Best BJJ Submissions For MMA And Self-Defense

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great martial art to help lose weight, learn new skills and gain confidence. Like most hobbies, BJJ is an excellent way to bring positivity to your life – training BJJ is super fun! 

While these things are absolutely true, we also need to understand that BJJ is primarily a combat sport, which means that the techniques learned on the mat can help you with physical confrontations. 

Today, Evolve University shares the best submissions for MMA and self-defense.


Fighting Roots

BJJ came about when the Gracie brothers made modifications to Judo taught by Japanese martial artist Mitsuyo Maeda. Judo is a martial art very similar to BJJ. The main difference is that BJJ concentrates more on ground fighting as opposed to Judo’s more stand-up focus. The Gracie brothers (Carlos, Oswaldo, Gastao Jr., George, and Helio Gracie) tweaked the central techniques of BJJ so that they could be used by smaller and relatively weaker people. They then shared the art with the public by doing demonstrations and challenge matches.

BJJ eventually became the centerpiece when it came to the early days of mixed martial arts. It started in Brazil in the early days of no holds barred fighting known as “Vale Tudo”, it then evolved into what we know today as MMA. The UFC, an American MMA organization, is perhaps responsible for the initial explosion of mixed martial arts. It was founded by a group of enterprising gentlemen, including Rorion Gracie, the son of Helio Gracie. Included in the first tournament was Royce Gracie, Rorion’s younger brother. Royce Gracie proved himself highly skilled and became the pillar of the UFC in its early days. It was the perfect platform for introducing BJJ to the international market. From there, it became the worldwide phenomenon that we now know and love. 


What Makes BJJ Such A Great Base For MMA And Self-Defense?

What makes BJJ effective is the fact that it is an art that focuses on techniques to subdue an opponent. Training BJJ can give you the tools to effectively defend yourself against people even bigger and stronger than you. 

The focal point of BJJ is to use leverage and body positioning to control and submit an opponent, which means that you don’t have to be athletically gifted to be effective. This is a good skill to have in combat environments like MMA or self-defense because these techniques will still work even if you get highly stressed or tired.


Top Submissions for MMA and Self Defense

1) Rear Naked Choke

The rear naked choke is often called the king of submissions. The rear naked choke (RNC) is a submission done from the back. It is characterized by wrapping your arm around the opponent’s neck while using hooks to control the opponent’s body. Your arm acts as a noose and constricts the neck, blocking the air and blood from passing through. This is a strong submission and can be very hard to defend if done with proper technique. 

In this video, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Teco Shinzato demonstrates how to do a rear naked choke. Notice that he limits the movement of the head even before the choke is applied. An essential part of controlling the opponent before the choke is the initial grip fight. Always ensure to dominate the grips before focusing your attack on the neck.


2) Triangle Choke

The triangle choke is one of the central techniques in BJJ. It is characterized by using your legs to choke your opponent. The triangle choke can be applied from many positions, but you usually learn it from the closed guard. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championship Silver Medalist Almiro Barros teaches 5 triangle choke variations in this video. Note that it is crucial to have one arm outside the triangle leg configuration. The triangle choke is a submission that requires a good understanding of body positioning and leverage. 


3) Armbar

The armbar is a classic submission in BJJ, where you isolate an arm and bend it near the elbow. This is a flexible submission and can be done from many positions. Since you use your whole body against just an arm, pulling off an armbar even against a stronger opponent is possible with the correct technique. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Teco Shinzato demonstrates his way of applying the armbar. Note that he places emphasis on fully isolating the arm before attempting to extend for the submission. Keeping this in mind can help your armbar stay tight even in its intermediary stages.


4) Heel Hook

The heel hook is one of the most devastating submissions in BJJ. It is considered the strongest of all leg attacks and can cause serious damage to the leg if not respected. There are many variants of the heel hook; for demonstration purposes, we’ll show the basic heel hook starting from the guard.

In this video, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi World Champion Bruno Pucci demonstrates one of his favorite heel hook submission attacks. 

The demonstration starts by using a sweep to take the opponent down. Remember that this is the critical first step in leg attacks. Next, he focuses on isolating the leg by using leg entanglements (ashi garami) before applying the submission. Take note, though, that the heel hook is not allowed in all grappling competitions. Most organizations do not allow heel hooks in the lower belt levels. Always be mindful of this if ever you plan on using this submission in competition.



These 4 submissions are very effective in both MMA and self-defense. It is important that you drill these techniques consistently in a safe and controlled manner. Start by drilling these submissions with no resistance and gradually work on the common defenses as you get more proficient. Mastering these techniques will help you become a better grappler overall. 


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