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Guillotine Choke

A front head lock choke or Guillotine choke is probably one of the first submissions a student will learn from any grappling martial arts out there. Simple, yet devastating, the guillotine choke is considered as one of the most popular and widely used submission hold in Jiu jitsu, Judo, and MMA. This choke is a high-percentage technique that can be readily executed even by people with minimal strength and athleticism.

The principle behind the choke is pretty simple. It entails encircling your arms to the opponent’s neck in a fashion similar to a guillotine. Pressure is applied as you pull your opponent’s neck with your arm and hip upwards to restrict blood flow to the head, leading to unconsciousness. The choke enables you to stop a takedown attempt and, even if you couldn’t get a submission, avoid being driven onto your back.

Performing the triangle choke requires quick execution to avoid escape and counters along the very tight technique to gain submission victory. At more advanced levels of grappling, a practitioner can apply a guillotine choke in multiple positions and variations with minimal set-ups. It can actually be either an air choke or a blood choke depending on how you positioned yourself against your opponent’s neck.

Many top athletes, from almost every submission grappling discipline, have tapped out to this choke. While most of us feared on getting caught by the dreaded choke, the defense against guillotine choke is rather easy and simple. Here we take a look at seven simple guillotine choke escapes.

1. Slide and Takedown

MMA legend Bas Rutten shows us a quick guillotine choke escape while standing. First, push against the opponent’s thigh and turn your head to the side to prevent him from putting pressure to your trachea. Encircle his right knee with your left arm. Start lifting and throw a takedown. If you can’t lift him, you can just buckle his knee to disrupt his balance. The escape from the guillotine extends the opponent’s arm and as soon as he lands to the ground, you can transition into an arm and shoulder lock.

2. Clamp and Stack Escape

This technique starts off by clamping down on your opponent’s shoulder and stacking up to stop him from stretching you out. Try to put your arm as deep into your opponent’s back as you can. This will hold you closer and immobilize their shoulder more effectively. It is also important to keep a good base so you won’t get swept nor have your legs kicked out.

Start putting pressure by driving your shoulder onto the opponent’s neck. This causes him to curl up naturally. Tuck your chin towards his ribs. Take your hips together as your pull down his legs. Fall to the side as you move your legs out and get into side control position.

3. Half Guard Guillotine Defense

Here’s an easy escape from the half guard position. Put your arm around the opponent’s shoulder and start pulling tight. Your opponent wants to stretch you out as much as possible. If you can keep yourself tight to him, you can prevent him from pulling his shoulders back and take away a lot of pressure from his choke. Wrap your other arm to over his hips. Roll through the side and reach up to pull his choking hands down. This will break his grip and create an opening for an arm triangle.

4. Von Flue Choke Counter

This video shows how to counter a variation of a guillotine choke, the Von Flue choke, from the side mount position. The technique is pretty simple, wrap your arm around his shoulder and clasp it with your other arm. Start putting pressure to his neck from your shoulder by dipping down with your body. If he’s stubborn enough to release the choke, you might even get him to tap.

5. Standing Guillotine Counter

Another standing guillotine choke escape, but this one is more applicable for self defense situations. First, reach up with both of your hands to pull the choking arm down. Keep your opponent from attacking both carotid arteries. This will not necessarily be sufficient to spare you the choke, but it will buy you some precious time. Start striking his groin to break free from the choke and apply a guillotine choke of your own.  If your guillotine choke doesn’t work, you can also use his arm to maneuver to the back and push him away.

6. Head and Arm Guillotine Escape

This variation of guillotine choke is usually applied on half guard as they trap your arm, aside from the head, and hook onto your legs to restrict your movement. Once your opponent starts trapping your limbs, you can walk your way around to the side and pin his biceps with your knees. From there, you can easily pry his arm out and relieve the pressure of the choke.

7. Mounted Guillotine Counter

It is really hard and almost impossible to escape a guillotine choke while being mounted. But this technique can be a potential escape if executed correctly. Once the choke is sunk in, lift your legs altogether and start pushing your opponent’s hips upward really hard. Pry your legs out with the momentum created in taking your legs out. Hop to the side and clamp on his shoulder. From there on, you can start stacking to put pressure to his neck. This technique needs to be done as quickly as possible to prevent your opponent from hooking his legs over your back.

Sometimes all it takes to escape from the opponent’s choke is a subtle weight shift, and sometimes it takes a more drastic measures, including switching to a different position. There are many different escapes and counters to the guillotine choke. I encourage you to learn and experiment with as many as you can. You may not use all the counters yourself, but you never know what someone will try on you.

Jiu jitsu has combinations of moves designed to meet the needs of grapplers. That includes moving from a position of inferiority to a position of neutrality or advantage. If your opponent failed to protect his neck while shooting in for a takedown, the guillotine choke is one of the quickest and easiest ways to win a fight. Same thing goes to you; the good thing is that you somehow learned some concepts and methods on how to defend against it.

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