choke reaches its full potential when it is applied with angles. Ideally, like the bow and arrow choke, the clock choke will require you to move your body to create an angle as you finish the choke. 

Conversely, the sliding lapel choke from the back is focused on the movements of the arm. Some lapel chokes will require you to move farther away from the opponent, while others require you to keep a closer distance as you look to tighten for the finish.


How To Perform The Clock Choke

The clock choke can be applied whenever the opponent goes to the turtle position. Usually, an opponent may go to turtle after a failed takedown attempt or when coming up to their knees to escape side control. 

The clock choke is a viable option when this happens because the opponent may not expect it. The sneaky nature of the clock choke also makes it very dangerous; this choke can get tight relatively quickly and can put people to sleep with little effort.

Stephan Kesting from the Grapplearts YouTube Channel shows how to do the clock choke in five simple steps. As mentioned above, the clock choke is a one-handed choke typically done when the opponent turtles. 

The key idea when an opponent turtles is to not let them get away. The first step is to drive your knee between your opponent’s knee and elbow and apply weight on their back. This will make it harder for him to move.

The next step is to open up the opponent’s lapel by using your far hand to open up the collar under the armpit so you can get a grip across the neck. It is unnecessary to go extremely deep when gripping the lapel. What’s important is to make a line across the neck. This will make it easier for you to pull down and get a good grip. 

Next is to control the far hand of the opponent with your other hand. Alternatively, you can proceed by grabbing the other lapel from below, similar to the sliding collar choke.

As you control the opponent using grips across his neck and the other on their far hand or collar, it is now time for you to drop your weight on the neck. Fall off their body as you pin your head to the ground. 

Lastly, finish the choke by walking your legs around until you reach above the opponent’s head, similar to the movements of the hands of a clock, as you maintain your control on the opponent’s far hand or lapel.

The clock choke can also be performed from side control, as shown by BJJ black belt Ricardo Cavalcanti. Although the finishing steps are the same as the turtle variant, there are slight differences in the entry because of the position. 

To do the clock choke from side control, go to kesa gatame to isolate the opponent’s hands and pin it. After pinning both hands, follow up by grabbing the lapel and finish the clock by doing the clock walk.


Final Thoughts

One advantage of training with the gi is that many submissions can be learned. The gi adds another layer to both offense and defense in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, therefore it is always beneficial to include collar, lapel, and sleeve techniques when you roll. Lapel chokes are amongst the most powerful submissions in BJJ. You’ll surely get taps in the gym if you practice gi submissions such as the clock choke.


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