Head and Arm chokes in BJJ – A systematic overview

Techniques > Submissions > Head and Arm chokes

Head and arm chokes, or arm in chokes, are strangles in which you push your opponent’s arm one side of his neck, while pressuring into the other side of his neck directly. Head and arm chokes are very common in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and in this post I give an overview of all head and arm chokes in BJJ.

All head and Arm chokes

We can categorize head and arm chokes by how they control the opponent’s neck and shoulder. More specifically, what every head and arm choke has in common is:

  1. Something to push into the neck
  2. Something to push the opponent’s arm or shoulder into his own neck
  3. Something to control the back of the neck to close the triangle

The table below shows what part of your body is pressuring into the opponent’s neck on one side, his arm or shoulder on the other side, and what’s behind the back of his neck to keep him in place. (To avoid confusion, if you use both your arms in the same choke, I denote one of the arms with the L and the other arm with the R.)

Arm in chokeNeckArm / shoulderBack of neck
Arm triangleUpper armNeck/chest/
collar bone
Lower arm
and floor
AnacondaLower arm (L)Upper arm (R)Upper arm (L)
D’arce / BraboLower arm (L)Chest/shoulder (L)Lower arm (R)
Arm in guillotineWrist(nothing)Armpit
Japanese necktieWrist /lower arm (L)Lower arm (R)Belly
Peruvian necktieWrist GroinHamstring
Triangle chokeHamstringQuadricepsCalf
Inverted triangleHamstringQuadricepsCalf
Back triangleCalfInner thighGroin
Inverted back triangleCalfInner thighGroin
Buggy chokeLat muscleQuadricepsUpper arm
Fly trapForearmBellyCalf
Gi BraboLower armShoulder / ChestLapel
Gi Peruvian necktieLapelGroinHamstring

Note that some of these arm in chokes are very high percentage (such as the triangle), while others are a nuisance (such as the Buddy choke and fly trap).

How many head and arm chokes are there in BJJ?

The first thing we can take away from the table is that there’s 14 different head and arm chokes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. That’s a lot.

For comparison, there’s only about 70 submissions in BJJ, of which only 2 are knee bars, and 6 internal shoulder locks. Of course, this distribution makes sense, given that legs are stronger than shoulders, which are stronger than necks. And damaging weaker things is easier than damaging stronger things, so we can do this in more ways.

How to finish head and arm chokes?

Head and arm chokes are definitely harder to finish than naked chokes (without the arm in). That’s just because your opponent has his arm in the mix and will use it to create some space within your choke hold.

A good peace of general advice for finishing head and arm chokes is that you want to become good at adjusting the choke while keeping it tight. Generally this will be in the form of partially loosening and opening your lock so that you can force your opponent deeper into it, and then locking it again.

How to finish a triangle

For example, in the triangle choke with your legs, you can adjust as follows. Let’s assume you already locked the triangle and are at a 90 degrees angle. First your grab the back of your opponent’s neck. Second, you loosen (or even open) your lock, by straightening your leg in the neck to the sky a little bit. At the same time that you loosen your leg, you use your arm at the back of your opponent’s head to pull him into your leg very hard. Third, you lock your legs tight again. When you do this, you should feel that your opponent is much deeper in the triangle than he was before you readjusted it.

How to finish an arm triangle choke

Another example, in the arm triangle, you can relax your primary choking arm a bit, and then use your body to push your opponent deeper into your choking arm. After you do this, you can tighten your choking arm up again. But the key point is that you don’t want to keep your arm tight while you try to push your opponent into your arm, because then your own tightness is preventing your opponent from falling deeper into your choke.

Combinations of Head and Arm chokes

You can combine head and arm chokes easily because they’re so close together. For example, the arm in guillotine, Anaconda and Japanese neck tie all come from the same grip, so they’re often combined. The same goes for the D’Arce and Peruvian neck tie.

Further, the D’Arce and Anaconda are also often combined, because they differ only in which arm goes across the neck. In the Anaconda your choking arm goes from the armpit towards the neck, and in the D’arce it goes from the neck to the armpit. So to combine these submissions you can keep going back and forth with respect to which arm you make leading.

Summing up: Always finish from the head and arm

In this post you learned that there are tons of options for head and arm chokes in Brazilian jiu jitsu. The principle reason for this is that the neck is weak and vulnerable. You also learned to combine different head and arm chokes together and how to finish head and arm chokes.

So now your goal should be to always finish when you get a hold of your opponent’s neck and arm.

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