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Artechoke in a Can: Finishing the Rear Naked Choke

Thus far, we have discussed at great length taking the back, and though we’ve spent some time covering some often ignored back take opportunities, we have yet to really scratch the surface. For the most part, we have focused primarily on the arm drag as a means to making the transition to a back mount position. We will return to covering back take opportunities next week, but I wanted to cover finishing from the back before then so that my students can get repetitions on getting the finish as we make that progression (rather than ending the back take module with finishes, leaving no real opportunity for in-class practice).

Finishing from the back is your ultimate goal when you dedicate your game to back takes, but it can be very frustrating. Yes, you can use the back to set up arm locks or to set up arm triangles, but the most reliable attack from the back position is the rear naked choke. Yet, it can be the hardest to get because your opponent knows exactly what you want when you set your hooks. Today, we explore some basic techniques for setting and finish the rear naked choke in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In reality, sets up for the rear naked choke are rarely fancy or elaborate. They often hinge on timing, patience, and grip fighting. Let me emphasize the patience part. You should not burn your arms out hunting for the finish. Take your time, rely on your back maintence techniques, and be methodical and calculated. If you gas your biceps out squeezing for a choke that isn’t there, you will miss the real opportunity to end the fight when it arises.

In this first video, we explore the basics of entering and finishing the rear naked choke, focusing on some key details that you might be missing, like using your chin to make your choking arm stronger as you make the transition to locking the choke and using your free hand to punch through the hand fight. The rear naked choke is a game of millimeters, so these details are important.

In the next technique, we look at some details for breaking basic grips and increasing our chances of catching the neck rather than the chin when we snap our arm up for the choke. The trick here is our wrist positioning. Rather than go thumbs up, making our wrist flat agaisnt our opponent’s chest, try pointing your thumb into your opponent’s chest to make your wrist perpendicular, so the flat side is showing to their chin. This makes ratcheting your wrist in much easier. Note the way I use the hand peel to get this process started as well.

For the last technique, we continue the grip troubleshooting discussion with an application of the free hook concept. Way back when we first looked at maintaining the back, I empasized that the top hook was not mandatory for control, that it could be removed and used as a tool for helping you maintain and finish from the back. This is an example of what I meant. I can use that top hook to isolate one of my opponent’s arms, taking it out of the game so that I have one less hand to fight as I attack the neck. Pay careful attention to how I make the transfer from controlling his wrist to gripping my own ankle. It’s a simple movement, but a lot of people miss it.

Next week, we will look at strategies for troubleshooting a failed arm drag. From there, we will launch into other opportunities to take the back, like from switches, kimuras, armbars, and from mount. Are you sick of taking the back yet? You shouldn’t be. It’s awesome.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Misc. Back Take Opportunities

As we continue learning about taking the back, I feel it would be a disservice to not address some opportunities for taking the back that are not the usual do this then this then that to take the back. What I mean is, these are very simple ways to take the back that arise in transitory situations—the grey area between position A and B. Though the entry to the back in these situations is not complicated, the chance to capitalize is fleeting, which is why it’s important to learn them and drill them. A lot.

The window is small, so your reaction time must be quick.

In the first technique, we set a hook as our opponent turns away from us to escape side control. The act of bellying down into a turtle position exposes the hip to a hook for a fleeting moment. To sneak the hook in, all you have to do is execute a quick sit-out-like motion. The challenge is that if you try too soon, your opponent’s back will block you. If you try too late, your opponent’s knee will block you. You have to attack right when the hip starts coming off of the mat.

For the next technique, we look at transitioning from mount to technical mount when our opponent shrimps. Again, this is not a complicated movement, but timing is essential. You have to have the awareness and the reaction time to float your hips at precisely the right moment, allowing you to drop into technical mount. You can stack the deck a bit with the cross face, as you will see, but perfecting your finesse is still essential.

