I know, I know, I KNOW!
I go on and on about how tapping out is no big deal, and how you can get injured if you let ego get in the way, and how everybody gets caught from time to time…
But there I was, leaping all over the place to escape a submission, becoming increasingly desperate as the noose tightened around my neck, just because the whole thing seemed so cheesy.
Let me jump back a step, explain what happened, and then give you a six step breakdown of the choke that caused all this trouble…
A little while ago I was sparring with my friend Chad. I’ve known him for over 10 years and he’s now been a blue belt for 6 years. His blue belt is almost white because it’s so faded with age and torn up from time on the mats.
(This reminds me of the time another friend – Denis Kang – went to Brazil to train and stepped on the mat with a raggedy old blue belt. He was soon in the fight of his life and couldn’t believe how good his opponent was. After the match he learned that he’d been sparring Amaury Bitetti, two time World Champion and two time Brazilian National Champion. Amaury’s ancient belt was so worn out it had appeared blue, but in fact it was a genuine, bona fide black belt…)
Anyway, always beware of guys with faded belts! Now back to my story…
Chad isn’t a multiple time world champion (yet) but he’s a really tough guy with a lot of experience. One of those blue belts, in other words…
We were sparring and I started in his closed guard. I stood to open it, then forced my way into half guard.
We fought for grips and eventually I achieved double undercooks and used those to start cutting through his half guard. I was almost in side mount when I noticed that he was holding my head and neck with one of his arms. ‘Fine‘, I thought, ‘at least he’s not pushing me away or shrimping to make room.‘
Alas, I’d forgotten that one of Chad’s bread and butter attacks is the Sleeve Choke!
I plowed on, passed his half guard and established side control…
And fell right into Chad’s trap!
The next thing you know he had grabbed his own sleeve, put his hand across my throat and locked on the sleeve choke. It was tight and started coming on almost immediately!
Dammit, how could this happen??!? I’m a black belt, 30 lbs heavier than this guy, he’s trapped in the bottom of sidemount. And here I am gagging, unable to breathe, and about 1 second away from tapping out.
I should have tapped out, but contrary to my own advice I took a desperate gamble. Operating entirely on instinct and bullheadedness I jumped to the other side of his body, and drove forward to disrupt the alignment of his hands.
Finally his hands popped open and I was out of the choke just before I ran out of air.
Whew! Narrow escape!!!
Now I have to admit that my escape wasn’t a pre-planned or calculated move. It might have been instinct, it might have been luck, but this time I managed to find a way out. Other times I haven’t been so lucky.
Getting caught in the Sleeve Choke was entirely my own fault. I hadn’t sparred anyone specialising in this move for a while, and had been so intent on passing the guard that I neglected to notice his arm snaking around the back of my head.
Against a sleeve choke expert watch his arms and hands at all times. And if he gets control of your head then it’s time to go to Defcon 1. You’ve got a sleeve choke emergency on your hands; control his other hand and get your head the heck out of there asap!
The sleeve choke is the most versatile choke in all of BJJ and gi-based grappling. You can apply it from the guard, side mount, mount, and rear mount. And it’ll also work during scrambles, from inside your opponent’s guard and from the bottom of side mount (like I just told you about).
I’ve even seen it successfully applied from the bottom of mount! I wouldn’t have believed this last one but I once watched Benito Segura, another teammate of mine, win a tournament by tapping out his opponent with a sleeve choke with the other guy (who was big and strong and skilled) sitting on his chest.
That’s just not supposed to happen. The fact that it did is testimony to the power of the Sleeve Choke.
So the sleeve choke isn’t actually a cheesy submission at all. It’s won lots of legit competitions and put lots of tough competitors to sleep.
Like I said, anytime you wrap your arm around someone’s neck they’re in danger of you nailing them with the sleeve choke
It’s the ONLY choke I know of that you can apply from the top and the bottom of almost every position in BJJ.
Here’s a 6 step breakdown of the Sleeve Choke, along with a couple of advanced details to get you started on your sleeve choke journey (or just enable you to defend it better):
By the way, if you enjoyed the breakdown of the Sleeve Choke in the video above you may want to check out the ‘Grapplearts Step by Step Submissions App‘.
This app is only $3.99 and it’s available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, etc. etc. Plus it has 42 gi and no-gi submissions broken down for you in the same step-by-step manner so they’re all really easy to learn.