Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a South American martial art that focuses predominantly on ground fighting. It was developed by four brothers under the instruction of a Japanese Judo master called Mitsuyo Maeda.
As such, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (or BJJ for short) incorporates many of the moves frequently seen in Judo, as well as a few other conventional strikes and kicks.
The Ezekiel choke is one of the many submissions that a combatant can use to subdue their opponents in BJJ. It is a highly sought-after position, due to its effectiveness and relative ease of application.
In this article we will be looking at what the Ezekiel choke is, where it came from and how to perform it.
What Is The Ezekiel Choke?
The Ezekiel choke is a special kind of choke hold that uses the sleeve on your own Gi or Kimono to cut off your opponent’s trachea and carotid arteries.
As such, it works as both a blood choke and an air choke, depending on how you orientate your palm.
Due to its effectiveness, the Ezekiel choke is a great way to force almost instant submission, since most fighters will not be able to tolerate it for long without tapping out.
One of the few requirements for setting up this choke is getting one hand behind your opponent’s head.
Since this is a position you will frequently find yourself in while rolling around on the mat, this choke can be set up without telegraphing your intentions to your opponent.
History Of The Ezekiel Choke
This choke hold was in use in both judo and Japanese jiu jitsu long before it was implemented in BJJ. The name for this choke in Japanese is Sode Guruma Jime, which translates literally into ‘sleeve wheel constriction.’
Despite existing in Judo long before BJJ, this move was rarely used by professional Judoka. It was a student of BJJ by the name of Ezequiel Paraguassú who first popularized this choke hold.
Paraguassú was preparing for the 1988 Olympics and as such was familiarizing himself with all the basic moves of Judo.
In his quest to improve, he found himself at the birthplace of Brazilian jiu jitsu, the Carlson Gracie academy. Here Paraguassú passed on this technique of Sode Guruma Jime to his instructors, and the move was an almost instant success.
Since BJJ allows competitors a longer amount of time to subdue their opponent than Judo, the Ezekiel choke was a much more viable move. The fact that this choke can be applied within an opponent’s guard is another factor that made it so popular in BJJ.
While Paraguassú was not successful at the Olympics, he did succeed in reminding the BJJ community about a very simple, yet effective submission technique.
Mechanics Of The Ezekiel Choke
The Ezekiel choke is often set up from a mount position where you are straddling your opponent in a position where you can get one arm behind their head.
From here, the hand that is behind their head goes into your sleeve on the opposite arm. This arm rests on top of their neck, so that you can apply pressure to the trachea and carotid arteries.
The hand inside your sleeve grabs onto the fabric, pulling the arm inside the sleeve down with it. As such, you can apply a lot of pressure with this choke hold, and your opponent will struggle to release it since they can’t reach the arm inside your sleeve.
There are two very important tips that you need to remember when executing this choke. Firstly, you need to grab as deep into your sleeve as possible. This provides a firm grip and much more leverage for applying pressure with your free hand.
Secondly, your free hand should not be too open. Instead, you want to loosely curl your fingers, so they are easier to sneak under your opponent’s chin.
Depending on how you place your palm, you can use this as a blood or an air choke, and either one is certain to make your opponent tap out very quickly.
One of the great things about this choke is that the only requirement to set it up is getting one arm behind your opponent’s head.
This can be easily accomplished by rolling your opponents over, and as such, you won’t be telegraphing your choke.
Doing The Ezekiel Choke Without A Gi
Most of the time this choke will require using the sleeve of your own Gi or Kimono for leverage, however you can do it without any garments.
In this case, you can grab onto your forearm with your free hand and use it for leverage instead. This grip can be a little less secure, and your opponent may have an easier time breaking out of it.
Try to grab quite far up your arm, but too far that you can’t get a secure grip.
How To Counter The Ezekiel Choke
The best way to counter the Ezekiel choke is to avoid letting your opponent get their hand behind or near your head.
When you sense them trying to do this, immediately get one of your free hands to your neck to prevent them getting their hand under your chin.
Protect your head at all costs, and you should be able to avoid being put in this chokehold. If you can’t protect your head, then protect your neck as soon as you suspect your opponent is trying to get you in an Ezekiel choke.
The Ezekiel choke wasn’t named after Ezequiel Paraguassú, but he was one of the first martial artists to introduce this choke to BJJ. Since then, this choke hold has become one of the easiest ways to force your opponents to submit, if you can set it up (Check out How To Do A Sleeper Hold).
The choke can be used to cut off the flow of blood or air, and either way, your opponent will be likely to tap out very quickly.
Why not try out this chokehold at your next BJJ session, and ask your instructor to give you some helpful tips to avoid getting caught in it yourself.
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