the rear naked choke - BJJ's most popular submission


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The rear naked choke (Mata Leao in Portuguese) is one of the the most popular chokes used in grappling. It is an incredibly powerful technique that has the potential to render an opponent unconscious within a few seconds. As a technique it is taught in a number of different martial arts such as Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, and Catch wrestling. It is also consistently the most popular submission used in MMA.

How to Do the Rear Naked Choke

There are a number of different ways to set up and finish a rear naked choke. The choke has two main variations. In one version the attacker’s arm encircles the opponent’s neck and they then grab their own bicep to tighten the choke. In the second version, the attacker joins their hands together and squeezes as opposed to grabbing their own bicep.

The first version is the most common form of the choke. Apart from the final grip many of the other details are the same for every variation of the choke. Once back control has been secured these are the main general steps of the RNC:

  1. The attacker’s arm encircles the opponent’s neck (forearm underneath chin), until the opponent’s trachea at the crook of the elbow.
  2. The attacker’s choking arm then grasps the bicep of their other arm (non choking arm).
  3. The hand non choking arm is then placed behind head or behind the shoulder of the opponent.
  4. The attacker then tightens the choke by bringing their elbows together and flexing their arms. This results in significant pressure being applied to both sides of the neck.

When applied properly, unconsciousness occurs in less than 10 seconds and recovery from the choke is just as quick.

The word “naked” refers to the fact that the hold does not require the use of a Kimono or Gi training uniform.

The physiology of the choke (How the RNC works)

The Rear Naked Choke is a blood choke. This means that it works by restricting bloodflow to the brain.

When the attacker has the choke secured and they begin to apply pressure, the opponents jugular vein is compressed. In addition the carotid arteries on either side of the neck begin to narrow. As this happens blood begins to fall  which may result in the opponent feeling flushed in the face. As the bloodflow falls below critical level the opponent will starts lose consciousness.

Blood levels rise again as soon as the choke is released which usually results in regaining of consciousness after a few seconds.

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