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Breaking Down the Ezekiel Choke: What It Is and How to Do It

The ezekiel choke is one of my favorite moves in BJJ. It’s a sneaky submission – when your opponent thinks they’re safe, and all their bases are covered, it’s the perfect time to hit them with this sub.

I find it versatile and fairly easy to execute, which is why it’s become one of my go-to moves (particularly in the Gi). It’s effective as a finishing technique, and can also function as a disrupting technique, causing your opponent to give up position or other openings.

Read on for a full breakdown of the ezekiel choke, in both Gi and No Gi.

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Ezekiel Choke: Explained

So, what exactly is the ezekiel choke, and how does it work?

To do the ezekiel choke, you reach behind your opponent’s head with one arm. With this arm, you grab your other arm, or more commonly, the sleeve.

The second arm goes in front of your opponent’s neck, pressuring down. This allows you to contact the space between your arms (one in front of the neck, the other behind), and pressure either the trachea (windpipe) or carotid arteries.

There are many variations as to the specifics of the move – for example, whether you pressure down on the front of the neck (trachea) or the sides and whether you use a closed fist or open hand.

It can also be done from many different positions. Most common is from mount, where you can fully control your opponent’s body and easily clear your opponent’s arms, to be able to reach behind the head.

However, it actually began as a sub from inside your opponent’s guard. So this is an option, as is from side control, scarf hold, your guard, or even bottom mount, as UFC fighter Alexey Oleynik has done in competition.

This versatility is one of the beautiful things about the ezekiel choke. Just one reason it should be part of your game.

Here’s a video of Rafael Lovato Jr demonstrating the ezekiel choke from mount:

Related: You don’t need strength for the ezekiel choke; but it will help your BJJ in general. Learn how to get stronger in our quick guide to Strength Training for BJJ.

Origins of the Name

Why is it called the ezekiel choke?

The name comes from Brazilian judoka Ezequiel Paraguassu, who popularized the move in the late 1980s. The ezekiel choke actually originates from Judo – in Judo it’s known as sode guruma jime, which translates to “sleeve wheel constriction”.

While Paraguassu was training for the 1988 olympics, he spent a lot of time training with BJJ athletes, during which time he struggled a lot getting stuck in his opponents’ full guard.

He used the sode guruma jime to submit many people from within their own guard, which was thought to be impossible (or at least, incredibly difficult against high-level opposition).

Due to the uniqueness of this move, his training partners started calling it the “Ezequiel” choke, over time morphing to become the “ezekiel” choke.

Is the Ezekiel Choke an Air Choke or Blood Choke?

The ezekiel choke can be either a blood choke or an air choke, or even both.

It all depends on the angles – of your hands, your pressure, and your opponent’s head.

If your hand/forearm goes straight across your opponent’s throat, with your other arm straight behind their neck, it will pressure the trachea, and will be a painful air choke.

However, if your opponent’s head turns to the side, or you put your arm deeper, you often end up pressuring the carotid arteries on the side of the neck instead, which turns it into a blood choke (less painful, more likely to put the opponent to sleep).

It can also end up being a mix of the two, and turn out to be a painful choke that also constricts the arteries.

Positions for the Ezekiel Choke

The best position for the ezekiel choke, as a finishing move, is from full mount.

This is because you have the most control of your opponent’s body. You can stop them from changing the angle and releasing pressure on their neck, and it’s also much easier to block their arms from coming up to defend.

There are many more positions that the ezekiel can be done from, however.

The choke was first popularized as an attack from inside your opponent’s full guard. You’ll stack your opponent’s hips, preventing them from catching you with an armbar before you’re able to lock up your choke, and then execute the ezekiel as you would from mount. Like so:

You can do it the other way as well – hit the ezekiel choke when your opponent is in your full guard. You’ll need to bring their weight forward (or wait for them to pressure/stack you), in order to get the right angle to attack the neck. You also need to lock their body down to limit their movement (so they can’t pull back and break the choke). I like to lock up a body triangle to do this.

