If you’re a fan of pro wrestling, then you’ve probably seen the dragon sleeper get used in a match. Believe it or not, the dragon sleeper can actually be used as a legitimate submission in grappling.

Grapplers from Jiu Jitsu and catch wrestling have come up with different ways to set up a dragon sleeper. In this article, we’re going to take you through how to lock in a dragon sleeper on your opponent.

We’ll go through how the dragon sleeper was created, how it works, and details ways to do it. Then we’ll give you important tips for locking in the dragon sleeper correctly.

How was the dragon sleeper developed? 

Within professional wrestling, the dragon sleeper was created by Japanese wrestling legend Tatsumi Fujinami

Tastumi Fujinami was nicknamed “the dragon” and invented two of his own moves. A suplex and a submission hold. 

Obviously these moves would be named after him and were called the dragon sleeper and dragon suplex.

Fujinami’s style of pro wrestling was a more realistic one, where his moves were actually legitimate. So this meant the dragon sleeper could actually be used in a grappling or MMA match.

Years after the dragon sleeper was created, catch wrestling and Jiu Jitsu practitioners began developing setups for the dragon sleeper.

In 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, they teach a version of the dragon sleeper that they call the executioner.

How does the dragon sleeper work? 

The dragon sleeper is basically a reverse guillotine that you can set up from back mount or the north south position. It is more of a neck crank and spine lock rather than a choke.

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This is because you’re wrapping around the front of your opponent’s neck. A dragon sleeper is also quite painful compared to the normal guillotine choke.

You’re bending your opponent’s neck as you put incredible pressure on their neck and spine. The dragon sleeper is one submission that you do not want to be put in.

Set up #1 

The first dragon sleeper set up that we’ll detail is from the back mount. This could be from a failed RNC attempt or maybe you faked an RNC to set this choke up.

Remember before you set up the sleeper to hold a good back mount. Both legs hooking around their body and your chest connected to their back.

Let’s say your opponent is defending an RNC attempt and they have their chin down and hands up. Your first step is to underhook your opponent’s arm and cup their shoulder.

Next you’re going to need to create space to wrap your arm around your opponent’s neck. Use your forearm to push your opponent’s head to the side and then wrap around the front of their neck.

Then put your hand on your chest, sit back, and crank to lock in the dragon sleeper.

Set up #2 

This dragon sleeper set up comes off of a failed north south choke. You’re in the north south going for the choke, but you messed up somewhere and your opponent is turning to escape.

The north south choke is lost, but now you can lock in a dragon sleeper. As your opponent is turning to their knees, you’re to block them by hugging your arm around their body.

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Immediately after hugging their body, your leg is going to come over and hook around their body. You’re going to use your arm and leg to pull your opponent to their other side.

Then as you’re pulling them over you’re going to lock in a body triangle to keep them in place. Your arm is already wrapped around your opponent’s neck from the north south choke attempt.

In the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu curriculum, they refer to this submission as the executioner. If the choke isn’t working, you can switch back to try for an rear naked choke.

Dragon Sleeper set up #3

The third and final dragon sleeper set up that we’ll go over is also when you have the back mount. Instead of going right for your opponent’s neck, you’re going to grab a 2 on 1 grip on their arm.

Basically the same grips you would use if you were doing a kimura trap set up. Your opponent will think you’re going for their arm and start to defend.

This leaves their neck wide open for you to wrap your arm around the front of their neck. Then you’re going to pull your other arm in, connect your hands together, and extend your body backwards.

Not a fun position to be in at all.

Is the dragon sleeper dangerous?

The dragon sleeper is a dangerous move that should honestly not be allowed in most Jiu Jitsu competitions. It’s called a sleeper like it is a choke, but there really isn’t any choking involved in this move.

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A dragon sleeper is a straight up neck crank and spinal lock that could really hurt someone. It is effective, but if you’re going to use it, please be careful.

You don’t want to be held responsible for insuring your opponent or even worse one of your teammates.

Tips for doing the dragon sleeper

The dragon sleeper is effective, but there are certain details you need to remember to lock it in. Here are some important tips for locking in the perfect sleeper.

  • Stay Tight: Remember not to give too much space or your opponent will easily defend this submission.
  • Back Mount/North South: If you want to set up the dragon sleeper, you remember you can set it up from the back mount or north south position.
  • The Wrap: Wrap around the front of your opponent’s neck and not the traditional arm wrap like with a guillotine choke.
  • The Hooks: Remember with the set up from north south to hug the opponent’s body with your arm and then hook your leg around them.
  • Pull Them In: After you get your hooks, be sure to pull your opponent to their other side using your hooks.
  • Optional Grips: You can either grip your hands together like a guillotine or place your hand on your chest as you extend backwards.
  • Extend Backwards: Extend your body backwards to lock in the dragon sleeper.
  • Be Careful: The dragon sleeper is a mixture of a spine lock and neck crank. If you’re going to do the move, be very careful and try not to hurt your opponent.