Knee-on-Belly – Part I – Chokes


All roads lead to the knee-on-belly, or knee-ride position. Many guard passes and transitions can end up with your knee driving into your opponent’s midsection, which makes it an ideal position to study and develop transitions to and from, as well as master the many submissions available from the knee-on-belly.

Although it is often thought of as an old-school pain position, the knee-on-belly has many applications in Jiu Jitsu, MMA and self-defence. It can be used to control a wild opponent – pressing your knee and shin into the abdominals, solar plexus or sternum of your helpless opponent while controlling their arms, neck, or gi.

Knee-on-belly is the only transitional position to be scored in Jiu Jitsu competition. Points are not given for half-guard, front-headlock or the ”truck,” despite the multitude of submissions from these places. The knee ride is scored because it is a dominant, controlling position that fits with the hierarchical nature of Jiu Jitsu scoring. It’s used in self-defence and old-school fighting since the ground surface isn’t always a nice, soft mat. If you’ve ever taken the mount position on concrete, you’ll quickly realize the benefit of the knee ride. However, we’re more interested in the modern application of the position, and the submissions and transitions available from the knee-on-belly.


Renzo Gracie delivers a final blow to Oleg Taktarov from the knee on belly position.


I use the knee-on-belly position a lot. Just ask my training partners. I don’t do it to be mean, although that may have happened once or twice. I use it because it provides a solid platform from which to launch a variety of attacks. You’re higher on your opponent, allowing you to see better and have access to all of his limbs. In side control, you’re stuck tight to your partner, and are less able to transition as quickly. Since my Jiu Jitsu is based upon movement and taking advantage of an elicited response, the knee-on-belly position proves ideal for my needs.

Knee-on-belly forces several well-defined responses. There are only so many ways to react to the pressure. Most experienced jiu jitsu practitioners will keep tight and hip away from you, pushing on your hips and/or knee. Less-experienced Jiu Jitsu players will try to push up to relieve the pressure – and some people will just spazz out and try to roll you over. These people are usually the easiest to deal with, since they leave so much out there for you to grab a hold of.

I’m not going to pay too much attention to the latter group, since we want to train for better Jiu Jitsu practitioners then that. However, remember that a quick near-side armbar is often available against the pushers and the spazzes, when it is usually never available against decent Jiu Jitsu players.

The final reaction we need to be aware of is the people that will scoop under your foot and torque your leg into a sweep. My friend Jeff used to frustrate me with this until I learned to counter it. This can be avoided by 1) controlling the wrists or sleeves of your opponent and 2) keeping your instep tight against their body in the proper knee-on-belly posture. It might feel like you have more balance with your foot on the ground, but you really want all of your weight driving into the soft, squishy abdomen of your opponent.



Baseball Choke | 2 x 3 Choke

There are several chokes available from the knee-on-belly position. Many involve the gi. The most common gi choke from this position is the baseball bat choke. The baseball bat choke (or just “baseball choke”) can be setup from side control or knee-on-belly. I like to start it from side control, opening the gi and getting my initial grips, then using knee-ride to launch into it. The video below features several attacks from the knee-on-belly position. I first saw it on the Lapel Choke website ( What it lacks in video quality it makes up for in quality instruction from Val Tintiangco-Cubales, Charles Gracie Black Belt.


Val Tintiangco-Cubales – Knee-on-belly attacks


A few details to keep in mind with the baseball choke. The reason it’s called that is because the hands are positioned as you would hold a bat. Some non-North American Jiu Jitsu players might not have as much experience with baseball, and even some who have played the sport before might get confused with the hand position. Make sure to open your opponent’s gi on the far side so you can slide your whole hand, palm up, into the lapel. The other hand should be palm down on the other side of your opponent’s neck.

Nothing is choking him right now so your opponent shouldn’t react with too much urgency unless he knows what’s coming. It’s not until you slide around to north-south that the choke tightens. At this point your opponent may try to block your hips and prevent the spin. It’s important to drive your knee across his arm, killing his opposition to your transition. Put your face into his opposite hip and use your back to tighten the choke. Some people tend to flair the elbows to finish, which doesn’t effectively close off the carotid arteries. One of the most perfect baseball bat chokes that I’ve seen in competition has come from Guilherme Mendes against American Jiu Jitsu black belt Baret Yoshida. Doesn’t look to pleasant to be on the receiving end, does it?


