guillotine choke

BJJ 101: Rear Naked Choke Explained

The rear naked choke or mata leão is considered as one of the most practiced submission grappling techniques in BJJ. In fact, it’s also widely labeled as the most useful type of chokehold technique. It has become a staple in BJJ and even in the UFC.

Rear Naked Choke: A Brief History

The rear naked choke hold has a hazy history. In fact, no one knows where and when it started. However, many have said that the RNC technique was created outside of Brazil. Many people believe that the RNC was a Judo technique before it was introduced in Brazil in the 90s.

The history of the rear naked choke dates back as far as the early 1500s. This technique was associated with Sebald Beham’s illustration “Hercules Killing the Nemean Lion” in his 1548 book “The Labours of Hercules.” However, it seems that the name “Mata leão” — which translates to “lion killer” — was only used in BJJ around the 1960s.

The rear naked choke hold is considered the most popular Jiu-Jitsu choke. This popularity is attributed to the Gracie family who was responsible for popularizing the technique in no-holds-barred fights.

RNC Physiology

RNC is a popular name in BJJ. Just thinking about the choke and imagining being on its receiving end can make someone shiver. That’s why a lot of people want to know the real physiology behind this killer technique.

The rear naked choke is also known as the “blood choke technique.” It works by interfering with the blood flow between a person’s heart and brain. The main reason why the flow of blood from the heart and brain is cut off is due to the pressure coming from the top arm of the attacker to the jugular vein of the receiver.

As the bottom arm tightens and the pressure increases, the carotid artery of the receiver becomes restricted. This artery is the brain’s main source of blood, so when it’s blocked, the blood flow going to the brain is cut off. Once this happens, it will only take a few seconds before the brain stops functioning, and the person will lose consciousness.

To successfully apply this technique, the “choking arm” must be placed just below the Adam’s apple to completely block blood flow on the carotid arteries. Due to the reduced heart rate and flow of blood, the choke can cause unconsciousness. According to a study, 16 out of 24 people lost consciousness within 7 to 10 seconds after experiencing a rear naked choke hold. Even though there is no permanent effect with this technique, it’s still better to tap out before losing consciousness. If the choke is held for too long, it can cause negative side effects to the blood flow between the heart and brain of a person.

Learning the Rear Naked Choke Technique

Because it is considered a staple or a primary technique, the rear naked choke is taught even at the beginner level of BJJ. Although it can be used as a “killer move,” executing this technique is rather easy with the right steps followed.

1. Initiating the Choke

To initiate this technique, one must be behind their partner’s back. This technique can be executed while standing or in a sitting position. One should also remember to leave as few gaps as possible to remain in tight control of the situation.

2. Seatbelt Control

This is usually the starting position of a rear naked choke hold. One arm should be on top of the shoulder of the opponent while the other wraps under the armpit. The bottom hand must grab the top wrist to secure a stronghold.

3. Tiger Claw

The top hand should reach the opposite shoulder of the opponent where the attacker’s fingers will somewhat resemble a claw. The forearm should also be wrapped under the chin of the opponent. Remember that if it’s not against an opponent’s neck, then it’s not considered a choke. This step also strengthens the attacker’s grip on his opponent.

4. Palm-to-palm

The attacker should remove their bottom hand from under the opponent’s armpit. Then they should slide it backwards to grasp their top hand to perform a palm-to-palm grip. To strengthen the grip, the attacker should pull their bottom arm more towards their body. This is also where the opponent will likely try to block the choke. They will likely place their hands between their neck and the attacker’s forearm.

5.  Palm Strike

The attacker should use their left hand to regrip the opponent’s shoulder. At the same time, the attacker should shoot their right hand forward, so they can knock off the opponent’s right arm and grip their forearm. This will limit the opponent’s ability to block the choke. This quick motion should be executed as quickly and effectively as possible to stun the opponent.

6. Noose

After the opponent’s primary defense has been removed — thanks to the palm strike — the attacker should go back to the palm-to-palm position. During this time, the noose around the opponent’s neck is much tighter. The attacker’s elbow must be positioned directly in front of the opponent’s nose.

7. Final Step

To do the final step, the attacker’s right hand should be deep at the back of the opponent’s neck. The hand of the attacker should be placed on the back of the opponent’s head, applying pressure. The attacker’s left hand should be on their right bicep. Then, they should squeeze down in a hooking motion under the opponent’s jaw. The attacker should also stretch their opponent by extending their legs and arching their back to make the choke even more powerful.

How To Stop the Choke

If the choke has been fully performed, there’s a slim chance of escaping it. However, there are some things you can do to prevent the attacker from securing the position.

The first sign of an RNC attack is the rear mount. The best way to block a rear naked choke is to stop the attacker from letting their arms get into a dominant position. To stop their forearm from going towards the trachea, one should tuck their chin securely.

If the attacker has made it up to this part, it will be a lot harder to stop the technique. However, if the receiver is quick enough, they will be able to stop the grip. They should utilize any mistakes or gaps the attacker may have left before they can secure a grip.

There’s also a secret counter-attack for this technique. Although it is frowned upon in most class settings, you could use this for competitions. To perform this move, the receiver should grab or pinch the skin of the attacker’s choking arm. They can also do this to the attacker’s inner thigh to cause them pain and shock, which can loosen their grip.

Final Thoughts

If there’s one technique that BJJ beginners should know, it’s the RNC technique. This technique is not just simple; it’s very effective and overwhelming, especially on the receiver’s end. Even though it is limited as a back control attack, it is still considered the master of all Jiu-Jitsu chokes.

If you are curious to know more about BJJ and want to learn self-defense, contact us today at Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu. We specialize in training individuals to let them experience Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a supportive environment.