This final back take is more of a conceptual example than the previous two. Anytime our opponent is attacking a single leg, you can potential take the back, provided that you force your opponent’s head out of position. This particular example explores countering a seated single leg, but in any scenario where your opponent is committed to a single leg like position, you can potentially take the back by beating the head.

When you practice this particular variation, pay close attention to the movement of my hips. Notice how I sink them low as I start my rotation. If you keep your hips high and try to secure the back, your opponent will be in a good position to flush out the bottom.

Next week, we explore finishing from the back, which won’t be our final class in the module. We’ll continue to dive down the rabbit hole of arm drags and back takes, but we’re choosing to explore submissions now because I plan to force my students to drill finishing extensively as we continue to look at new ways to take the back.

Can you tell that I like drilling?

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Arm Drags and Single Legs

We began exploring the potential of the arm drag last week. As much as we want to take the back with the arm drag, and that should always be your primary goal, the arm drag will sometimes fail. That’s the nature of grappling. In the arm drag’s failure, however, is opportunity.

The most common reaction to an arm drag attempt is simple: your opponent yanks his arm free of your grips. When this happens, the arm drag is lost, but your opponent has temporarily cleared a path for you to attack. When his hands are directly in front of him, it can be hard to close the distance. When he yanks back to escape the arm drag, he clears a path by taking his own hand out of the way. In the first technique, where both myself and my opponent are standing, we use this fleeting opening to transition into a single leg.

For the next technique, we looked at what to do if our opponent is stopping our rotation to the back when we attack with the arm drag from the butt scoot while our opponent is standing. When you are trying to come up out of the butt scoot in this situation, your opponent can sometimes use his standing position to pressure back into you, to keep you from coming all the way up to your feet and then to his back. When this happens, you use a movement similar to one we looked at last week: you throw your weight backward (keeping your shoulder attached to his shoulder) to pull him to the mat and stretch him out. From there, you can take his back just like you did when both of you were on the ground. It’s worth noting that this same backward drop can be used from a standing arm drag entry. If you feel like he is stopping you from rounding the corner to his back but your arm drag control is secure, drop your butt to the mat and bring him with you.

To round out the class, we return to the single leg, except this time I am in the butt scoot and my opponent is standing. This is a reliable technique, and the more you work it, the more you start to think of the butt scoot as the first half of your shot (the level change). From the butt scoot, you shoot forward and up, attacking your opponent’s legs and hips with a takedown. For me, that takedown is usually a single leg. Since we’re thinking of the butt scoot as a staging area for a shot, we can use many of the same shot set-ups that we use from standing, like threatening an arm drag to clear a path for a single leg takedown. This, to me, is what makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu really fun.

Next week, we will start to sharpen our back take instincts, by looking at common scenarios where an opponent might expose his back. These are awesome opportunities to establish a dominant position, but they also tend to come and go very quickly. So we will work on honing our reaction time and training ourselves to anticipate these openings so that we can capitalize effectively.

If you are following along with these lessons and train at another gym, you should know that we review all the techniques that we’ve covered in a module prior to learning new material, and we’ve been doing isolation sparring from the back position. Those repetitions are a big part of the learning process. If you are trying to incorporate this material into your jiu-jitsu and you aren’t drilling the regularly, you should start.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Arm Drag Introduction

Last week, we began our module on back control. Now, we begin to explore paths and avenues for taking the back with an introduction to a basic arm drag.

To me, the arm drag is a concept, a principle. Working with the arm drag teaches you to look for the back anytime your opponent’s arm is crossing diagonally across your body. If his arm is in this position, you have an opportunity to take his back. While this may seem somewhat obvious to see and to read, distilling the back take to this extremely basic form will help you to troubleshoot your back takes and to explore new opportunities to transition to the back. As we explore basic arm drags in this lesson, we will come back to this idea again and again.

In the first video, I illustrate this concept with a demonstration of a standing arm drag. Almost everything in these videos I learned from working on Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques and has changed my game dramatically. The arm drag is a bit of an obsession for me, so forgive me if I get longwinded in the videos. That said, pay particular attention to my footwork. The arm drag is most successful when you move yourself instead of moving your opponent.