Guilherme Mendes vs. Baret Yoshida


The 2 x 4 choke, or step-over choke, isn’t one I use a lot – but it’s powerful enough to include in anyone’s arsenal. And who better to explain it than legendary Nova Uniao black belt, Robson Moura. In the video below, Moura starts in knee-on-belly with a tight belt and lapel grip. The palm down lapel grip is the same as the baseball choke, and the two strangles can be used in tandem. Instead of using the other arm to create the choke, Moura uses his leg as he steps over.


Robson Moura – 2 x 4 Choke


I personally hate being at the receiving end of this choke, as it can be quite painful and somewhat embarrassing. Therefore, practice it a lot because your opponent’s will be fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent the leg from going over the head.

Cross Collar Choke | Paper Cutter Choke

If neither the baseball nor the 2 x 4 choke work, or if you’re looking for another option, the regular cross collar choke is also available from this position. There’s only one person who it’s appropriate to have demonstrate the collar choke, and that’s Roger Gracie. Check out this video of Roger breaking down his choke in Portuguese, and then a higher-quality video of Trumpet Dan going into detail after researching Roger’s collar choke.

Note that these chokes are from mount. For the knee-on-belly position, we setup the chokes the same way, but have the option of sliding our knee across to mount to finish. Usually your opponent will be concentrating on preventing the choke, allowing your transition. Dan actually describes how Roger uses the knee-on-belly as a transitional position if he’s setting up the cross collar choke from side control.


Roger Gracie – Cross Collar Choke


Trumpet Dan – Cross Collar Choke from Side Control


The final video in this section will be an alternative to the cross collar choke from the same setup. Caio Terra shows a paper cutter variation from knee-on-belly. This choke is similar to the cross collar, except you flair the elbow of the choking hand to drive the blade of the wrist into the opponent’s neck. I’m not a big fan of this variation, but sometimes your opponent is preventing your grip from entering his collar deeply enough for the cross collar, or you don’t feel confident in moving to the mount position. As a bonus, we get to see Terra’s training partner, Samir Chante demonstrate a back take from the same setup.


Caio Terra and Samir Chante – Knee-on-Belly Choke and Back Take


Darce | Brabo

It seems that we saved the best for last.

The Darce choke from knee-on-belly is one of my personal favourites – and is more common in no-gi, where the previously described chokes are not available.

When in the knee ride position, your opponent will most likely hip out and push on your knee. This technique takes advantage of this common reaction. As they hip out and push away, a space must form between their ribs and their elbow. It’s possible to float your weight forward and slide into a deep overhook when this occurs. From here, the Darce choke comes easy. I’ll let UFC/Strikeforce veteran and Darce-expert Jason Miller explain the rest, albeit from side control rather than knee-on belly.


Jason Miller – “Canadian” Darce Choke


The Darce choke can be used with or without a gi. However, since the gi provides a level of friction not experienced in without one, the lapel-based variation might be easier. Since there is a great deal of nomenclatural difficulty with this choke, I tend to call the gi version a brabo and the no-gi version a Darce. Check out Aesopian’s blog for a brief explanation of the etymology of these names. We’ll get into it a bit more deeply when we do a full post focusing on the Darce Choke. The video below demonstrates a basic gi version of the Darce/brabo, as does this article from Grapple Arts. Who better, though, to teach the brabo than Guilherme Mendes, who has been tearing up the Jiu Jitsu world with his gi chokes? The penultimate video in this entry will show Guilherme using the brabo choke in the 2009 Brasileiros.


Guilherme Mendes – Brabo Choke Instruction


Guilherme Mendes – Brabo Choke in Competition


Bonus: Brabo Choke to Armbar

We will be covering armlocks in part two of our feature on the knee-on-belly position, but this transition from knee-on-belly to brabo to armbar is sweet, and made all the sweeter by being demonstrated  (in competition no-less) by Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles. This sequence is a perfect example of using the knee-on-belly position as a launch pad to transition between submission attempts – creating responses from your opponent of which you can take advantage. Because you will have practiced taking advantage of all possible reactions, your opponent will feel like you are a step or two ahead of them. Here, Cobrinha uses the knee-on-belly to attack the 2 x 4 choke with the gi tail grip. As his opponent defends he leaves room for Cobrinha to switch his grip to the brabo grip. As he attempts the brabo choke from the knee ride, his opponent extends his arm to defend, giving the Alliance veteran a flawless armbar victory.


Cobrinha – Knee-on-Belly Brabo Armbar


Note to readers: you can follow The Jiu Jitsu Laboratory on Facebook!

About these ads

1 Comment

Filed under Jiu Jitsu Technique

One response to “Knee-on-Belly – Part I – Chokes

  1. Max

    why are the 2×3 and 2×4 chokes so called ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s