Even after modern leg locking systems were introduced to no-gi, straight armlocks remain one of the most common finishing methods, along with chokes and leg locks. The armbar has many variations, but the Choi bar is among the most powerful.
The Choi bar is a variation of the reverse armbar that is usually done from half-guard or half-butterfly. It requires you to get a shoulder clamp with a gable grip and get your far leg over the attacked shoulder. You can finish the Choi bar, transition to a Kimura, or a regular armbar from this position.
The Choi bar has been developed to a significant degree relatively recently. It began as a move in the gi used by its creator, Choi Won Choi, and today is an integral part of the professional submission grappling meta, so it’s equally effective in gi and no-gi.
The Choi bar is a technique you can use to catch people by surprise, especially if you are a bottom player, and in this article, you will learn how.
The Choi bar is an armbar with a specific setup and grip, differentiating it from regular and reverse armbars. For the Choi bar, you spin over the attacked arm to get an armbar instead of climbing or going underneath the torso.
Like many other moves in jiu-jitsu, the Choi bar was named after the man who popularized it, in this case, Choi Won Choi. The Korean grappler submitted people left and right at significant IBJJF events with his special armbar, which became known as the Choi bar among his teammates.
But, while Choi was the man who pioneered the move, a man he submitted with it was more influential in spreading the word about it, and he’s one of the best coaches, Lachlan Giles.
Today, everyone is aware of the Choi bar. Still, the move gained mainstream popularity in 2017 when Craig Jones, a student of Lachlan’s, submitted multiple-time ADCC champion Xandre Ribeiro during his historic ADCC run.
From there, this version of the armbar became more widespread and is part of the arsenal of many elite grapplers, with the younger generation like Nicky Ryan and Mikey Musumeci further evolving the technique.
The use of the Choi bar reached a climax at the 2022 ADCC when various competitors regularly used it, and it is now an essential part of the no-gi meta.
The history lesson is interesting, and you can watch the full timeline in the excellent video below. Once you are done, we can finally see how to use and finish this mighty armbar variation.
How To Do A Choi Bar
As we’ve said, the Choi bar is essentially an armbar with a different setup and entry. A popular setup for the Choi bar is from a Z-guard, and Craig Jones is a master of both.
The submission is used to deal with the cross face from the Z-guard or half guard. Usually, you are trying to fight the arm and prevent the cross face, which can allow the opponent to pass your guard, but for the Choi bar, you can allow them to have it intentionally or switch if they manage to get you.
Once they have the cross face on you, grab a tight, gable grip around the opponent’s shoulder to prevent them from getting their arm out.
The next step is switching your outside leg over the opponent’s shoulder, which makes the Choi bar different from the regular reverse armbar.
If they control your hips, this can be hard to do, so you may need to slightly shrimp back and pummel your leg over the head. Once the leg is across, you need to pummel it under the belly and hook on the thigh.
If you have tight control over the arm and the opponent is trapped in this position by your feet, the finish is rather easy. Grab the wrist, make sure the thumb is pointing towards their butt, and extend the arm to get the tap.
Another common way to get the Choi bar is from the regular kimura grip from half guard or another similar position. While you can finish the kimura from this position, it requires a lot of strength, and the opponent can get you in a bad spot very quickly if they are familiar with the common defenses.
Instead of going for the kimura finish, you can transition to the Choi bar, which is much safer. The goal is to either shrimp or pull your outside leg through their arm to the other side. Make sure both your feet are clamping their far leg.
From there, you need to extend the arm in a similar fashion as you would in a standard armbar by going elbow to elbow. Once the arm is extended, the finish is quick and certain.
A common defense against the choi bar is to step over the opponent and end up in side control or at least out of the immediate danger of being submitted. Clamping your feet on the opponent’s far leg prevents this, but it’s not always possible.
If they manage to start stepping across, you have two options. The first is to follow them and transition to the standard armbar.
The second and safer option is to stay on the same side but keep all the pressure on their shoulder. Even when they step across, you can still finish the armbar.
The Choi bar is a powerful variation of the reverse armbar, great for both gi and no-gi. It can be set up from half guard, half-butterfly, z-guard, and a few other positions and is a great way to answer cross face attempts.
Like every other move, it can be countered and get you into bad positions, but it is something you should definitely explore and try to add to your game, especially if you find yourself in bottom half or Z-guard.