Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has many chokes all trying to claim the mantle of “best choke.” The baseball bat choke is not one of them. However, it is the prime candidate for the sneakiest choke in BJJ! By understanding some key details, you will boost your success with this choke in both gi and no-gi Jiu Jitsu.
What Is The Baseball Bat Choke?
The baseball bat choke is traditionally a gi choke that utilizes its namesake baseball bat grip on the collar of the gi jacket and targets both the carotid arteries and the trachea, depending on the position you set it up from. It is a versatile move that can be set up from a number of different positions, including standing up.
The precise origins of the choke are unclear, although it isn’t unknown in Judo, where it is referred to as Ura Juji Jime. It seems the choke was always a part of the BJJ arsenal, but it really caught the eye of grapplers worldwide around 2013, thanks to a then up and coming black belt named Magid Hage.
Hage, who received his black belt at 19, was using the baseball choke since he was 12 to deal with larger grapplers in his academy. After he submitted distinguished black belt competitors Zax Maxwell and Clark Gracie with the choke as a fresh black belt, the world of Jiu Jitsu took notice of the technique.
Today, many competitors use the choke as part of their arsenal. Its sneaky nature, the fact that it is available from both top and bottom, and the no-gi variations that have emerged make it one of the most reliable chokes in Jiu Jitsu.
How does the Baseball Bat Choke Work?
While the baseball bat choke can be done from a wide variety of positions, I will use the setup from knee on belly to present the choke’s mechanics.
The baseball bat choke begins with setting your grips. I will dedicate more time to the nuances of grip placement for the choke later on. For now, the important thing to know is where both your arms should go.
Starting from knee on belly where your right knee is atop your opponent’s torso, you will use your right arm to make a deep grip on the far side (their left) of your opponent’s neck. Try to thread four fingers inside their collar. Your palm will be facing the same direction as the top of their head.
Your other arm then goes to grip the collar on the near side of their neck (their right), going as deep as possible again. This time the grip will be with the thumb inside the collar, and four fingers on the outside.
From the knee on belly position, this does not read as dangerous to those who do not know the choke, so some people may not even try to prevent the grips – instead worrying more about the knee on belly pressure.
To begin applying the choke you will first need to rotate your body 90 degrees, i.e. arrive at the north-south position. As you start to turn, the forearm of your far side arm drops across their neck, putting pressure on their trachea. Arriving in north-south places your arms in a cross-choke configuration – pressing against the carotid arteries.
A sprawling motion is all you need to put immense pressure on your opponent’s carotid arteries, causing them to go to sleep real quick. In fact, the baseball bat choke comes on so fast, it is notorious for putting people to sleep before they even have the chance to tap.
Understanding the Baseball Bat Choke Grip(s)
The grips are the most important part of the baseball bat choke. They make or break the submission, especially in no-gi.
In fact, the choke is named for the configuration of the grips. When gripping the gi, like in the example above, I mentioned that one arm goes four fingers inside the collar, while the other goes with the thumb in the collar. This means that both arms grip the collar in an opposite direction – just like you would grip a baseball bat.
First of all, let’s discuss the depth of the grips for a successful gi baseball bat choke. The choke will work best if the pinky finger from one arm is touching the forefinger of the other (again, like gripping a baseball bat).
The arm gripping with four fingers in is the trickier of the two to set up, which is why it goes first. In most cases, a same side collar grip with four fingers on the outside doesn’t appear threatening to the uninitiated, which is why you will often run into little resistance, getting more than enough time to adjust the grip and get it as deep as possible.
One thing you can do to make sure this grip is really, really deep is by pretending to set up a cross collar choke. A common reaction is for people to circle their head out in order to neutralize the cross collar grip which actually leaves you with the deepest baseball bat choke grip you can get!
When it comes to finishing the gi baseball choke, there’s also the matter of your elbow placement. Before you begin your spinning motion, you need to make sure that the elbow of the far side arm (four fingers inside the collar) gets as close as possible to your opponent’s near-side shoulder (i.e. across their neck). This ensures that you won’t allow any space for them to escape while you’re transitioning towards north-south for the finish.
While the baseball bat choke is traditionally a gi choke, effective no-gi variations have been developed.
The first version of the no-gi baseball bat choke involves a palm to palm grip. This time, given that the grips will be a bit different and more challenging without a gi, you should start in top side control rather than knee on belly. This ensures you’re close enough to get deep grips.
One of your arms is typically already in place from the top side control position as long as you’ve got a cross face on your opponent. All you need to do is ensure that you thread this arm as far across as possible. Your other arm will go over your opponent’s far side shoulder, where both arms connect with a palm to palm grip.
There is a vital detail to get right here: the arm going under their neck is the one that grips from the top. If you do it the other way around, you won’t be able to finish the choke, because you’ll impede your own range of motion.
The finish involves sitting out to a kesa gatame like position, placing your elbow on the near side shoulder (like for the gi version of the choke), and squeezing your forearms together.
Alternatively, you can opt for an s-grip (if you have longer limbs), which will allow you to finish by twisting towards north-south, just like with the gi. Starting from side control or knee on belly, you are looking for an s-grip, with your arms around the opponent’s neck.
In order to get that all-important elbow to the near shoulder, you’ll need to open the palm of the arm going across the neck, while the arm under the neck holds on to it via the s-grip. This grip is a bit uncomfortable but does provide you with a greater range of motion compared to the palm to palm grip.
