The head and arm choke (aka the ‘arm triangle’ and/or ‘kata gatame’) is one of the staple submissions of BJJ. It works with the gi, in MMA and in submission grappling.
A lot of people can get to this position, but then have problems actually finishing the choke, especially if their opponent has a strong neck and upper body.
Here is my favourite way to finish the head and arm choke.
You use this finish from side mount. It’s so powerful that if I catch the head and arm choke in mount then I’ll dismount, actually going down the BJJ positional hierarchy, just to apply this particular style of head and arm choke.
Check out the video below or scroll down for a quick photographic summary of the finish…
Let’s take a look at a couple common ways to finish the head and arm choke.
First of all, there are the arm positions.
Arm positioning isn’t the focus of today’s article, but depending on your build and your preferences you can use a finger to finger grip, a palm to palm grip, or a palm on biceps grip.
I go through some of the gripping options at about 1:25 of the video below…
One thing that’s not often discussed is body position for the head and arm choke.
But this is a critical aspect of finishing this submission!
First let’s look at a method I was first taught in Judo…
In Judo the head and arm choke is called kata gatame, but in that sport it’s not only a submission: it’s also a pinning position. Hold someone flat in kata gatame for 20 seconds and you win the match.
So there isn’t as much incentive in Judo to actually finish this move as a submission – holding it is often enough.
Anyhow, one common way that Judoka position their body is with their legs scissored, kesa gatame style.
Now this scissored leg position can definitely be an effective way to finish the head and arm choke, but I find it relies on arm and back strength.
If you’re stronger than your opponent then it works very well. But if he’s stronger then you then it can be hard to finish. And if he’s very explosive then he might be able to escape his arm out of the hole between your head and his head, thus unwrapping the choke.
So although it works it’s not my favourite body position.
Another way that a lot of people are taught to finish the head and arm choke is with one knee posted on the ground, right beside your opponent’s hip…
Once again, this isn’t wrong, and that knee at the hip can be useful to block your opponent’s legs from reguarding, but it’s still not my favourite body position.
My major objection to this style of finish is that your posted knee transmits a good deal of your body’s weight into the floor, instead of into your opponent.
Also to get this choke really tight from here requires a good deal of arm and back strength.
It can work, but I think there’s a more efficient way to do it.
It involves sprawling your hips low, getting your weight onto your tippy toes, and having one leg alongside your opponent while outriggering the other leg to the side.
The key points here are as follows…
- Hips and knees very low but not on the ground- the only things touching the ground are the balls of your feet and your forearms
- Your near leg goes alongside your opponent’s legs
- Your far leg points 90 degrees to the side
- To apply the choke drive off your toes and slide your weight forward, towards his head.
You might think that having your near leg so close to his legs might allow him to reguard, but in practise this is very difficult especially if your leg is just barely off the ground.
This method relies much less on the squeezing of the arms than the previous two styles. Yes, you have to get your arms snugged up and into the proper position, but the actual finish comes from driving off your toes and moving up towards his head.
This forward drive lifts his chin up and allows the choke to activate – it’s a little like popping the top off a daisy with your thumb!
I’m not saying this is the only way to apply this choke, but it’s certainly one of the best ways.
However, as always, don’t take my word for it! Go and try it for yourself. Watch the video, then field test it against training partners in training and in sparring.
Regardless of what method you end up using to finish the head and arm choke, it’s a submission well worth developing. Good luck with it!!
I just published a new video on my YouTube channel called ‘Making Your Arm Triangle Choke Super Powerful’ (link in bio). One of the critical points is to NOT rest your weight on your knee (like in the top photo) but rather drop your hips, lift your knees off the ground, and then drive forwards using the balls of your feet. Really amplifies the pressure on your opponent’s neck! #armtriangle #katagatame #bjj #judo
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