How To Defend Yourself From Cross Collar Chokes In Jiu-Jitsu/BJJ

As I was sitting on the mats exhausted from being submitted over and over again from the same cross collar choke, I was left wondering how I could defend myself against it. 

One of the most frustrating things in Jiu-Jitsu is being caught in the same submission without the knowledge on how to get out. So, I decided to do a little research and seek help from a private lesson with a brown belt (Kyle "The Bull" Sleeman) from Bruckmann's Martial Arts. What I learned was that the first step to defending yourself was to control the grips and fight the hands. However, there will be times when the opponent has control of your collar and a new strategy is needed. Let's look into the different techniques you can use to defend yourself from the cross collar choke.

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What is a cross collar choke?

 A cross collar choke is a common submission used in gi jiu-jitsu. It's applied by having grips on opposite collars creating an "X" with your arms. When the "X" pattern has been established, both arms utilize a pulling force in opposite directions to create pressure and cut off airflow to the brain causing your opponent to either tap out or go unconscious. This submission is basic but still very effective and if you don't know how to get out or defend yourself, it can be a large hole in your jiu-jitsu game.

Why do I get caught in this submission?

You most likely get caught in this submission due to a lack of training. Realistically, you need to practice in order to improve but a common mistake is allowing your opponent to get both grips on your collars. From there, they are just a step away from securing the finish and being proactive before this step is important to avoid being submitted. Fight with your hands and grips and never allow your opponent to get control of your collars.

Is there a sweep/reversal from being attacked with this submission?

If they have one grip control on a single collar, you must defend against the other hand to avoid the complete "X" pattern but with this in mind, it can be very useful to understand that you can "Bridge" with your legs and bump your opponent off balance allowing you to come up in a more dominant position. Hip up and bridge to the same side as the attacking arm. This works because as the opponent is attacking (grabbing the collar) with their arm, they no longer have a post on that side making them vulnerable to being swept. This sweep only applies if you are being chocked from the bottom mount. This type of choke can be used in multiple positions. Keep reading for another way to defend. This sweep can also be applied if they have both collar grips as they won't have the ability to post on either side. From here you can use the same move to bridge and sweep on either side you'd like.

It's important to control their wrist as well before you attempt the bridge/sweep because when they feel they are being bumped off balance, they will most likely let go of the collar grip and post with that arm to regain balance and prevent you from coming to the top. Another way they can post to prevent you from sweeping is to extend their legs and using that as their post. Controlling and keeping that knee close to your hip with your other hand can help stop them from posting with that leg.

Are collar chokes effective?

Collar chokes can be very effective and can be one of the first submissions new practitioners learn. It can be easily applied with little or no flexibility and can be a sneaky attack catching people off guard. There are many variations of collar chokes and they are a huge aspect of gi jiu-jitsu. Chocking someone out with their own gi is what makes a lot of people frustrated and switch to no-gi but learning how to both attack and defend these chokes can greatly improve your confidence on the mats.

How do I defend myself from cross collar chokes?

The final step to securing the submission once you have strong gripes on opposite collars would be to flair the elbows creating a wider "X" with your arms. Knowing that the elbow flair is the last step, you must stop this finish by pushing their elbows back in with your palms and not allowing them to flair their elbows. This is the final battle before they win the war so don't be afraid to use your energy to ensure they don't finish the last step with an elbow flair causing a loss of blood flow to the brain through the jugular veins. If they win this battle and secure a wide "X" pattern with strong grips, pulling in opposite directions, It's either tap or go to sleep. Hopefully, your ego doesn't force you to sleep.

Simple Steps To Defending and Countering A Cross Collar Choke

  1. Fight the hands and don't let them get the first collar grip
  2. If they have control/grip on one side, bump your hips and bridge to the same side causing them to be unbalanced and allowing yourself to come up in a more dominant position.
  3. Bridge & Sweep to the same side they are attacking. (Control their wrists and knee/leg to prevent a post)
  4. Strong bridge with your legs and commit with a full motion to the side they don't have a post. If done correctly, you will end up on top of your opponent.
  5. LAST CHANCE:  Pinch their elbows together by putting your palms to their elbows and pushing inwards preventing them from creating a wide "X" pattern.

Final Thoughts:

Jiu-Jitsu, like many other art forms, has many variations for expressing an attack, counter and defence. This is the method that I learned and has worked well while rolling. What I learned from getting frustrated and caught in the same submission over and over again was that I shouldn't be discouraged from continuing BJJ but rather accentuate more desire for learning and applying the knowledge in live rolling sessions. The frustration is all a part of the journey as well as the satisfaction of experiencing success with new found knowledge. 

Have you had similar experiences of confusion on the mats? Let me know in the comments below and if you ever want to share your journey, send us an email at for ways to collaborate. 

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