BJJ

Is Smothering Legal in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Is Smothering Legal in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a combat sport that originated as a defensive martial art and transitioned into a more diverse sport branching out in different variations. Like most martial arts, the purpose of BJJ is also to defend against harmful intruders or strangers.


BJJ introduces diverse submission techniques that are defensive in nature. The purpose of submission techniques is not to harm the opponent but to tap out the opponent. Various illegal moves are often used by some practitioners and are harmful and can be life-threatening.


Different tournaments of BJJ have different rules and regulations. IBJJF is the biggest organization and governing body of BJJ. IBJJF does not allow harmful techniques in the tournaments. Smothering is one of the techniques which are considered illegal according to IBJJF instructions.

1. What is Smothering?

What is Smothering?

Photo Credit: Jiu Jitsu.com


Smothering is done when someone stops your airways by putting his/her hand or any part of his body to your mouth and nose. This causes an interruption in breathing and suffocation. This can be done by using your hands or chest pressure to suffocate the opponent and force him/her to tap out.


In most tournaments, smothering is considered illegal. Placing your foot, hand or any other part of your body and uniform to cover the mouth and nose of your opponent is a strictly prohibited and awful act.

This should be criticized that most of the smothers are not forced to overlook their act and their act is left unnoticed. For example, in the mother's milk choke, this is not sure that the opponent tapped out due to suffocation or pressure, so the smothers often take advantage of this choke.


This choke is not considered illegal. Especially in the Gi tournaments, when the chest of the smother is not directly exposed, this choke is completely allowed. Despite a very worthwhile choke, only a few submissions are observed with choke.

2. Chokes That Imitate Smothering

Various athletes use various ways to implement smothering in the guise of these chokes. Here we enlist two chokes that are mostly used to smother the opponent.

2.1. Python Muffler or Python Trap

Python Muffler also known as Python Trap is somehow linked with Vagner Rocha,who is known to the world as a brutal grappler.He recently finished many opponents using this fabulous technique.


Python trap is a choke from back in which Vagner established complete control of his opponent and trapped his both arms so that he could not resist. Finally, he will have only one way to escape, and that will be submission.


In the python muffler, Vagner trapped one arm of the opponent with his leg and another arm with one of his arms. His one leg is on the leg of the opponent to strengthen his grip. One free hand is used to cover the mouth and nose of the opponent. By covering the mouth and nose, he stopped the breathing of his opponent and suffocated him until he tapped out.


Later, Rocha explains his Python trap in a video lesson. The video of the brutal choke is given below.

2.2. Mother Milk Smother Choke

Mother milk choke is a technique that can be implemented after full mount. In this technique, the grappler covered the face (mouth and nose) of his opponent with his chest and applied upward force to the back of the neck of the opponent. By doing this, he sealed the airway of his opponent. Due to suffocation and pressure, the opponent was forced to tape.


Erik Paulson is well known for this choke. This choke is considered his special weapon against his opponent. He demonstrated his technique in the video lesson. Here is the video.

David Lee submitted his opponent Thomas Hytten in the HEAT SPORTS 25 by using this technique. He submitted Thomas in two and a half minutes.

3. Is Smothering Legal in BJJ?

Smothering is under controversial debate on whether this should be practiced or not. Various tournaments legalize smothering after illegalizing it. If you are in your academy, rolling with your partner, he will not like to be smothered. Each academy has its own rules. But smothering is banned by the majority of academies and governing bodies and is considered a cowardly act. Even if it is allowed in your gym, you will not be appreciated for this submission. There are chances that people will start avoiding rolling with you.

4. According to IBJJF Rules

IBJJF is considered the major organization that works to organize BJJ tournaments. Various tournaments follow the rules and regulations of IBJJF. According to IBJJF, smothering is not allowed and is considered illegal.According to the 6.3.2 technical foul list:

“When an athlete blocks the passage of air to his/her opponent’s nose or mouth using his/her hands”

In IBJJF NoGi Pans, Oliver Taza was disqualified due to controlling his opponent with smothering. In Pans NoGi 2021, Oliver Taza was against Rodrigo Gortari. He controlled him from the back and covered his mouth with his hand. Due to the illegal status of smothering under IBJJF, Taza was disqualified from the fight and Rodrigo was considered the winner of the fight.

5. According to EBI Rules

According to EBI rules, smothering was considered legal initially. Vagner Rocha won various matches by using the smothering choke, famous as the python trap. But a few years ago, Eddie Bravo expressed his dislikeness toward smothering techniques. He banned smothering by saying,

“if someone does that s**t to me, I'm biting their fingers.”

6. Smothering Choke in ADCC

According to the rules and regulations of ADCC, placing hands, knees, or elbows on the mouth is completely illegal. This is a clear statement that ADCC rules also illegalized the smothering choke. According to the rules:

“No hands, knees, or elbows on face”

7. Takeaways

Smothering is not considered legal according to the rules and regulations of various tournaments. Smothering is allowed in the gym, but even then smothering is not a very appreciated way to submit.


Python trap and mother milk choke are the most viewed smothering chokes in various tournaments. Vagner Rocha is a 6th-degree Black Belt who submitted his opponent with a python trap more than one time. He is well known for this tough submission method.


Smothering is a completely illegal submission technique. IBJJF has also categorized it as illegal. Various smothers made submissions in history with smothering. Vagner Rocha submitted various opponents with this choke. But now various major tournaments have declared it an illegal technique.


Photo Credit: @digitsu

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