Sneaky BJJ Baseball Bat Choke Setups
One reason why people love the BJJ baseball bat choke is that it is the ultimate sneaky submission. Usually, opponents won’t notice it until it is too late. Moreover, it is available from a bunch of different bottom positions, making it highly versatile. This, combined with its power, explains why this choke is responsible for putting people to sleep so often in competitions.
Top Position Setups
In addition to attacking from knee on belly or side control, other top positions that open up the possibility of a baseball bat choke include the mount and top half guard. During the former, you’ll have to dismount in order to finish, but that is a gamble worth taking. The grip setup is just like the one we covered from knee on belly.
For the latter, you can use the grips to pass the half guard by utilizing the opponent’s own lapel to set up the grips. This version where you use the lapel is sometimes referred to as the Samurai choke, but the mechanics remain the same.
Simply put, you need to loosen up the opponent’s far side lapel and use it to grip with the same configuration that you would grip their collar. This disguises the choke even more and provides you with an even larger range of motion.
Baseball Bat Chokes From Bottom
Baseball bat choke setups from bottom positions are the real reason why this choke became so popular. In fact, this is exactly how Magid Hage roped people into the ultimate baseball choke trap.
The bottom positions you can use to set the choke up are guard (closed or open), half guard, and even bottom side control.
For guard setups, the only requirement is that you have access to the collar. In other words, this means that long-distance open guards like De La Riva and Spider Guard do not offer ways to set the choke up. The butterfly guard, on the other hand, is a perfect open guard to bait people with the baseball choke.
Hage’s favorite setup is from the knee shield half guard (Z-guard), and this is where we’ll examine the bottom position setup. The choke starts by establishing the grips the same way as you would from the top. Magid likes to use the knee shield to ensure he has adequate space and to alleviate pressure while he sneaks the grips in, obtaining that all-important deep 4-finger grip.
That is when the trap starts working – Hage actually allows the top person to get past his knee shield and smash him. The grips do not make the top person feel threatened and the passer’s tendency to apply pressure takes space away and makes the choke possible.
Hage then uses the leg former knee shield leg to establish a butterfly hook and kick his opponent into side control. As the top person thinks they’ve passed and goes to establish top side control, Hage just turns away from them putting them in an extremely tight baseball bat choke.
This setup pretty much covers setting the baseball choke up from anywhere on the bottom, even when you’re stuck in someone’s side control. Oh, and it works in no-gi too, with any of the two grip variations covered above (I personally prefer the S-grip).
Standing Baseball Bat Choke
Getting the grips for a baseball bat choke from standing is easy and straightforward if your opponent doesn’t know what you’re doing. Once you got the grips, you simply pull butterfly guard, or better yet, bottom side control. Oftentimes, the inertia of you sitting down will topple the opponent over allowing you to finish from the top north-south position.
Still, if you are a fan of the baseball bat choke, you’d like to set it up even against opponents that might be expecting it. With that in mind, the first grip to get while standing is the thumb-in grip, which is way easier to establish. From there, you use a snap-down motion and a collar tie to control the head and sneak the four fingers in grip.
While this will provide you with a grip that’s hard to break, the opponent can still put their head in the way. To solve this part of the puzzle, you want to get your head underneath the opponent’s chin and make sure there is enough space for your elbow to go across the neck. From there, you proceed to pull the opponent to the ground and finish the choke.
Baseball Bat Choke Defense and Escapes
As inescapable as the baseball bat choke might seem, there are still ways to get out of it. The key thing is to know when you’re past a point of no return, simply because this choke comes on really fast and if you hesitate you will go to sleep before you have the chance to tap.
From top, the point of no return is when someone spins towards north-south. From the bottom, it is when the person doing the choke turns their back to you.
Two things are key for the baseball bat choke to work: getting the forearm across the neck and removing as much space as possible between you and your opponent. Subsequently, defending the choke will be based on preventing the elbow from coming across (when you’re on the bottom) or creating space to counter the choke (when you are on top).
From the bottom, the best early defense is to focus on preventing the forearm from putting pressure on your neck. Since you have at least one arm free to do so, you can actually cause lots of trouble to a top person setting the choke up. As soon as you feel someone sneaking in for a baseball bat choke work to prevent the grips.
If they maintain the grips despite you blocking their pathway to the choke they are inviting you to reply with an armbar of your own.
When you are the person on top and the bottom player tries to sneak a baseball bat choke in, the only thing that can save you is creating space and good timing. However, if you recognize the choke on time and use your arms to push off the opponent while standing up at the same time, you’ll create enough space to neutralize the choke.
Once again, you will have an armbar counter directly available but be wary of skilled baseball chokers who can roll through and keep trying to get the choke.
Who doesn’t want a choke that comes on fast, doesn’t require strength, works with and without a gi, and can be executed from a bunch of top and bottom positions? Well, with the baseball bat choke you get all that even ways to get the match to the ground quickly while also slapping a submission on your opponent!
If you haven’t added this choke to your arsenal yet, now is the time to start experimenting with this proven BJJ choke.
Ogi is a brown belt and very passionate about Jiu Jitsu.
He is also the head coach of Carlos Maia BJJ Macedonia and Globetrotter.