Bow and Arrow Choke

Black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in traditional gis demonstrate the Bow and Arrow Choke Submission

This is one of the most high-percentage chokes in Jiu-Jitsu. Once the grips are set by the attacker,
it is extremely difficult for the defender to wriggle out of this choke. When this choke is being performed properly, it not only blocks the carotid arteries, it also twists and stretches the defender’s body, neutralizing the defender’s hips and killing spine flexibility. As you can see from the diagram, the attacker has control points on the upper, middle, and lower portion of the defender’s body. Also the defender is facing away from the attacker which further limits their escape options. The attacker’s legs constrain the defender’s bottom arm so that it isn’t usable and they isolate the top arm while keeping an uncomfortable pressure on the defender’s ribs. The attacker’s grip on the defender’s pants prevents the defender from being able to turn in either direction and keeps that leg off the mat to prevent bridging and shrimping. This choke is normally achieved from the Back Mount and Turtle positions, but occasionally this choke will happen during a scramble.

Key details for the Bow and Arrow Choke

Important details for the attacker (Person in blue gi):
  1. Push and Pull. This choke isn’t just about how hard you can pull with your arms. To finish this choke properly, you should be pulling with both arms while also pushing hard against the defender’s body with both legs. Focus on elongating your spine so that you engage the muscles in your entire body in pushing and pulling.
  2. Mind the chin. If the defender’s lapel is over their chin instead of under it, then this choke becomes an exercise in pain tolerance for the defender. It is considered bad etiquette to continue pursuing a choke where the lapel is over the opponent’s chin. This falls into the same category as pinching the opponent, for example, because it is painful but doesn’t actually accomplish a submission. In a tournament, this would rarely result in a tap. If the defender taps, you didn’t submit them as much as make them grow tired of dealing with the position.
  3. Three key points. Make sure you have control in three locations of the defender. You should have control of the upper body with the choking arm and leg over the defenders shoulder. You should have control over the defender’s hips/core with the other leg. Lastly, you should have control over the defender’s lower body by gripping the defender’s pants or under-hooking the leg
Important details for the defender (Person in white gi):
  1. Start early! This choke gets progressively more difficult to defend as the attacker gains his or her control points. Do not wait to begin setting up your escape route.
  2. Control the wrist. Before the attacker can get their leg over your shoulder, use your bottom hand to grab the wrist of the choking hand and pull it as hard as you can. Even if you can’t move their arm, it is beneficial to keep this constant pressure here.
  3. Keep your hips up. Again, before the attacker achieves all of their control points, make sure that you keep your hips active by keeping them off the floor. The best practice here is to keep your heels as close to your hips as you can get them, and stay on your tiptoes. If you are flat on your butt, you have no power in reserve to make a move when the timing is right. Active hips and legs provide on-demand power and mobility.
  4. If you have followed all of the details above, then you will have the opportunity to escape when the attacker attempts to lean back to start taking the choke. There is a moment when the attacker must fall back onto their butt in order to gain and use all of their control points. In this moment, you will have the opportunity to turn towards the attacker and roll into the attacker’s Full Guard. As the attacker falls back, you should take their top hand (the one waving in the image), and swim it underneath the armpit of the attacker’s arm that is holding the lapel. There will be just enough space here to accomplish this if you are following Detail 2. Once the top arm is behind the attacker, you can bridge and turn, which will put them in the attacker’s Full Guard. This isn’t a great place to be, but it is much better than being choked!

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