Is The Rear Naked Choke Really All That? Here's What 300 Matches of Data Says.
Ah the Rear Naked Choke, or RNC, for those in the know. Considered by many to be the gold standard in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it represents everything BJJ is supposed to be about. It requires positional dominance, works on even the largest opponents, and is considered one of the fundamental submissions in the art, delivering some iconic moments in MMA and submission grappling.
So it’s basically sacrilege to suggest that it might not be high percentage, right? We’re not here to offend anyone. But here’s some interesting data to consider:
What We Did
We watched three hundred BJJ and submission grappling matches. One hundred of these were at white belt level, another hundred at blue, and finally one hundred at purple. At each belt level, half were in a gi and half were nogi.
We are currently recording brown and black belts, more data on that is coming in the next few weeks.
These matches were in a variety of formats, most were IBJJF ruleset, but some were not. The nogi matches in particular had often different rulesets. With that said, the RNC is universally allowed in any format.
Rear Naked Chokes Accounted for Less Than 7% of Submissions in a Gi
In a gi, the rear naked choke was surprisingly medicore, making up only 6.71% of all submissions. What’s more, blue and purple belts scored only one RNC in a gi each in their respective 100 matches. The RNC was eclipsed by other high percentage submissions such as the bow and arrow, the triangle, and the armbar. These three submissions made up a majority of finishes at 63%
But in Nogi, it’s Another Story
Probably not surprisingly, the RNC is far more effective in nogi matches. It’s was nearly three times as likely to occur. Rear naked chokes consisted of more finishes than any submission besides the coveted armbar. And even then, it came within 2% of of them. In short, it was a killer move in nogi.
It’s Heavily Favored by White Belts
In a previous article, we discussed how low percentage the RNC was for white belts . You might be wondering how that squares with this data. For one, in that article we only looked at gi matches. In nogi matches, white belts are far more likely to successfully employ a rear naked choke.
But also, we did not record attempts in this study. Only finishes. From our observations, the RNC still fails more than it succeeds, but we have no hard data on that (yet!).
What we do know is that blue and purple belts are far less likely to finish their matches with traditional RNC attacks, even in nogi matches. White belts were twice as likely to sumbmit with the RNC than purples, and more than three times as likely to finish as blues. It’s also worth noting that in a gi alone, white belts finished more matches by RNC than blue belts by and 8:1 ratio.
I don’t think we’re exaggerating here when we say that the RNC is first and foremost a nogi submission, and the data shows that. In a gi, there are far better options in terms of volume and finishing percentages.