From Setup to Finish: A Comprehensive Guide to the Clock Choke

December 5, 2023
From: Spartacus
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In the intricate dance of grappling and control that defines Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and other combat sports, certain techniques emerge as both elegantly effective and challenging to master. The clock choke is a prime example of such a technique, captivating practitioners with its unique blend of strategic positioning and decisive execution.

The clock choke is a sophisticated submission maneuver that involves encircling the opponent’s neck with one arm, using the gi or clothing for leverage, and applying pressure in a circular, clock-like motion. This action, resembling the movement of clock hands, is where it derives its name. The technique is celebrated for its versatility and adaptability, making it a staple in both competition and self-defense scenarios.

Let’s unravel the clock choke’s nuances from setup to finish, offering both beginners and seasoned practitioners insights into mastering this classic yet ever-evolving technique. 

Understanding the Clock Choke



The clock choke, a revered submission in the grappling arts, is a technique where finesse meets power. At its core, the clock choke is about control and precision, using the opponent’s gi or collar to apply a constricting loop around the neck. The beauty of this move lies in its execution, which is both an art and a science.

Primarily used in BJJ but also found in other grappling disciplines, the clock choke is typically applied when an opponent is in a turtle position, with their back exposed. The practitioner, positioning themselves to the side of the opponent, secures a grip on the collar or lapel. The choking arm threads under the opponent’s neck, gripping the far side of the gi. The free hand assists in controlling the opponent, often gripping their sleeve or trouser leg.

The effectiveness of the clock choke is in the details. As pressure is applied, the practitioner’s body moves in a circular motion, mimicking the hands of a clock. This motion tightens the choke and can quickly lead to a submission. The choke’s efficiency stems from its reliance on leverage and the anatomical structure of the neck, rather than sheer muscular strength. This technique embodies the BJJ philosophy that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using technique, leverage, and the application of joint-locks and chokeholds. 

Setting Up the Clock Choke



Mastering the clock choke begins with setting it up effectively, a process that requires keen observation and swift execution. This setup phase is crucial, as it lays the foundation for a successful submission. 

The ideal moment to initiate the clock choke is when your opponent is in a turtle position, a defensive posture where they are on their hands and knees. This position exposes their neck, creating an opening for the choke. As the practitioner, you need to position yourself beside them, slightly angled towards their head to gain optimal leverage.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to get into the perfect position for this choke:

  • Step 1: Identify the Opportunity: The clock choke is most effective when your opponent is in the turtle position. This often occurs after they defend a takedown or when they are trying to avoid guard passing.
  • Step 2: Establish the Choke Grip: Approach your opponent from the side. Reach over their nearest shoulder with your nearest arm and secure a deep grip on their far lapel. Your goal is to have your fingers pointing towards their opposite shoulder.
  • Step 3: Control the Opponent’s Body: Use your other hand to control their far sleeve or pant leg. This prevents them from rolling away or facing you, which would disrupt the choke setup. 
  • Step 4: Change position: If you are in a dominant position like side control or top guard, and your opponent turns to the turtle position, seize the opportunity to transition to the clock choke setup.
  • Step 5: Responding to the Opponent’s Movement: If your opponent tries to escape by sitting out or standing up, maintain your collar grip and use your body weight to keep them down. In the event of them attempting a roll, adjust your grips and position to maintain control and continue setting up the choke.
  • Step 6: Securing the Choking Arm: Ensure your arm that’s gripping the collar is deep enough, with the forearm exerting pressure against one side of the neck. Your grip should be firm and your arm positioned correctly to apply the choke effectively.
  • Step 7: Adjusting Your Position: Kneel beside your opponent, placing your knee close to their head. Your other leg should be sprawled out for balance and to apply additional weight on the opponent, making it harder for them to move.
  • Step 8: Fine-Tuning for Choke Efficiency: Lean forward slightly, directing your weight onto the opponent. This position increases the pressure of the choke, making it more effective and harder for your opponent to defend.

The setup of the clock choke is a delicate balance of aggression and control. It requires you to be assertive in securing your grips and positioning, yet patient enough to wait for the right moment to apply pressure. A successful setup is half the battle won in executing this sophisticated technique.