Other positions to hit the ezekiel from include side control, scarf hold (aka kesa gatame) and back control. Once you perfect your technique and timing, you may even be able to hit it from positions like bottom mount and bottom half guard.

Ezekiel in No-Gi and MMA

The ezekiel choke is mostly known as a Gi choke, because of how you insert your fingers into your sleeve to lock it up.

However, it’s possible with a slight variation to hit the ezekiel in No-Gi, and even MMA.

This video from Craig Jones offers some excellent tips on hitting the No-Gi ezekiel, primarily from mount, but also from the bottom:

For the No-Gi ezekiel, instead of grabbing your sleeve (which you don’t have), you’ll grab your bicep, almost like a rear-naked choke from the front.

Your first hand reaches around the back of your opponent’s head and grabs your second arm, which is extended. When you bend the second arm, it locks your first hand in place in the pit of the elbow, giving you the lock you need to hold the choke (the lock provided by the hand inside your sleeve in the Gi version).

Once you’ve got this locked up, slide the second arm in front of your opponent’s neck, and contract the space between.

The No-Gi ezekiel can be tricky for some to pull off. You might struggle to hit it if you don’t have long arms.

This move was popularized in the mainstream by Alexey Oleynik, who has over 10 submissions by ezekiel in pro MMA fights, including 2 in the UFC.

Here’s Joe Rogan discussing Oleynik’s ezekiel choke from bottom mount against Viktor Pešta: 

If you like the ezekiel in Gi, try it out in No-Gi. I find it quite effective against wrestlers, who often get caught in my full guard and end up putting a lot of forward pressure. When your opponent controls the underhooks and puts their head on the same level as yours, it opens up a sneaky ezekiel.

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Ezekiel Choke Tips & Key Points

Here are some tips if you’re struggling to finish or set up the ezekiel choke.

  • Make sure you put four fingers all the way inside your sleeve. One or two won’t give you a strong enough grip. Neither will gripping the material with your fingers, like if you were gripping the sleeve of your opponent. 
  • Control the head. If your arm is not properly behind the opponent’s head, they’ll likely be able to move and escape. 
  • Be sneaky. If your opponent can look and see the arm coming across their face, they’ll have plenty of time to set up a defense, or stop your second arm coming through. You want to rely on the element of surprise here.
  • Control the posture. Unless you have gorilla strength, you usually want to be able to control your opponent’s posture, and stop them from using their whole body against just your arms. This is not so important for the ezekiel from mount (your opponent’s posture is already broken), but consider this point if you’re struggling to hit it from guard (either your guard or your opponent’s).

Defending the Ezekiel Choke

How to defend the ezekiel choke?

Once the ezekiel is fully locked up, it’s incredibly difficult to defend. It’s vital for this choke to stop it before the second arm comes across your neck. You can tuck your chin to stop them sliding the arm through, or bring your hands up to defend the arm.

It is actually quite hard to get the arm through if your opponent knows it’s coming. This is why the element of surprise is so important.

When it is locked up, there’s not much you can do to defend. If your body isn’t controlled, and you’re free to move around, you can try to change the angle on your neck, and get your hands in between your opponent’s arms to try and block them from applying the pressure needed to finish.

However, if you’re under control (say, from full mount, or your opponent stacking you), you have very few (if any) options.

Ezekiel Chokes in Competition

Ezekiel chokes in the UFC (2 out of 3 by Alexey Oleynik):

Dinu Bucaleț breaking down his ezekiel choke from full guard in the Polaris Pro Invitational:

Final Thoughts

The ezekiel choke is a creative and sneaky submission, which is why I like it. Much of the time, your opponent is more than ready to defend some of the more common attacks. But an ezekiel can really catch them by surprise.

Even if your opponent is able to defend, they’re usually forced to give up other opportunities when their arms come up to block the choke.

Try out the ezekiel choke in your next rolling session, and let us know how it goes for you!

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