Naming Convention For MMA Techniques & Moves

What follows could be considered a proposal/discussion piece for an alternative naming convention for the names that are commonly applied to many of the moves and positions used in MMA today. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive document but more of a guide to how an alternative might work.


Over the years the names used for various MMA moves have evolved from all kinds of different origins. There are techniques with Japanese names that have origins from Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, techniques with Portuguese names that have origins from BJJ, techniques that have been named after the person that they were originally attributed to  and techniques that have names originating from Wrestling, Boxing, Muay Thai and many more. Some of these names are well established in MMA and are universally used and recognised, others are less defined and are either called different things by different people or don’t really have a defined name.

See Our Facts & Stats Of The Top 10 Submissions In The UFC / MMA Today

In this alternate naming convention the core aim is to inform the practitioner about the key components of each technique by using a consistent and logical structure that should ultimately lead to a better understanding of how to perform the technique correctly. There is also a belief that a consistent naming convention can help practitioners to understand the many different combinations and patterns of movements within MMA – particularly within the grappling elements.

The existing MMA names vary greatly in how well they allow practitioners to understand the technique, for example the term ‘Arm Bar’ is a reasonably good one because it at least allows the student learning the move to visualise the kind of action that they are trying to perform. However a name like ‘Brabo Choke’ has no ability to help the student understand or visualise the move.

There is a more extensive proposal than the length of this article allows to explain but perhaps the best examples and discussion points are around the submission names that might be used.

Submissions are broken down into five major types reflecting the way they attack the opponent, two on the neck and three on the limbs:

Neck submission types

rear-naked-chokeTypically in MMA all neck attacks that aim to render the opponent unconscious are referred to as chokes, however there are two very different types of neck attacks in this respect. One attacks the throat and prevents the opponent taking oxygen into the lungs and the other attacks the carotid arteries that supply the majority of blood to the brain. Both ultimately result in unconsciousness but the attack on the throat works with one major point of pressure and the attack on the arteries requires two major points of pressure. Because of this in this alternative naming convention we have two different names for these; the throat attacks are called ‘Chokes‘ to help the student’s visualise that they are attacking the throat and the attacks on the arteries are called ‘Suppressions‘ to help the student’s visualise that they are suppressing the blood flow to the brain.

Chokes – Because the choke attacks apply pressure to the throat we will name these based on the one major element that is applying pressure to the throat. Some examples of chokes are as follows:

Guillotine Choke = Inner Forearm Choke
Gogoplata = Shin Choke

Suppressions – Because the suppression attacks apply pressure to both sides of the neck we will name these based on the two major elements that are applying pressure to each side of the neck. In some instances the element applying the pressure is part of the person doing the submission like the forearm, the leg or the fist. In other instances the element applying pressure is part of the person being submitted, most commonly their own shoulder area. For this reason we also specify in the naming convention whether the element is our own or the opponent’s by using the term ‘with‘ (short for saying the ‘with the opponent’s‘). For example, a Rear Naked Choke would be called a Biceps and Inner Forearm Suppression (the term ‘with‘ is not used as both elements belong to the person applying the submission) and an Arm Triangle Choke would be called a Biceps with Shoulder Suppression (again ‘with‘ signifies that we are using the opponent’s own shoulder to apply pressure to one side of the neck).

Some examples of Suppressions are as follows:

Triangle Choke = Leg with Shoulder Suppression
D’Arce Choke = Inner Forearm with Shoulder Suppression

Limb submission types

arm-barExtensions – we classify a submission as an extension when we are trying to hyper-extend a joint past it’s natural range of motion. Typically these types of submission would be used against hinge joints like the elbow or the knee, for example a straight arm bar would be called an Elbow Extension with this naming convention as the goal is to hyper-extend the elbow joint. However, this term isn’t used exclusively on hinge joints, we also use the term in reference to ball and socket joints where the emphasis is on extending the joint past its natural range of motion in a linear direction.

Knee bar = knee extension
Arm bar = Elbow Extension

Rotations – we classify a submission as a rotation when we are trying rotate a joint past it’s natural range of motion. Typically these types of submission would be used against ball and socket joints like the shoulder or the ankle, for example a Kimura is would be called a Downward Shoulder Rotation with this convention as the goal is to rotate the shoulder joint past its natural range.

Figure four foot lock = Inward Ankle Rotation
Kimura = Downward Shoulder Rotation

Compressions – with this alternative naming convention we would classify a submission as a compression when a muscle group is compressed to the point of pain usually by creating pressure with a solid part of the body like the shin bone or the forearm.  Hinge joints provide a perfect compression opportunity as massive leverage can be attained when they are closed around a sharp bone although these are not the only opportunities for compressions.

Bicep slicer = Biceps Compression
Calf Crank = Calf Compression

This kind of approach to a consistent naming convention could be followed through all the takedowns, clinch work, striking and ground work. Ultimately though a naming convention like this would be pointless if it didn’t give a genuine technical and tactical advantage to the student learning the techniques.

The D’Arce Choke is a great example, if a practitioner is shown this technique once and we call it a D’Arce Choke what are the chances that when we ask the practitioner to repeat a D’Arce Choke a few weeks later that they’ll be able to recall it? In our teaching experience this is very difficult for a large majority of the student’s that we teach because there are so many technical aspects for them to try and retain. However, if the name we use helps the student to visualise the purpose and application of the technique then the student is more likely to be able to recall the technique because its more representative of the movement being performed. Even if the student can’t remember the exact details of the move, the name itself should guide them in the right direction. Again let’s use the D’Arce Choke as an example, if we use the alternative naming convention for this technique then we would ask the student to perform an Inner Forearm with Shoulder Suppression. If the student understands the naming convention they can disect the name and it will imply what they are trying to achieve:

Suppression – The student knows that they are doing a neck submission that requires pressure on both sides of the neck
Inner Forearm – The inner forearm should supply pressure on one side of the neck
with Shoulder – The opponent’s shoulder area should be used to apply pressure to the other side of the neck

The ultimate test of this theory would be to see how much of a movement a student can deduce just from the name itself, even without ever having seen the technique or ever performed it. It’s relatively certain that no practitioner of MMA would be able to deduce the basics of a D’Arce Choke from its name alone but it’s likely that if someone understood the alternative naming convention then we could ask them to attempt to perform an Inner Forearm with Shoulder Suppression from Side Control and they might at least be able to explain the key components even without ever having seen the technique.

We also believe that this alternative naming convention stimulates creative thought, if you learn an Inward Ankle Rotation it’s natural for students to wonder if they could perform an Outward Ankle Rotation. If a student learns an Inner Forearm with Shoulder Suppression then they may well ponder whether it’s possible to use something other than the inner forearm, perhaps the biceps or maybe even the fist?

Why not try it yourself? Using the submission naming convention, if a Triangle Choke is a Leg with Shoulder Suppression then what do you think a Leg and Fist Suppression may be?

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