Executing the Clock Choke



To effectively execute the clock choke, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Finalize Your Grip: After setting up, confirm that your choking arm’s grip on the far lapel is secure and deep. This grip is the cornerstone of the choke.
  • Step 2: Positioning Your Body: With your knee planted beside your opponent’s head, keep your other leg extended and stable. This creates the necessary leverage.
  • Step 3: Applying the Choke: To initiate the choke, start ‘walking’ around your opponent’s head in a clock-like motion. This motion applies pressure from your arm onto their neck.
  • Step 4: Adjusting Pressure: As you move, subtly adjust your body weight and arm pressure. This enhances the effectiveness of the choke, making it harder for the opponent to resist.
  • Step 5: Monitoring Opponent’s Reaction: Be aware of your opponent’s attempts to defend. They might try to grab your leg or shift their weight, requiring you to adjust your approach.
  • Step 6: Maintaining Control: Control over the opponent’s upper body is crucial. If they start to turn or roll, modify your grip and pressure accordingly.
  • Step 7: Final Execution: When you’ve reached the optimum angle, usually past your opponent’s head, apply a steady and controlled force. This action completes the choke.

  • Step 8: Safety and Awareness: Always be conscious of your opponent’s safety. A properly executed clock choke can render someone unconscious quickly, so be prepared to release immediately if they tap out or show signs of extreme distress.

The clock choke, when performed correctly, is a powerful tool in your grappling arsenal, making it a respected and feared technique in BJJ and combat sports.

Defensive Strategies Against the Clock Choke



Defending against a clock choke requires awareness, timing, and proper technique. Here are key strategies to effectively counter this formidable move:

  • Prevent Grip Establishment: The first line of defense is preventing your opponent from securing a deep grip on your collar or lapel. Be vigilant about hand fighting and controlling your opponent’s arms.
  • Posture and Positioning: Keep your neck and back straight to reduce vulnerability. Proper posture makes it harder for an opponent to manipulate your head and apply the choke.
  • Escaping the Position: If your opponent starts setting up the choke, work on changing your position. Turning into them or creating space can disrupt their setup.
  • Protecting the Neck: Use your hands to shield your neck or to control the choking arm of your opponent. Keeping your chin down also helps in protecting your neck.
  • Utilizing Roll Escapes: Rolling escapes can be effective, especially if timed well. As your opponent starts to ‘walk’ around your head, a well- timed roll can disrupt their balance and positioning.
  • Countering with Sweeps or Reversals: Look for opportunities to sweep or reverse the position. This not only helps in escaping the choke but also puts you in a more advantageous position.
  • Continuous Movement: Avoid being static. Continuous movement makes it difficult for your opponent to finalize their grip and positioning.
  • Breathing and Calmness: Stay calm and breathe. Panic can lead to hastened movements, making you more susceptible to the choke.
  • Drilling Defenses: Regularly practice defense drills against the clock choke. Familiarity with the move helps in recognizing the setup early and defending effectively.

Defending against the clock choke is challenging but with these strategies, you can reduce its effectiveness and potentially turn a defensive situation into an offensive opportunity.

Advanced Variations and Adaptations of the Clock Choke



Exploring advanced variations and adaptations of the clock choke can add depth to your grappling game and catch opponents off guard. Here are some sophisticated adaptations of this classic move:

Gi and No-Gi Variations: In Gi grappling, the choke can be reinforced using the lapel or sleeve for added leverage. No-Gi variations often involve adjusting grips, relying more on arm positioning and body mechanics.

Choke from the Turtle Position: An advanced variation involves setting up the choke from an opponent’s turtle position. Here, you can use their arm or lapel to secure a grip while positioning your leg over their back, adding more pressure to the choke.

Clock Choke with Leg Assistance: Incorporating leg work can increase the choke’s efficacy. Using a leg to press against the opponent’s back or neck adds extra force, making the choke tighter and more controlling.

Combining with Other Techniques: Blending the clock choke with other submissions like armlocks or strangles creates a multifaceted threat, forcing opponents to defend on multiple fronts.

Countering Defensive Moves: Be prepared with variations to counter common defenses. If an opponent tries to roll out, switch to a rolling clock choke, maintaining grip and following their movement to keep the pressure constant.

Dynamic Grip Changes: Skilled practitioners often switch grips mid-technique. For example, transitioning from a traditional collar grip to a deeper, more penetrating lapel grip can heighten the choke’s effectiveness.

Feints and Misdirection: Use feints to set up the choke. A feigned pass or submission attempt can lead your opponent to expose their neck, setting up the clock choke.

Pressure and Angle Adjustments: Fine-tuning the angle of your body and the pressure applied can make the choke faster and more surprising. This includes subtle shifts in hip and shoulder placement.

Mastering these advanced variations and adaptations of the clock choke keeps practitioners’ arsenal fresh and unpredictable, making them more formidable. These techniques should be practiced under supervision and with a clear understanding of the mechanics involved to ensure both effectiveness and safety.


