BJJ prides itself on being the ultimate ground fighting system, and submissions are the pinnacle of the gentle art. Completing a submission is the most desired outcome in competition, even if matches often end on points. But what exactly are BJJ submissions, and how many are there?
BJJ submissions are techniques that place the opponent’s body in a position where he either has to admit defeat by submitting or suffer the painful consequences. There are hundreds of different submissions, but they can be divided into chokes, arm locks, leg locks, and spinal locks.
Submissions are the end goal of BJJ, and they are the central pillar of the martial art. All the other concepts are there to make applying submissions possible. While you only learn some submissions, understanding the fundamental concepts of leverage and pressure behind them will allow you to tap people in more ways than you can imagine.
What Is A Submission in BJJ
Submissions are techniques that put a part of an opponent’s body in a position where he has to either submit or suffer serious damage like a broken limb or loss of consciousness.
Submissions are the pinnacle of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the main goal of the martial art. In competition, they are the most prized way of winning, and while in most rule sets, you can be victorious by scoring points, submissions are always the best way to win.
There are a few categories of submissions targeting different body parts. Still, they all share some universal principles necessary for every submission to work.
The first thing is positioning. Every submission can only be done from certain positions. Once there, it’s crucial to position your body correctly to apply enough pressure to the targeted limb to finish the move.
The second principle is the grip or holds you need to apply for a sub to work. This relates to grips but also to control of the body. You have to know how to create tension in the body part you are targeting. For example, most joint locks work by immobilizing two joints and attacking the isolated one between them.
Some BJJ moves are only available from one position. Others can be applied from many different ones. The important thing for you is to understand what submissions you can do from each position and the technique’s mechanics.
Only then will you be able to submit people consistently because you will be able to adjust accordingly until the conditions for submission are met, and the other guy has no choice but to tap.
Different Categories of Submissions
There are many, many different submissions used in BJJ. Still, they can be organized into a few categories based on the body part they target. This helps significantly with learning so many techniques because each category has shared mechanical principles.
Understanding the formula for each category will allow you to finish submissions at a much higher rate and even improvise because you will know how the effective mechanism works.
Chokes attack the neck and aim to reduce blood flow, air flow or compress the chest. The main principle is they must be tight enough. Even a small gap allows the blood or air to flow to the brain.
Chokes are further subcategorized. Direct chokes like the rear naked choke and the guillotine place a body part directly to the neck and compress the arteries or trachea.
Triangle chokes work very similarly, but on one side of the neck, you use the opponent’s shoulder and your limb on the other side of the neck. And the third type of choke uses the gi to block the arteries, usually through the lapel. Examples of gi chokes are the baseball choke, the bow and arrow choke, and the Ezekiel choke.
Arm locks attack one of the arm joints and can be separated into 3 subcategories:
- Straight armlocks that attack the elbow, like the armbar.
- Bent armlocks targeting the shoulder, like the kimura and Americana.
- Wrist locks target the wrist.
All arm locks work by immobilizing the two neighboring joints and attacking the other. For example, to lock an armbar, you must immobilize the shoulder and wrist before putting pressure on the elbow. Bent arm locks like the kimura bends the arm at the elbow at around 90 degrees and targets the shoulder.
Leg locks are similar to arm locks but are done to the legs. Leg locks in BJJ have gone from nonexistent to one of the most common moves in the last decade. The key with leg locks is you must control the opponent’s hips, and the only way to do it is if his hips are on the ground.
Leg locks can also be divided into three groups. Ankle locks target the ankle joint and aim to force it to roll. Aside from the submission with the same name, examples of ankle locks are the Achilles lock and Estima lock.
Heel hooks are the most effective leg locks and can be devastating for the knee and ankle ligaments. This is why they are banned from competitions for anything below brown belt within the IBJJF but not in submission grappling competitions.
The third type of leg locks are knee bars, which aim to bend the knee the opposite way it usually does.
Spinal locks are nasty submissions that manipulate the joints, are extremely painful, and can lead to serious injuries. Multiple joint locks are applied to the spine, forcing it to bend into painful ranges of motion.
Neck cranks are the most common and are simple enough. They bend the neck in a particular position while the spine immobilizes, placing tremendous pressure on it. The most popular neck crank is the can opener, but all neck cranks are illegal in most grappling rulesets.
The 6 Most Effective BJJ Submissions
Different BJJ players have different game plans, and various physical builds make some submissions natural for some and impossible to get for others. This is why no two people can have the same arsenal of submissions. Still, there is a basic “package” of submissions every beginner first learns.
These six are among the most effective and commonly used submissions because they are accessible to everyone, regardless of physical attributes.
Aside from the leg lock, all five other submissions are legal at all belt levels in BJJ competition and are equally good in gi and no gi, meaning they are also excellent for MMA and self-defense.
Here are the six basic submissions every BJJ practitioner must know inside and out.
Rear Naked Choke
The rear naked choke is one of the most essential techniques in BJJ, both for pure grappling and for MMA and self-defense. As the name suggests, the rear naked choke is applied from back control. It is done by crossing one arm across the opponent’s neck and reinforcing the choke with the other by creating a figure four shape.
The rear naked choke is the highest percentage choke from the back and the highest percentage choke in MMA, regardless of position.
Another staple of BJJ made famous by the Gracie family in MMA. The front triangle is done from the guard and stops the blood flow to the opponent’s brain by squeezing his neck with his shoulder on one side and your hamstring on the other. The legs make a triangle shape, hence the name.
The triangle is an amazing move against bigger opponents and has caught countless MMA fighters off guard. The ground-and-pound element makes it easier to set up and is often used as a defense against punches on the ground. A quintessential BJJ submission everyone should know.
Another extremely common choke is the guillotine. Most often done from the guard, it can also be applied from other positions. The key is to put the opponent’s head underneath your armpit. From there, multiple grips can be applied.
The guillotine is an excellent defense against double-leg takedowns and has a very high success rate at beginner levels.
To do an arm bar, you must hyperextend the elbow by holding the wrist, placing the opponent’s arm in between your legs using them and the hips to control his shoulders. The arm bar is versatile because it can be set up from mount and guard. Experts may even execute from standing in the form of a flying arm bar.
The kimura works by applying a figure four configuration with your hands on the opponent’s wrist, bending his arm at 90 degrees, and moving the arm towards his back, putting the shoulder in a very painful position. The beauty of the Kimura is it is available from literally everywhere.
The heel hook is the exception in this short list because it is not allowed for all belt levels. The inside heel hook is the strongest leg submission and possibly the strongest BJJ submission overall. This move works by twisting the heel in a way that places considerable tension in the knee, possibly destroying the ligaments in seconds.
The heel hook has been banned in many BJJ gi rulesets but is the most powerful submission in no-gi in the last decade.
How Many Submissions Exist In BJJ?
There are undoubtedly hundreds of possible submissions in BJJ. After all, the body has many joints and countless ways of painfully pressuring and twisting them. If we consider different variations of submissions as separate ones, for example, arm bar from guard, mount, and flying one, the numbers only increase.
Counting how many submissions exist is a futile task. This is why it’s much better to learn the few categories and subcategories and understand their mechanics. This way, you can submit people even if you don’t technically know every name and variation by name.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu submissions are the center focus of the entire martial art. All the positions, sequences, and strategies at the end of the day are there to facilitate certain submissions.
They can be chokes, locks to the arms and leg, spinal locks like neck cranks, and other smaller categories like muscle slicers. Learning the concepts and mechanics behind each group of submissions will make learning individual techniques much easier.