Here Are the Top 3 Ways to Smother Your Opponents in BJJ

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there are countless ways to submit your opponents. Both gi and no-gi have their specialties and techniques that make them unique. While some techniques are uncommon and may be unconventional to some, creativity has a technical mechanic that makes them work even when applied in an unusual fashion. This article will show you the top ways to apply the smother in BJJ.


The BJJ Smother

In BJJ, smothering happens when the opponent’s airways (through their nose and mouth) are blocked. Unlike in strangles (blood choke), where the main goal is to disrupt the blood flow in the opponent’s carotid arteries, smothering slowly suffocates your opponents by interrupting their breathing by covering their airway using your hands or upper body (chest pressure).

In most of the tournaments and under the rules of the IBJJF, smothering is considered illegal. While the smother may be an effective way to put pressure or even submit your opponents, it is not ideal to hit these moves on your training partners during training.


3 Ways To Smother Your Opponents

There are some ways to smother your opponents in BJJ effectively. While these may not get you praised on the mats, it is enough to force a tap when applied properly. Below are some ways to smother your opponents.


1) Mother’s Milk

When talking about the smother in BJJ, the first technique that will likely come to mind is the mother’s milk. It can be enough to submit the opponents when applied properly, especially by heavier grapplers. While it may not be a high percentage of submissions, it can open many opportunities for transitions and submissions and is a powerful way to control the mount.

When setting up the mother’s milk, a common reaction of the opponent is to bridge. To prevent you from getting bridged and rolled over, cup and pull the opponent’s head up from the mount. Doing so significantly reduces the opponent’s bridging power as their upper body is curled. Remember that when doing this, you’re taking away both your bases, and by being central, the opponent may bridge and reverse the position.

Applying the mother’s milk properly is to wrap the opponent’s head with your arms from the mount. This means that one of your forearms goes behind the opponent’s neck and the other behind their head as you pull their face to your chest. Doing so elevates the opponent’s head from the mat, removing their ability to bridge and reverse the position. While on the mount, you can apply the grapevine for control to remove the opponent’s ability to use their lower body for escape and, in doing so, move the opponent’s foot away from their glute, which prevents their ability to do a high bridge.

Assuming your left arm comes in first to cup the opponent’s head, your left bicep stops them from turning to your left. The only way the opponent can turn is by facing to the right. When the opponent faces to the right, lower your head on the right side and use your chest to align their face back to the middle with the pressure. From there, you can use your right hand to wrap around the opponent’s head and aim for both your biceps to be placed on the side of their head.

You can finish the smother from this position by squeezing the opponent into you as you drop your weight down on their face. Raising their head off the mat and applying the grapevine removes the opponent’s ability to bridge, and locking their face in the middle by wrapping your arms as you pull and drop your weight down is key to finishing this submission.


2) The Muffler

Starting from the back mount, make sure to secure the hooks and the seatbelt grip. This attack is coming from the straight jacket. Fall to your underhooking side. Assuming your left arm is your underhooking side, use your overhooking arm (right arm) to force the opponent’s face to your left. As the opponent pulls your right arm down with their right hand, release your right hook and trap the opponent’s right arm or with a body triangle for extra squeeze.

Control the opponent’s left arm with a two-on-one grip. From here, both the opponent’s arms are trapped. Maintain control over the opponent’s left arm with your underhooking arm (left arm), and let go with your right hand as you will be using it for the smother. You can use your hand to smother in two ways: cupping the opponent’s nose and mouth or smashing your palm right on the opponent’s face.

You can also use your top arm’s shoulder (right arm) to push behind the opponent’s neck as you place your right hand across the opponent’s face to smother them. Doing so puts them in a state of panic and will likely cause them to breathe heavily and in a state of adrenaline dump. Remember that your underhooking arm (left arm) should control the opponent’s left arm by cupping and jamming it to their body.

Finish by pushing with your top shoulder behind the opponent’s neck while cupping with your top hand across their face as you squeeze their body with the body triangle – like a python preying on its victim.


3) Heavy Crossface Smother

While the crossface smother from side control may not necessarily block the opponent’s airway like the mother’s milk, and the muffler does when done correctly, especially by heavier grapplers, it can be enough to put enough pressure on the opponent’s face, forcing them to tap. You can create pressure not only with your chest but also with your shoulder.

To do so, as you apply the crossface from underneath the opponent’s neck, reach for your far armpit with your fingers. Drive your shoulder at the opponent’s chest and drop it down on their neck. Sprawl with your leg on the same side as your crossface arm and lean in with your shoulder for maximum pressure.



While the smother may be unethical to some grapplers, it works well when set up and applied correctly, like all techniques. Ensure you agree with your training partners when practicing such techniques in the training room to keep the environment safe and in an upward learning curve.


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