In summarizing the journey through the intricacies of the clock choke, it becomes clear that this technique is not just a skill but an art form in the grappling world. The mastery of the clock choke involves understanding its mechanics, from the nuanced setup to the precise execution and the adaptability required for advanced variations. This guide has aimed to lay down the foundational steps, empowering enthusiasts and practitioners to incorporate this effective technique into their grappling arsenal.

However, the journey doesn’t end here. As with any martial art form, mastering the clock choke requires dedication, practice, and a commitment to learning. It is vital to practice safely, respecting the technique and its impact on opponents. Training with partners who provide constructive feedback is crucial, as is staying mindful of each other’s safety.

For those seeking to deepen their knowledge and skills, Spartacus stands as a beacon in the combat sports community. This platform offers a plethora of resources that can significantly enhance one’s grappling journey. Whether it’s through studying detailed instructional videos, engaging with the community, or watching live matches, Spartacus provides an enriching experience for all levels of practitioners.

Remember, the path to mastery is continuous and evolving. Utilizing platforms like Spartacus not only enhances one’s technical skills but also keeps one abreast of the latest trends and techniques in the dynamic world of combat sports. So, embrace the journey, stay curious, and keep refining your skills in the clock choke and beyond.


What is the clock choke and how is it used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

The clock choke is a sophisticated submission technique in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) that focuses on constricting the opponent’s neck using their own gi or clothing. It’s named for the circular, clock-like motion used during its application. In BJJ, it’s typically employed when an opponent is in a turtle position, making it a favored technique for its strategic approach to leverage and control.

Why is the clock choke considered an effective technique in grappling?

The clock choke is esteemed in grappling for its blend of leverage, control, and precision. It doesn’t rely solely on brute strength; instead, it harnesses the principles of leverage and the anatomical vulnerabilities of the neck. This makes it a potent tool against larger opponents, embodying the core philosophy of BJJ where skill and technique can overcome sheer physicality.

What is the importance of the setup phase in executing a clock choke?

The setup phase is critical in the execution of a clock choke. It involves identifying the right moment and positioning oneself correctly. A well-executed setup allows for a deeper, more secure grip and optimal body positioning. This phase sets the foundation for effectively applying the choke, and any mistake here could compromise the technique’s success.

How do you establish the correct position for a clock choke when an opponent is in a turtle position?

When your opponent is in a turtle position, position yourself at their side, angled towards their head. Reach over their nearest shoulder to secure a grip on their far lapel, and use your other hand to control their far sleeve or pant leg. This position prevents them from rolling away or facing you, setting the stage for a successful clock choke.

Can the clock choke be applied from positions other than the turtle position?

While the turtle position is ideal for a clock choke, skilled practitioners can adapt this technique for use from other positions. It requires creativity and an understanding of the underlying mechanics, such as when an opponent transitions to turtle from a guard pass or during a scramble.

What are the key steps to effectively execute the clock choke?

To execute the clock choke, ensure a secure and deep collar grip, maintain proper body positioning with your knee beside the opponent’s head, and extend your other leg for balance. Initiate the choke by ‘walking’ around their head in a clock-like motion, adjusting your body weight and arm pressure for maximum efficacy, and be mindful of their defensive attempts.

How can an opponent defend against a clock choke?

Defense against a clock choke involves preventing grip establishment, maintaining a strong posture, using hand control, protecting the neck, employing roll escapes, and constantly moving to disrupt the attacker’s setup. Anticipating the choke and responding swiftly is key.

Are there any specific breathing or movement strategies to counter the clock choke?

Remaining calm and focused is crucial. Controlled breathing helps maintain composure under pressure. Continuous, unpredictable movements make it challenging for the attacker to secure a grip or finalize the choke. Recognizing the setup early allows for timely and effective defensive maneuvers.

What are some advanced variations of the clock choke in BJJ?

Advanced variations include Gi and No-Gi adaptations, applying the choke from an opponent’s turtle position using their arm or lapel for grip, incorporating leg assistance for added pressure, combining the choke with other submissions, countering defensive moves, dynamic grip changes, employing feints, and fine-tuning pressure and angles.

How do the techniques and grips differ in Gi and No-Gi versions of the clock choke?

In Gi BJJ, the clock choke often involves utilizing the lapel or sleeve for additional leverage, whereas in No-Gi, the technique relies more on precise arm placement and body mechanics due to the absence of the gi. Adjustments in grips and application are necessary to account for these differences, emphasizing the importance of technique over reliance on the gi.

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