Inventor of the D’arce Choke: The John Danaher Story

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By John Danaher

An early innovation in my jiu jitsu: when I was a blue belt in the early mid 1990’s I made the observation that almost every strangle hold in our sport has an inverted or reverse variation, except (at that time) kata gatame (often called an arm triangle strangle).

At the same time, my friend Shawn Williams came to me with a problem related to guard passing when opponents would scramble to their knees in a quasi front headlock position to avoid conceding pass points.

At this time I was experimenting a lot with wrestling moves like three quarter nelsons and their applicability to jiu jitsu. This marriage of seemingly unrelated topics spurred me to try an inverted kata gatame as a counter to an opponent scrambling up to turtle position- I would break them down with a three quarter Nelson and enter this new strangle. Mr Williams told me it felt very effective – at that same moment I also came up with the idea of a front kata gatame (anaconda strangle), but I later learned that I could not claim originality with this move as it was common in the sport of wrestling to apply it as a strangle even though technically this was illegal – the gold medal winning Schultz brothers were famous for this.

I showed the move to Renzo , who wanted a proof that it was effective – I performed it on a strongly resisting partner who of course did not know the move and promptly passed out.

Renzo laughed, got up and got the same result when he applied it to another man – thus was born what I called “the inverted kata gatame” I went on to experiment over the months with many variations of entry and finish with considerable success.

I showed it to my friend and student, Joe D’arce, who quickly became very proficient in its use, particularly out of guard passing scrambles. He competed in Cakifornia and quickly defeated many opponents with it.

The Californians had never seen this strangle and called the move “the D’arce” after Joe – something we both still laugh about to this day.

Here my student, Chris Weidman – a true specialist in the technique, applies it brilliantly to render his opponent, Tom Lawlor, unconscious in a matter of seconds on his title run towards Anderson Silva

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