Every match in BJJ and MMA begins on the feet. Athletes trade throws and takedowns, punctuated by sprawls. When one athlete senses the end, BJJ submissions come to the fore either ending the fight or resulting in a concatenation of other submissions.
White belt or black belt, BJJ practitioners will agree — BJJ submissions can be the toughest aspect of the sport to master. It’s the part of Jiu-Jitsu that will make average onlookers tilt their heads and squint.
Some BJJ submissions are hard. Others seem to favor only a select group of grapplers.
Requiring dexterity, rubber-like mobility, and anatomical advantage, these are the most difficult jiu jitsu moves in the sport’s labyrinthine fight-ending arsenal:
The best way to imagine an Omoplata is envisioning a Kimura — but with the leg instead of the hands. The Omoplata is a shoulder lock where the practitioner uses the inner thigh to trap an opponent’s arm. The resulting position is the opponent’s arm and shoulder being underneath.
Anyone performing the Omoplata correctly can place pressure on the opponent’s shoulder and eliminate chances of an escape. In MMA, the finishing position allows a fighter to rain down hammerfists while the opponent struggles under the pressure of the lock.
There are many ways to perform the Omoplata, as shown by Clark Gracie time and time again. The most common way to perform the hold is from the guard.
To perform the Omoplata from the guard, the grappler must grip one of the opponent’s wrists. From here, the athlete must push the opponent’s head farther while maintaining the grip. As the grappler creates more space, the grappler opens the guard, angles out, and throws the leg on the same side of the wrist over the opponent.
The grappler must continue to move to the side as the leg continues to sweep over the opponent’s head. The move finishes as soon as the opponent is face-first on the mat with their shoulder touching it.
To prevent the opponent from rolling forward, the grappler also needs to have one hand on the opponent’s hips. The grappler can let go of the wrist or sleeve once the opponent is already facing the mat. The grappler can then secure the waist with this hand.
The grappler exerts pressure shifting weight forward, twisting the opponent’s arm farther. This pressures the shoulder, causing the opponent to tap.
One of the obstacles when performing the Omoplata is the number of steps required to perform it. For this reason, it isn’t a move many BJJ practitioners or athletes will attempt.
The position from which the grappler attempts the move is also what makes the Omoplata difficult. From the bottom of the guard, the opponent will likely be upright, avoiding BJJ submissions like a guillotine choke. Because of this, attempting the Omoplata requires breaking the opponent’s posture, which can be a battle in and of itself.
The Omoplata can also be more difficult during a no-gi situation. With a gi, a grappler would have an easier time maintaining a grip of the wrist. If the opponent doesn’t have a gi, the opponent can resist, causing the grappler to either establish a tighter grip or switch to a different move.
The Gogoplata is one of the least used BJJ moves in MMA and BJJ high-level competitions. Compared to submissions like the armbar, RNC, and guillotine, the Gogoplata has a low success ratio in high-level competitions. This alone is proof of how difficult it can be to finish even within the confines of an academy.
The Gogoplata is a choke. Grapplers normally attempt this move from guard position. However, grapplers like Shinya Aoki have attempted the Gogoplata from less-common positions like mount.
What makes the Gogoplata effective at causing a quick submission is that it’s a pain choke. Unlike other chokes like the triangle and Anaconda, the choke puts pressure on the trachea instead of the carotid. With the instep or shin on the trachea, the opponent loses the ability to breathe and experiences pain. This causes a quick tap.
From guard position, the grappler needs to break the opponent’s posture. Once the grappler has done this, they need to secure one arm in an overhook.
The grappler then releases from closed to open guard. Following this, the leg on the same side of the opponent’s secured arm must move higher up the opponent’s back. When the foot is within reach, the grappler must pull it over the opponent’s face. Their shin or the instep needs to be on the opponent’s throat.
From here, the grappler adds pressure by pulling the opponent’s head. This places pressure on the throat, causing the opponent to tap.
For its high success rate, the Gogoplata has a steep learning curve and relies on a grappler’s physical attributes. In particular, the grappler needs to have immense flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles to perform this move.
Many who try the Gogoplata for the first time will get tripped up at the move’s critical point. This point is where the foot needs to go over the opponent. Most BJJ practitioners will express discomfort with their ankles and knees during the pullover.
Even if the knees and ankles are mobile, the Gogoplata still demands flexibility in the hips. The flexibility on the hip abductors and adductors needs to be equal. It’s not easy being equally flexible in these areas.
Hence, only the most flexible of BJJ athletes like Eddie Bravo, Shinya Aoki, and the Diaz brothers pull off this BJJ submission in competitions and fights.
The Darce choke seems easy to perform. However, attempting it will expose the nuances of the choke, making it one of the more advanced Jiu-Jitsu moves anyone can attempt.
The choke mimics the Anaconda choke in several ways. As a blood choke, it involves trapping one of the opponent’s arms. Using the opponent’s arms, a grappler finishes the choke by squeezing and moving towards the opponent’s body.
The Darce choke uses a hand position similar to the one done in the RNC and arm triangle. To perform this choke, the grappler can attempt this after a sprawl or from side mount. The most common position for the Darce choke to be successful is from the sprawl.
Once the grappler sprawls on the opponent’s takedown, the grappler needs to stay on top. The grappler then loops one arm under the opponent’s armpit and chin. Their hand must pass the opponent’s head. Otherwise, the grappler will have nothing to grip on to complete the choke.
Once the hand makes it past the opponent’s chin, the grappler takes the other arm. This arm locks the hand in the same way as one would an RNC. Squeezing, the grappler falls on his or her side and moves the feet closer to the opponent’s body.
This will elicit a cranking sensation, with the choke being tighter as the feet move closer to the body. The grappler can also use one foot to hook a leg, so the opponent does not escape.
Two things about the move cause pain for many grapplers.
Unlike most BJJ submissions, the Darce choke seems to favor grapplers with long and relatively slim arms. A grappler with shorter and thicker forearms will struggle to loop an arm under an opponent’s armpit and chin.
Longer arms allow grapplers to set up chokes like the Brabo, Darce, and Anaconda without much repositioning and angling. Also, the slimmer arms allow long-limbed grapplers to sneak the hand in to complete the hold.
This is why fighters like Tony Ferguson and Kendall Grove use this move well and finish fights. Grapplers like the Ruotolo brothers dominate other BJJ athletes in various ADCC competitions with slick Darce choke setups and their lengthy and slim arms.
BJJ moves like submissions take time and effort to master. Different grapplers will find different moves challenging. Whatever challenges you, you should remember two things.
First, there’s an entire universe of BJJ submissions beyond the Omoplata, Gogoplata, and Darce choke. Train consistently, and you’ll open yourself up to more moves you’ll be able to master.
Second, the Jiu-Jitsu moves just mentioned used to be difficult for the fighters that specialize in them. One action led them to mastery — repetition in their training.
After all, it’s as Bruce Lee said: “Fear not the man who knows 10,000 kicks. Fear the man who has done one kick 10,000 times.”
If you need a place to drill, repeat, apply, and improve your submission game, look no further than Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu. Try out a free week and set yourself on the path towards submission mastery.