The Number One Choke in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

by | May 12, 2021

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Rear Naked Choke

The number one choke in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)? As with the debate for the number one punch in boxing or the signature strike of Muay Thai — the answer is open. In BJJ, there are many silent ways or chokes to deprive your opponent of precious oxygen. Do we go for Cross Collar, Guillotine, North South, Darce, Triangle, Head Arm, Ezekiel, Rear Naked etc? Of course, the answer is determined through position. But which has the highest rate of success, assuming you’re in a favourable position to execute the choke?

UFC Submission Statistics

From UFC 1 to October 2020, 913 bouts were ended due to a choke submission. Of these 913, the highest contributor at 49% was the Rear Naked Choke (RNC). Incidentally, Royce Gracie successfully performed a RNC in UFC 1 and it’s been increasingly used in MMA ever since. Purely from a statistical perspective the RNC is number one. So, why does it statistically rank highly?
NB. Guillotine was the next highest choke submission at 23%.

Versatile, Powerful and Simple

One answer is, the RNC choke is highly versatile. Like the Guillotine, it’s one of the few chokes that can be executed from both standing and ground positions. Obviously, the more versatile a submission the more likely it is to be used.

Secondly, the RNC is super powerful. Caught in the middle of a strong squeeze, between biceps muscles and forearm bones, unconsciousness happens within ten seconds. The power also stems from the fact that it takes little strength to execute the choke correctly. Small or weaker can overcome large and stronger.

Additionally, the beauty is in the simplicity. It’s not difficult to learn. And it doesn’t require a Gi or clothing to assist the strangle. The choke is just as effective on a non-clothed body. Hence, the name Rear Naked Choke. Moving on, what is a RNC?

The Mata Leo or Rear Naked Choke

Mata Leo is Portuguese for “Lion Killer.” This powerful nickname spawned from historical images of Samson strangling a lion. The RNC is a blood choke executed from behind an opponent (the rear). When applied correctly, constrictive pressure is applied to the carotid arteries of the neck.
In other words, blood flow to the brain is restricted or prevented. Consequently, the recipient passes out from lack of oxygen and goes to sleep (cerebral anoxia). Hence, the name Sleeper Hold as it’s known in wrestling.


The RNC is arguably the number one choke in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This king of chokes is simple to execute, brutally efficient and hard to defend. This choke really is worth perfecting.

Yours in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,