The brabo choke (or whatever you want to call it) is a technique I’ve been practicing on and off for a while now. Recently, with my focus on no-gi chokes, I’ve once again devoted myself to analyzing and developing it.
Since the beginning of my training, I’ve had a habit of collecting grappling information online and cataloging it. This article and its brabo choke tutorials, photos and descriptions gathered from all over the internet are a result of this compulsion.
This choke, like it’s cousin the anaconda, has gone in and out of vogue several times in recent years. Its rise in popularity tends to follow a victory in competition. The problem is that with each new appearance, it takes on a new name.
Grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu suffers from horribly disorganized and confusing terminology. I believe this can be a fairly serious (or at least annoying) obstacle to beginners. It also makes broadly sharing techniques difficult since everyone seems to have their own vernacular. You have to dig through a maze of Japanese, Brazilian and English — much of it slang — and deal with different arts having their own names for the same thing.
What’s the difference between a kimura, a bent armlock, a keylock, a double wrist lock and ude garami? Not much, besides the name.
We won’t solve all the problems of grappling taxonomy today, but I will try to make sense of the brabo choke and its various names.
The first name I heard this choke given was “the Shaolin”, after Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro’s success with it. (Vitor also has another “Shaolin choke” with the gi.) Otto Olsen credited it as such after using it in ADCC.
Later it came to share the name “brabo” with a lapel choke that is done from a similar position. I dug up a little history on this name. From an interview with Leo Vieira:
Q: In the current edition of Grappling, Jacare is in demonstrating the Brabo choke and he mentioned that you used the choke a lot.
A: Yes, I used it a lot, but I don’t know why they say I created it, as I always look to develop something and look at the white belts training and I saw a white belt use it something like that, and then I think ‘man, this can happen’ and then I worked on this position and everyone started to call it the Brabo choke; Kid Peligro put the name to it, he loves to put names for position (laughs).
Q: Does the name mean anything, Brabo?
A: It’s when something is aggressive and my old email used to be Leobrabo, then when I showed it to Kid, came up with the name Brabo and it kind of stuck.
I believe he’s talking about the lapel choke, but like I said, they’re similar in terms of position and ended up with the same name.
Most recently, it has taken on the name “the darce”, after Joe D’arce who was taught the move by “New Zealand” John Danaher (both are Renzo Gracie black belts). Joe visited Marc Laimon’s school and was catching guys with it, so Marc took it and taught it to guys like Jeff Glover and Bill “The Grill” Cooper.
At tournaments, Marc began yelling “D’arce him! D’arce him!” to coach his guys, and his competition quickly adopted the name too.
This spawned variants such as the Marce for Marc’s own setup and the Sharce for Shinya Aoki’s uchimata with whizzer to brabo choke.
Baret Yoshida calls it a reverse guillotine. Shinya Aoki calls it the spinning choke.
Ignoring the nicknames, you might objectively call it a reverse arm triangle.
There are really too many names for this move. I’m not an authority, but I’ll explain the ones I use:
Brabo – The arm triangle grip and submission, regardless of setup or position.
Darce – A brabo choke setup using a gable grip to crank their head into position.
Those are the only two names I use. (And I may switch to using “darce” exclusively, since it can’t be confused with any gi chokes.)
Another common confusion about the brabo choke is how it is different than the anaconda choke. They often look like the same thing, but they’re not.
Viewed from the front headlock (your opponent on all fours, facing you, and you sprawled with your chest on his back), the difference is how you triangle your arms.
In the anaconda, your hand grips your biceps on the side of their trapped shoulder.
In the brabo, your grip is on the side of their head.
That’s basically it — you just close the arm triangle on different sides.
This is still enough to change the positions the brabo choke is available and the mechanics of finishing it.
Aside from the different names, the other time line you can follow is the availability of instruction on the move. It can be found all over the place now, but information on it used to be very scarce.
The first time I read about the brabo choke online, I was told you could see Mike Fowler doing it in the Grapplers.com photo gallery. I dug around and found my first glimpse of the technique:
Around the same time, someone on mma.tv took a photo of a Grappling magazine tutorial with Vitor Shaolin teaching it. I later found and scanned this same one myself:
In the heyday of MMALibrary.com, I posted a collection of information on the brabo choke (much like I’m doing now). This inspired Christian Graugart to include it in his tutorial on countering the underhook escape from side control. He also showed a setup for it from reverse scarfhold in his new blog.
Around this this time in 2005, I spoke to a brown belt who’d just trained down at Gracie Barra in Rio and he told me they were drilling the gi and no-gi brabo chokes.
Soca shows it from half guard in the preview for his no-gi DVD, including a good detail on the pressure to apply to finish the choke.
Indrek taught it in the top game section of Functional Half Guard.
A while back, I scanned a special Brazilian Top Team edition of Tatame magazine for it’s brabo choke tutorial. They show getting it from sideride, using a gable grip to force them to their back (as well as knees to the body, since it’s MMA).
One of Joe D’arce’s teammates said this (minus the striking) is the signature way he does it.
An aspect of the brabo that I found for myself and later saw in instructionals is that even when you can’t finish the submission, you can use it as a half guard pass. This is shown in Mayhem Miller’s video tutorial:
Mayhem Miller Teaching the Darce
Rick Estrada of subfighter.com has done very good video instructionals of the brabo and its variations for a while now. Just recently, he released an 8 minute video on using a combination of grips to get it and other chokes that I found very helpful:
Brabo Choke To Darce Grip Snap Back To DB-Darce Choke
A sample of Shinya Aoki’s instructional DVD made its way on to youtube. His variaion shows the creativity that has gone into finding new setups for this choke. It’s come a long way from just being forced from half guard.
Shinya Aoki Counters a Butterfly Guard Pass with the Brabo Choke
Joe Camacho recently put out a brabo choke tutorial where he passes guard to get it and finishes from north-south (which he feels is what makes it different than his darce).
Jeff Rockwell shows my favorite brabo choke setup and finish in his no-gi chokes instructional.
These are the main brabo choke resources available online. You can find even more in almost any recent grappling or MMA magazine and a number of instructionals, such as ones by Baret Yoshida, Marcelo Garcia, Shinya Aoki and Jeff Glover.
From all these tutorials and setups, you can breakdown a number of factors: the range of positions it can be gotten from, the triggers positions to take it, the variety of grips used to cinch it, and the positions and mechanics for finishing the submission.
By seeing how different body types and personalities approach the same move, you can gain a broader understanding of it and find a way that works best for you. I don’t do the brabo exactly like any of the tutorials I’ve shown here, but I’ve taken something away from all of them in one way or another.
I’ll lay out what I’ve figured out from all this material later. You can chew on it by yourself for a while.