When someone is on top attacking an opponent, they generally look to set up their submissions from side-control or mount. Attacking from north south position really isn’t the first thought for many grapplers.

That is a shame, because from north south, there is an extremely powerful choke you can hit. One that many forget to defend and once it’s put on, the roll is just about over.

Here is everything you need to know about the north south choke. We’ll break down how it works, detail different set ups, and give you important tips for locking it in.

Who invented the north-south choke?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu adopted the north-south choke from Judo. Within that martial art a variation of the submission is referred to as the “Kuzure kami shiho gatame.”

Jiu Jitsu took this submission, refined it, and created various setups for the choking. The north south choke is also commonly used with submission wrestling or catch wrestling.

How does the north-south choke work?

How the north south choke works revolves around closing space and laying down heavy pressure on your opponent’s neck. Many shy away from this technique assuming it is more for strong grapplers, but that is a common misconception.

All you need is to close space and create leverage to lock on this choke. All time great Marcelo Garcia was a smaller competitor, but the north south choke was one of his best moves.

The trick to this choke is not to think about it like a normal strangle. This isn’t a submission, where you latch on to your opponent’s neck and squeeze using force.

It’s a very subtle movement, where you slowly lay down heavy pressure around your opponent’s neck. 

You wrap an arm around your opponent’s neck like a reverse guillotine and sit back on your toes. When you do it correctly, it looks exactly like a snake strangling it’s prey.

Basic north-south choke set up

Most of the set ups for the north-south choke start on top in side-control. Here is one when your opponent has their hands up defending their neck.

You start the submission by hugging around your opponent’s head, laying down heavy top pressure by driving forward. When you drive forward this forces their inside arm to slightly go down.

To get your opponent’s other arm down, cup their tricep with your inside arm and just push it down. You’ll now have space to wrap your arm around their neck.

All you need to do now is take your arm under your opponent’s neck and bring it up and around top.

Now you have to keep the opponent’s head in place by pinching between your arms and side. Any free space for them to turn their head will allow them to escape the choke.

Then with their head controlled, slide back and at the same time drop your shoulder down on your opponent’s neck. Doing this puts pressure on the side of their neck.

For the finish after sliding back, stay flat, be patient, and let the pressure come on until your opponent taps.

North-south choke set up #2

Another north-south choke set up, you can start by trapping your opponent’s hands in side-control. If you start by trapping their hands, you won’t need to worry about separating their hands and neck. Their neck will already be open.

Wrap your arm around your opponent’s neck and have your armpit placed low on their neck. Doing this movement while keeping your chest on your opponent’s chest to keep them in place.

Now use your free arm to rotate your body as you stay flat and keep your choke hand palm down. You keep your choke hand palm down, so your opponent’s neck fits in the crook of your elbow.

Once you slide into north south position, walk your hips into your opponent’s head. This will keep them from turning and defending.

Then from here, you just slide back and lock in your choke.

One arm north-south choke

Here is a north-south choke set up option with one arm. Start with an arm in and head control on your opponent from side-control.

The setup is really quick and easy. All you do is cup the tricep and drive forward before wrapping the opponent’s neck and sliding back.

Remember when you slide back to stay flat, keep your palm flat, and be patient.

Reverse kesa-gatame to north south choke

Starting in a kesa-gatame side control can be the starting point for an easy north south choke. When holding a reverse kesa-gatame side control, be sure to keep the side of your body right on your opponent’s chest.

From here, you can start attacking your opponent’s arm with a kimura or straight armbar attempt. Doing this will make them defend their arms and forget about their neck. Usually sitting up and exposing their neck.

When they expose their neck, wrap around their neck, switch your hips, and slide back into north south. Stay flat and slowly sink in that north south choke.

Kimura to north-south choke

You can easily get a north choke from faking a kimura attempt on your opponent. Start from either side-control, north south, or somewhere in between these positions.

Grab the wrist of their far arm and act like you are going for a kimura. Your opponent will instinctively defend their arm and bring their head up.

When they bring their head up, quickly wrap around their head and sprawl back. To finish the choke, keep sprawling back until they tap from the pressure.

North-south choke with butterfly grip

Here is a north-south choke done with a two handed butterfly grip. This set up starts the same as the others by getting your opponent to lift their head.

Once they lift their head, you do the normal wrap and sprawl back, but they’re still defending. If this happens, you can go to a two handed butterfly grip.

Turn onto the shoulder of your choke arm to make space to get your grip. Bring your free hand in and grab both of your wrists to get your butterfly grip.

Then from here, just drop back, stay flat, and squeeze.

North-south choke to darce choke

For some grapplers, the north-south choke just doesn’t work and that’s okay. You can fake the choke to open up another submission opportunity like a darce choke.

Let’s say you wrapped around your opponent’s head and sprawled back, but they’re still able to turn their head. When they do this, let them turn to their side and slide your arm around their neck.

Lock on your rear naked choke grip, take a deep breath, and squeeze to lock on the pressure of your darce choke.

Tips for doing the north-south choke

Many give up on the north south choke thinking it doesn’t work, but they’re only missing small details. Here are the tips you need to remember for locking on the north south choke.

  • Keep your opponent flat: It’s very important to keep your opponent flat on their back. If your opponent can turn, they can escape the submission.
  • Wrap around the opponent’s neck: Be sure to wrap your arm around your opponent’s neck and under their chin. If your arm is over their chin, the pressure will just smash their face and not choke them.
  • Control the head: You have to control your opponent’s head and lock it in place, so they cannot turn and escape.
  • Slide back: Once you get your hand around the opponent’s neck, slide back on your toes. This choke isn’t a normal strangle, where you squeeze your opponent’s neck til they submit.
  • Drop your shoulder: As you slide back be sure to drop your shoulder down on top of your opponent’s neck.This puts the pressure against their neck.
  • Stay flat: It is very important that you stay flat when you slide back. If you raise up for any reason, you probably won’t get the choke.
  • Grips: Remember that this submission can be done with either one hand or two depending on the set up.
  • Palm down: Keep the palm of your choke hand down, so that you can place their neck in the crook of your arm.
  • No space: Probably the most important tip to remember is to not give up space. If there is any free space, the north south choke will not work.
  • Be patient: Be patient and don’t try to force the submission. It will gradually come on and force your opponent to submit.