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How do I set up a proper so-called cross collar choke? Especially, I wanna' know how to position my hands, how to rotate them and my forearms.

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I'm mainly focusing on applying it from the closed guard position (bottom). Some aspects I would like to clearify:

  • Where exactly do I have to grip the collar?
  • In which direction do I rotate the hands & arms?
  • Do I have to "squeeze" my arms together?
  • Shall I pull the opponent down onto my body (with my body weight and/or with my arms)?

Thinking further: What to do when it is not working? Adjusting (how) or is there a promising alternative/following up technique to go for in the heat of the moment?

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    Hmm...there are a gazillion ways to set it up and the variables you describe can vary depending on which version you choose. Maybe a bit more focus on a particular position or something would be good. Oct 25, 2022 at 19:51
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    Sure, I would like to know how to apply it from the bottom part of the closed guard.
    – Ben
    Oct 26, 2022 at 5:34

3 Answers 3

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Here is my general advice for cross chokes in the absence of any other answers. I don't personally play closed guard, but I think most of this advice should still be applicable.

The goals for a blood choke are roughly, in descending importance:

  1. Target carotid arteries
  2. close space
  3. maintain pressure
  4. maximize pressure

For cross (your arms are crossed) collar chokes, I want my hands as far around the back as possible, to the point where fingers from my two hands are touching. This puts the pressure from the forearms on the carotid arteries.

In judo, there are three recognized variations:

  1. nami juji jime (both palms down)
  2. kata juji jime (top hand palm down, bottom hand palm up)
  3. gyaku juji jime (both palms up)

What's missing is the combination where the bottom hand is palm down, and the top hand is palm up. For the top hand palm down variations, you can lift the chin to expose the arteries and get pressure off the jawbone.

To maximize pressure, you want the smallest surface area in contact with the arteries, so use the side of your forearm or wrist and not the flat surfaces.

In my opinion, once you cinch the choke, it's more important to simply maintain the cinch than to apply more pressure. In this view, scissoring the arms is about cinching, rather than about applying overwhelming force. You need to make sure the opponent does not have the space and opportunity to break the cinch, either by inserting arms between you, moving their body, or pressing your elbows in. Pulling them in is one way to make it harder for them to move. Another way is take away their base and cause their weight to be partly supported by the choke.

Personally, I think the both palms down version is simplest to understand the principles of a cross choke, but is the least realistic to actually get in live situations.

It's also frequently beneficial to sweep and finish the choke from top position. The choke draws attention and makes sweeping easier.

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The first step in setting up the cross collar choke in closed guard is realising most of the work is done with your legs. Working on upper body mechanics (grips, rotations etc) before breaking posture results in significant loss of energy and effectiveness - your forearms will burn out long before their triceps and lower back.

Set up the foundations for a good cross collar choke by climbing your guard to a point where your legs are crossing around the rib-cage and draw them down so your opponent's shoulder line is below yours. This eliminates their lower back and much of their arm movement from their defensive arsenal. They are placed in a compromised position giving you the time and energy to sort grips and commence a successful attack.

Edit re Grips

The first grip is the palm up grip into your opponent's collar. Spend some time getting deep into the collar. You'll know if it's deep enough if you opened your thumb (don't do that though - you'll lose the grip!!) the end of it would be on the back of the opponents neck. Use your legs to keep opponent in a compromised position, they'll be defending like crazy now - keep posture broken limits ability to break your grip. Use your free hand to feed the gi collar as necessary.

Once the grip is deep, swing your free hand around the other side of the head connecting your forearm to the neck under the ear. Slide your forearm down the side of the neck until your fingers grasp the gi on the nape of their neck. Both hands should be next to each other, full of gi, on the back of their neck. Really flatten them out with your legs and use your back muscles to open your shoulders and pull your elbows down to your ribcage and flaring slightly. With deep grips, broken posture and using your back the choke will finish without wrist rotation. If your grip isn't deep enough or posture not broken you will need to rotate your arm so the little finger side of your forearm adds pressure on their neck.

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  • Thanks a lot for this input! Could you also please add some instructions about how to apply the grip itself?
    – Ben
    Jan 4, 2023 at 9:33
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1. You typically don't do that from closed guard directly.

The reason is twofold: Firstly, you miss the opportunity to bring your whole body and weight behind the choke. Secondly, it needs sevear mistakes from your opponent in order to make it work. Works only against beginners who are bad at distance management and choke defense, basically. You could try it from an arm wrap but that is pretty easy to defend against as well. What you can do is use one side of the collar grip as a threat that enables you to do other neat stuff though.

Therefore, rather learn a good sweep and apply it from mount.

2. Regarding the mechanics

Ideally, you use the sides of your wrists to minimise the area of application of force. This means that although you apply the same force, the pressure is much higher (Pressure = Force per Area). Therefore, you need to have grip accordingly deep into the collar so that your wrists are where the carotid arteries lie. Contrary to popular belief, a cross collar choke should not be applied mainly through a movement of your arms. It needs strong wrists (like for all collar chokes where you grip deep) as you mainly choke through a twist of your wrists into the carotid arteries. Elbows and grip are fix points there. That way, it is much harder to defend against and the effect is immediate. For an in-detail analysis of the basic mechanics, I suggest you watch this video:

Roger Gracie explains the cross collar choke

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  • it happens all the time from close guard. Is it based on your own experience?
    – AFetter
    Apr 17, 2023 at 0:06
  • @AFetter Yes, it happens all the time from closed guard. I did use it successfully myself. As Roger Gracie, who I did link here exactly for that reason, says: As soon as how you know how to properly defend closed guard, cross collar from close guard continues to be useful as a threat but rarely is successful since it is rather easy to defend by posting and postural work. Thus, the answer to your direct question is: It is the word of one of the most reknowned closed guard specialists in BJJ history, not mine. Apr 17, 2023 at 11:43

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