Are there any submissions out there that you just can’t finish? You can set it up, lock it on, and strain for all you’re worth, but your opponent just won’t tap out?
It happens all the time. In fact, I’m not immune either. There have been lots of submissions where I initially thought, “oh man, this will never work for me!”
But take heart! Usually there are just one or two critical details that need to be fixed before you experience that magical quantum leap in your ability to finish people with that submission!
For example, the North-South choke was a problem for me for the longest time. At least 3 different people broke it down for me in painstaking detail, but it still wouldn’t work…
I’d get to the North-South choke position, I’d wrap the head with my arm, turn his face with my ribs, and shimmy backwards. But no matter how much I shimmied or how hard I squeezed, I rarely finished the choke on skilled or tough opponents.
But eventually I figured out the detail which made all the difference in the world for me. In the end, that final key detail was all about positioning my arm correctly in relation to his neck.
What I had to do was get the center of my armpit directly above his Adam’s apple before shimmying and squeezing. With this ‘secret sauce’ my North South choke finally became a serious threat.
Now there are a only a limited number of things you can think about when you’re trying to tap somebody out in the heat of the battle.
So try to focus only on a few key details, rather than trying to make sure everything is absolutely perfect.
But keep these one, two or three critical things in the forefront of your mind when you’re using the submission: they are the cruxes of the move!
In the North South choke, as I maneuver into the final position I’m literally reminding myself, “armpit over the Adam’s apple, armpit over the Adam’s apple…’
Most submissions have at least one crux detail you need to work on before you can start tapping people out.
Now your crux details may not be my details: maybe you’re already doing everything correctly that I was doing wrong, or maybe you’re making entirely different mistakes…
Nevertheless, examples are always useful, so here are some crux details that have really helped my BJJ career:
- North South Choke: center your armpit directly over the Adam’s apple, the middle of your opponent’s throat (click here for a video of Marcelo Garcia teaching me the North South Choke),
- Clock Choke: slide the side of your ribscage onto the back of your opponent’s neck,
- Rear Naked Choke: line up the elbow of your choking arm directly with the tip of your opponent’s chin (here’s a video on finishing the RNC and here’s some ideas if your opponent is keeping his chin down)
- Armbar: glue his little finger to your chest chest, so his thumb points away from you (also see this blog post about the three armbar fundamentals),
- Straight Ankle Lock: put your forearm or wrist on top of the little wrinkles where his heel meets his Achilles tendon (click here for a breakdown of the ankle lock)
- Toehold: make sure that the little-finger edge of your hand is lined up with the tips of his toes, no less, no more (cool pic of a toehold in action here)
- Cross Collar Choke: get your first hand in super deep; even if you can’t actually do it, aim for getting all the way to the seam at the back of his gi (photos of deep vs shallow cross collar grips here),
- Kneebar: squeeze your knees together, squeeze your knees together, squeeze your knees together (want to develop effective kneebars? Read this article about Kneebar Mastery)
The funny thing is that two different people can use different sets of instructions to express the same detail…
Consider the ‘Clock Choke,’ a great attack to use against a turtled opponent wearing a gi.
When my BJJ coach Marcus Soares teaches this choke he often tells people to “put your head onto the ground” just before finalizing the choke.
But when I use the same move I don’t put my head on the ground. Instead I think about sliding the side of my ribcage onto the back of his neck. This is where an executioner’s axe would come down! (Can you tell that I’ve been reading too much Game of Thrones?)
So, ribs on the neck vs. head on the ground: who’s right?
Well he’s a 7th degree black belt who specialized in clock chokes! So if you do it his way you’re going to be OK for sure. But I still like to think that we’re both right…
Both ways of doing it end up sliding your weight off of your opponent’s body and pinning your his head on to the mat. That’s the real key, and the reason why you’re moving all around.
For whatever reason, though, it’s just faster and easier for me to tell myself, “ribs on neck, ribs on neck…”
You can take two different routes to the same destination. You can also have two different wordings to finalize the submission.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and whatever works for you. So go forth and find some simple words to describe the crux details for your own submissions!