Judo Chop: Shinya Aoki and the Rear Face Lock

Shinya Aoki is a Judo Chop regular. He may be limited as a fighter, but his master of the submission grappling aspect of MMA cannot be denied. He's broken arms with standing Waki Gatames and hammerlock variations, landed gogoplatas both from his back and from the mount, and tapped some of the best lightweights in the world with vicious heel hooks.

At Saturday's Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley, Aoki treated American fans to a submission he had used in Japan at Dream 6 against Todd Moore: the Rear Face Lock. Aoki's opponent, Lyle Beerbohm made the extremely questionable decision to lock up with Aoki and soon found himself tripped to the ground by the expert Judoka.

Instantly Aoki had taken Beerbohm's back. Then Aoki applied the figure four body lock with his legs and began attacking Beerbohm's throat. Lyle thought he could defend the standard rear naked choke but didn't expect Aoki to seamlessly -- and brutally -segue immediately into a neck crank/face lock that had Beerbohm tapping with a quickness.

In the full entry we'll hear from regular BE contributor Patrick Tenney with the BJJ perspective and BE grappling editor K.J. Gould who brings out the catch wrestling connection.

SBN coverage of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley

Here's the gif of the hold:


Comments from Patrick Tenney:

By now most of us know what happened, Lyle "Fancypants" Beerbohm decided to go full retard and clinch with Aoki in the opening minute of their fight. Aoki being a terrific judo player as well as a newaza specialist took the chance to take Lyle to the ground and work a hook in as he comfortably played his game.

In the process of working for a rear naked choke (hello Japan!) Aoki took advantage of Lyle's defenses, instead of digging his own chin down to his chest and fighting with wrist control or moving his hips up or down the center line of Aoki he decided at some point to turn his head to alleviate pain as Aoki was content with just using the figure four RNC grip to crush Lyle's jaw (anyone in a BJJ or submission grappling school can tell you how much an RNC applied to the jaw instead of the neck can hurt); that head turn was Lyle's mistake as Aoki latched across the chin tighter and cranked the neck to the left, Lyle tries to roll his hips over and get his neck back in alignment with his own body but Aoki has tight back control and arches his hips up and back down while locking the body triangle.

So now we have Lyle, who is probably wondering why he followed what was so obviously the worst gameplan in existence caught in a pretty awful neck crank (Aoki most likely learned the real neck crank from Steven Segal, Segal later will probably admonish Aoki for not twisting the neck in a snapping motion), Lyle has literally zero options at this point except for some sort of miracle to happen and Aoki to burn his own arms out; a couple seconds later and he realizes that's not going to happen and that he actually likes being able to turn his head in different directions so he taps out.

Lesson learned: Practice proper defense to the RNC from back control, don't allow your opponent to elevate your bad situation from "oh shit my jaw really hurts, gonna be popping all day tomorrow" to "oh shit, I feel things snapping in my neck that shouldn't be snapping". Never allow your opponent to angle your chin off your chest if you can help it, expect to be in a lot of pain while defending (key to submitting someone from back control without a gi is to make them WANT to lift their chin up and move their head) and just concentrate on fundamental defense so you can eventually turn your hips over or improve your position.

No major technical prowess or out of the box thinking in this judo chop, just Aoki cranking on whatever protrusion from the body of his opponent he can get his hands on and Lyle making a mistake in judgement.

Here's Aoki using a very similar crank to submit Todd Moore at Dream 6 in September 2008.


Thanks to Scott Haber for finding that gif!

Commentary from K.J. Gould:

Aoki was doing something I've heard called a Reverse Lever or a rear face lock.

It's harder to do from the back when you have both hooks in or a body triangle because there's no space between you and the opponent but it is painful enough to get a tap a lot of the time. The way Aoki does it I would guess Beerbohm tapped from the pressure on his jaw rather than a crank on his neck.

Before I run through Aoki's application in the fight I'll just point out the general principles of neck crank mechanics. A good neck crank starts with a turn of the head before the head is folded at the neck sometimes over a fulcrum but not necessarily. In the case of the rear face lock the head turns and folds downwards with the aim of putting the opponent's temple on their chest. The reason for the turn is simple: just pushing the head down is still a very natural and comfortable movement plus you have all the muscles in the neck (particularly the large sternocleidomastoid muscles) able to engage and resist the pressure. By turning the head you isolate the muscles you end up effecting with downward pressure so where before muscle groups in a pair could resist, the head turn means you've essentially halved the resistance. Coupled with the fact the chin hitting the chest covers less distance then the intention of making the temple hit the chest and you have a much deeper, more effective crank. Also a good neck crank done this way can become a choke since the head manipulation of turning to the side and folding down can constrict the windpipe.

In Aoki's case though his chest on Beerbohm's back limits the folding of the neck. Usually this crank is done when the opponent is sitting and you are kneeling behind him and while keeping his head against your chest you allow space between you so that it is his own bodyweight that causes the fold in the neck.

With that in mind Aoki's was a safer though less effective form of crank.

As you can see in the gif Aoki has the head turned with his lower arm in a similar fashion to how you would with a crossface. Framing his arms with a figure-four grip as you would for a Rear Naked Choke Aoki uses his other arm to pull back and slip to the back of the head. Aoki switches to a body triangle but the extra control is moot, Beerbohm's jaw is under a lot of pressure from the arm and the little Aoki is able to fold the neck may be enough to restrict Beerbohm's breathing in addition to the pain. I think Aoki was likely going for the more traditional choke and the crank ended up being incidental with Aoki not wanting to make adjustments and lose his grip.

Here's a photo from ScientificWrestling.com showing a more conventional catch wrestling version of the lock/crank.


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