Rear Naked Choke (RNC) For BJJ Guide: The Best Submission?

By Tsavo NealLearning BJJLeave a Comment

The Rear Naked Choke (RNC) is the BEST submission in BJJ.

There’s a reason why it’s one of the 6 BJJ submissions taught by John Danaher.

And it’s the highest-percentage BJJ choke in the UFC.

But how can you finish the RNC consistently — even if your opponent is tucking in their chin?

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about the RNC for BJJ:

rear naked choke on grappling dummy

Practicing the rear naked choke on my Grappling SMARTY

You’ll learn how to slice through your opponent’s defense and finish the choke with clean technique.

Let’s dive in.

What Is A Rear Naked Choke (RNC)? (& History)

A rear naked choke (RNC) is a top-tier BJJ submission that is performed from the rear mount position.

It’s a strangle where you encircle your opponent’s neck with your choking arm, grab your other bicep with the hand of your choking arm, and then your non-choking arm sneaks behind their head to seal off the choke.

This arm configuration restricts blood flow. With proper finishing mechanics, will put your opponent to sleep in 9 seconds.

It’s called a rear “naked” choke because it does not involve using your opponent’s gi or gi collar, like a lapel choke.

Thus, the rear naked choke is the go-to submission from the back in no-gi jiu-jitsu.

A Brief History Of The Rear Naked Choke

The origin of the rear naked choke can be traced to Japan. Samurai warriors would use the RNC to defeat unarmed opponents.

In Portuguese, the RNC is known as ‘Mata Leão’ (Lion Killer), which can be traced back to the early 1500s painting by Sebald Beham “Hercules killing the Nemean Lion.” The painting depicts Hercules killing a lion using the rear naked choke.

The rear naked choke’s original name is “Hadake Jime” (naked strangle) — a judo technique which, unlike most other chokes, did not require using the gi.

In the early 1910s, Mitsuyo Maeda, a Judo master, traveled to Brazil where he met Carlos Gracie. He taught Carlos Gracie the art of Japanese jiu-jitsu and judo.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the Gracie family adapted and refined the Japanese martial arts into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The rear naked choke became a symbol of the leverage and technique essential in the Gracie system, which empowered a smaller, weaker individual to defeat a bigger, stronger opponent.

Fast forward to 1993 at the first UFC event, Royce Gracie won many of his fights using the RNC. He was able to take the back of his larger, stronger opponents and tap them out using this choke.

Today, the RNC remains one of the most reliable and high-percentage techniques used in both BJJ competition and the UFC.

How To Do A Rear Naked Choke

Here’s the best video I’ve found to explain how to do the rear-naked choke (featuring my instructors and training partners Ritchie Yip and Stephan Kesting):

Once you’ve taken your opponent’s back and have established the back control position, here are the steps to finishing the rear naked choke:

  1. Establish a seatbelt grip on your opponent. One arm should go over their shoulder (the choking arm), one arm should go underneath their armpit, and then clasp your hands together.
  2. With the choking arm, reach across your opponent’s chest and grab their opposite shoulder.
  3. Bring the non-choking arm that’s underneath their armpit up to clasp your hands together once again.
  4. With the non-choking arm, drop your elbow down so that it’s difficult for your opponent to defend.
  5. Slide the choking hand down your forearm, and bring your non-choking arm behind your opponent’s head.
  6. To finish the rear naked choke, pull back with your shoulders and take a breath.

Here’s an example of Gordon Ryan using these steps to hit the rear naked choke against Craig Jones in competition:

How To Get Out Of A Rear Naked Choke

Given that the RNC is such a high-percentage attack, how can you escape it?

How To Prevent A Rear Naked Choke

First, let’s focus on preventing a rear naked choke. It’s easier to prevent it, survive, and escape from the rear mount position than it is to survive a locked-in RNC. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If you have your back taken, here is how you can prevent a rear naked choke:

  1. Get in a strong back survival posture: this means keep your elbows tight, bring your hands up around your neck, and relax them so you can handfight.
  2. If your opponent reaches in to begin the rear naked choke, use your hands to block the choke.
  3. Once they begin to switch their attack, return back to the back survival posture. Begin getting into a position to escape the back.

Establishing the back survival posture to defend against the RNC

How To Escape A Rear Naked Choke

If you do get your back taken and your opponent locks up the RNC (and you feel the life being squeezed out of you), here’s what you can do to escape:

  1. Reach your two hands back until you can touch your own back.
  2. Using both of your hands, “scrape” the back of your neck until you can grab your opponent’s hand that is behind your neck.
  3. Pull their hand up and over your head, using both of your hands to extend his hand with a 2-on-1 grip.
  4. Fall to the same side as the arm you’re extending.
  5. Wiggle your head and shoulders back until your head and shoulders are on the mats. From this position, your opponent will no longer be able to choke you and will have to change position.

Rear Naked Choke Tips

Are you having some trouble finishing the rear naked choke in your rolling?

Here are some of my favorite tips that helped me get better at the RNC:

  • Add some med ball squeeze exercises to your strength training routine. This will increase your isometric strength, which is very useful for chokes like the RNC.
  • As soon as you get the back position, attempt the rear naked choke before your opponent has a chance to establish a good defensive posture.
  • Place your head on your non-choke arm when applying the choke, as this will make it more difficult for them to pry your hand off.
  • Don’t burn yourself out by squeezing as hard as you can. You should be able to maintain a constant, increasing pressure for 30 seconds.
  • If you can shrimp out and trap their top arm with your leg, it will be considerably easier to finish the choke. Then, it will be 2 of your arms against their 1, making it much easier to finish the RNC.
  • If they are bringing their chin down, use one of your forearms or hand to peel their face up from their nose or forehead to reveal their neck.

Trapping the leg to complete the RNC

Takeaway Thoughts & Discussion

If you’re looking for a high-percentage BJJ submission, look no further than the rear naked choke.

There’s a reason why it’s the most frequent finishing BJJ move in the UFC.

To improve your RNC technique during rolling, you’ll have to work on your back takes, back control, setups, and finishing mechanics.

And as a result, you’ll become a much better offensive grappler.

What’s your favorite way to set up or finish the RNC?

Is there any particular video or instructional that helped you master it?

Leave a comment with your thoughts or questions below.

Happy rolling.🤙


tsavo neal bjjequipment.com

Tsavo Neal

Tsavo is the founder of BJJ Equipment, an assistant BJJ instructor at InFighting, and a BJJ purple belt. He's a passionate hobbyist and BJJ gear/equipment aficionado. He launched BJJ Equipment in 2022 to make it easy for grapplers to find the best BJJ gear so they look, feel, and perform at their best on the mats.

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