The anaconda choke is a very underutilized choke in BJJ, which is exactly the reason why you need to look into it. While people strive for guillotines and Darce chokes, and even the Kata Gatame (arm triangle), you can make the anaconda choke your best weapon and catch everyone with it. All it takes is a basic understanding of triangle chokes and avoiding the common pitfalls that make people shy away from this powerful BJJ submission hold.
The Head and Arm Chokes Family
The anaconda choke is the black sheep of the head and arm chokes family. Also known as arm triangle chokes, this cluster of submissions includes the arm triangle, Darce, anaconda, arm-across guillotine, and Mizzou chokes. With the Mizzou being a trick only a handful of people know, the anaconda is the strangle that gets shunned even though people are aware of it and get the chance to set it up.
All the head and arm chokes are essentially triangle chokes, only done with the arms rather than the legs. The end goal is the same as in every triangle – put pressure on one carotid artery via direct placement of your own body part (in this case, a part of your arm) and put pressure on the other carotid of the opponent’s neck by pressing their own shoulder into it.
The placement of the arms varies depending on the choke. You can have the biceps or the forearm pressing directly up against the carotid artery on one side of the opponent’s neck. Driving their shoulder into the opposite side carotid can be achieved by using your collar bone (arm triangle), shoulder (Darce), ribs (arm-across guillotine), chest (Mizzou choke) or a rear naked choke grip (anaconda choke).
Anaconda Choke Breakdown
The anaconda choke works from a front headlock position and is set up similarly to the Darce choke. The choke involves you threading an arm as if you’re trying to do an arm in a guillotine. The forearm of the arm that goes across the neck though, needs to pop out under the opposite side armpit, though.
Achieving this is only possible if you are supine and lying on your side. This places your biceps directly on the carotid artery on the bottom side. Threading the arm as deep as described means you can lock up a rear naked choke grip configuration at the level of the opponent’s armpit. This locks their shoulder in place and allows you to put pressure on both sides of the neck for a blood choke.
Finishing an anaconda choke does not require you to squeeze or roll around like an Alligator. On the contrary, it only requires a slight torque accompanied by an extension of your hips, provided that everything else is set up correctly.
As described above, you want to have a rear naked choke from a front headlock position, while laying on your side. While this gets you into position for the choke, it does not ensure you will finish it.
The first thing to address is the opponent’s top arm. It is the arm that can create lots of trouble for you, as the opponent has the space to move it around, ensuring their shoulder is far away from their neck. There is a very easy solution to this problem though – use your top leg to trap the elbow of said arm. It will completely kill off any escapes, and it will accentuate the finishing mechanics.
Speaking of strangling people with the anaconda choke, squeezing your arms won’t do you much good because doing so does not tighten the noose around the opponent’s neck. Instead, you should look to extend your hips, like when you’re finishing an armbar.
Given that your hips are behind the opponent’s head, it forces them deeper into the choke. Turning your upper body so that your chest faces the ceiling at the same time will ensure that nobody is able to withstand your anaconda choke.
Getting to the anaconda choke is quite easy from the front headlock position. As long as you can ensure that you have both palms clasped underneath an opponent’s armpit, you’re all set to hunt for it.
All you need to do is to sit next to your opponent, looking to place your head toward the small of their back. You might even use the near leg across the back of their head to force them to tilt and fall over to their side.
Once an opponent is on their side, you’ll need to thread the choking arm deeper in order to establish the rear-naked choke grip. This is where you need to use the top leg to trap the opponent’s elbow. This will open up more than enough space for you to let go of the palm to palm and get a rear-naked choke grip instead.
Another setup I quite enjoy doing is a dismount anaconda. Whenever an opponent I am holding in mount is trying to buck me off when I am trying to get a guillotine, I actually jump off myself, landing deep into the anaconda instead of struggling for the guillotine. The only prerequisite is a deep chin strap grip.
The beauty of the anaconda choke is that it is a part of a big family of chokes. As such, it offers direct entries into guillotines and Darces, as well as options to roll over into mount or establish very tight side control. For the slickest among you, it can lead straight into a mounted leg triangle choke.
Clearing Up Common Anaconda Choke Issues
Anaconda Choke vs. Darce Choke
Mixing up the Darce and Anaconda chokes is just as common as mixing up Kimuras and Americanas for BJJ newbies.
Both chokes are a part of the head and arm choke family, and both of them have very similar finishing mechanics. The main difference is that with the anaconda choke, you lock your rear-naked choke grip underneath the armpit while lying on the ground yourself.
For a Darce, you do the opposite – you lock up the grip behind their neck while being on top and threading your arm from the armpit towards the neck.
Rolling For the Anaconda Choke
Another useless entry that everyone seems is the golden standard is doing a gator roll to get into an anaconda choke. Gator rolls have a place in wrestling, where they earn you points. However, in BJJ they’re useless and can in fact cause trouble because as you’re rolling you’re placing the entire weight of the opponent on top of yourself.
So, when it comes to finishing the anaconda, stop rolling underneath people and instead, use the sit-down entry presented earlier. If it is good enough for anaconda founder Milton Vieira, it will be good enough for you. In fact, Milton is a strong opponent to rolling for the Anaconda choke.
If you can’t tell by the content written above, I’ll admit that I am a big fan of the anaconda choke. It is extremely powerful and once you remove some of the unnecessary stuff like rolling for the finish or squeezing with the arms for no reason, you’ll end up with a move that you can use to catch people of all sizes and experience levels.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.