In the next video, we look at how to counter the wrist grab with an arm drag (a very useful attack) and then jump from the back bodylock to back control while our opponent is standing. If you’re a bigger guy, you could transition to a high crotch single, a supplex, or some form of lateral drop. You have a lot of options when you’re in the back bodylock, and we didn’t have enough time to thoroughly cover them all.

Next, we started to look at using the arm drag from the butt scoot position. Again, moving yourself is key, and having that mobility stems directly from your butt scoot posture. At the end of this video, note how I swing my leg to get the momentum to come up into the seatbelt position while my partner is turtled.

To finish the lesson, we discussed some more details of posture and talked about why I prefer to fight for the second hook with my opponent on his side versus turtled. Again, most of the material is shamelessly taken from Marcelo. Note: this video reveals a secret Pittsburgh technique called the “Southside.”

Next week, we will continue exploring the potential of the arm drag.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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Artechoke in a Can: Maintaining the Back

This class marks the beginning of a new module: Arm Drags and Back Takes. For me, this topic is something of an obsession. When I discovered the arm drag, specifically Marcelo’s take on the technique, it opened my jiu-jitsu to a whole new kind of game. Before, I relied heavily on rubber guard, depending on high guard and variations of high guard to win matches. When my knees gave out, putting a lot of guard techniques out of my reach (like triangles, for example), the arm drag provided a new way of playing guard and approaching jiu-jitsu as a whole.

Once I gained confidence with the arm drag, I made it my mission to constantly look for the back, which is why almost every module I teach touches upon taking the back in some fashion. For me, and this may not be true for all grapplers, my end-goal is the rear naked choke. No matter where I am, I want to get to the back and set that choke, so in that way, my jiu-jitsu is something of a funnel, with all roads eventually leading to the same position (unless a finish presents itself along the way).

One of the major hurdles that students face when it comes to taking the back is not specific to individual techniques. Rather, it’s a matter of confidence. In an average roll, you might never take the back, and if you do, you’ll probably only spend a minute or less in the position. At the same time, it’s very easy to rack up hours of practice playing guard or playing top. The result: many grapplers take the back, quickly lose it, which can create a mental block, a creeping frustration that clouds their mind when they should be focusing on maintaining and finishing from the back.

To head that problem off, the first lesson of this module focuses on techniques for maintaining the back position while your opponent attempts to escape.

In the first video, I demonstrate how to un-turtle an opponent when you have a single hook. If you are fighting to take the back, this position comes up a lot, and it can be very difficult to finish your opponent from here because of his ability to use the mat to limit space. By rolling him on to his side, you give yourself the advantage of having the mat as a tool for maintaining the position, you limit his mobility, and your free hook as the mobility to become a problem solving tool (maintaining position, trapping arms, breaking grips, etc)—all while minimizing the risk of getting rolled back into guard.

The second video addresses a common scenario: your opponent blocking your second hook once you have rolled him to his side by connecting his knee to his elbow. This is a bit of a non-issue as you’ll eventually learn that the second hook is not as necessary for control as you might think, but being able to slow your opponent down or to get your four points with the second hook can still be important. The solution is not very complex, but many people overlook it.

In this final video, we address the common challenge of what to do when your opponent bridges and flattens your back to the mat, forcing you to support his weight while making it difficult for you to choke. Again the solution is relatively simple: use a butterfly hook to reset his hips. But you have to have confidence in the previous two techniques for this transition to be effective for you because this requires you to have the stones to give up a hook (preferably on the underhook side). On a side note, you can use this same technique to reset your opponent’s hips if he is shrimping out.

To end the class, we did a trigger drill to start developing muscle memory that’s connected to specific stimuli. This simulates a live roll but gives students the ability to take their time and ease into applying a technique in real time. The more advanced students incorporated a seat belt recovery technique that was touched on in the Kimura Module.

Next week, we begin to explore the arm drag as a concept, which will set up the rest of the classes in the module.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.