A Guillotine That Breaks the Rules

A Guillotine That Breaks the Rules

The guillotine is a powerful choke that can force one's opponent to tap as an air choke, a blood choke or a combination of the two.  No matter which, it is a very high percentage submission when applied properly.  The technique is often bundled or taught hand in hand with the sit over or hip bump sweep and the kimura from closed guard, because all three options are in very close proximity to each other depending how your opponent is posturing themselves up in your closed guard.  This makes the guillotine often one of the earliest techniques that someone learns when they start BJJ, as their instructor looks to show the way that BJJ techniques are interconnected and driven by opponent reaction.

The guillotine choke has a number of variations, but the standard mixes the interruption of both air and blood, as well as a powerful extension of the neck that when applied correctly can make the opponent feel as if the bottom of their spine is going to detach from their lower extremities.  This makes the choke a very quick submission that is applicable in both gi and no gi grappling and jiu jitsu.

Like any technique, over time, there have developed a number of positional counters that can lead to escapes.  A few of the most basic involve reaching far over your opponent's shoulder and exerting pressure to prevent them from stretching out your body, which elongates your neck and makes you more vulnerable to the tap.  Another basic principle would be to control the opponent's hips to prevent them from essentially doing the same thing, which is elongating your body.

In the video below, Neil Melanson, one of the premier MMA and grappling coaches in the world demonstrates on Bernardo Faria, 5 time world champion,  a variation of the guillotine that breaks some of the common rules of the classic guillotine and may help you overcome some of the more common counters and escape attempts.  For more on Neil Melanson and his blend of old school catch wrestling and new age grappling, take a look at this article from BJJ Fanatics.  Check it out and then we'll break down some key concepts!

Guillotine fist versus the blade

In this version of the guillotine, the first thing you will notice is that Neil is not using a "bladed" hand, but instead is making a fist that will find a home near the trachea and precious arteries that help to keep us awake when left untouched.  Once the fist is placed with the pinky knuckle in line with the opponent's trachea, the opposite hand reaches through to grab the thumb pad on that hand.  It is this pressure that cuts off their air and blood flow and forces them to tap before they know what hits them.

Elbows in and tight

 Just like in a standard guillotine, we must be reminded to pull our elbows in tight against our body and down towards the hips.  In our minds, it seems to make sense that we should pull up on opponent's neck with our arms (which actually tends to flair our elbows out), but in reality, by pulling our elbows in and tight we drive the fist deeper into their throat, cinching the choke even tighter.

This will likely be the most common area for mistakes to be made, because in the heate of the moment, our brains will constantly be telling us to "pull up" when in fact, by pulling down and in, the "up" that we seek is accomplished and the fist is pushed deeper into their throat.

Where is their spine?

The opponent's spinal alignment plays a crucial role in both the set up and finish of this choke.  If the opponent's spine, neck and head remain in perfect alignment, they have a better chance of tucking their chin and maintaining a strong resistance to the elongation of this area which is crucial for proper fist placement and guillotine finish.

By turning or twisting slightly the opponent's chin away from their center line as if they were looking to one side, you are able to reduce their overall structural strength dramatically.  This coupled with strong shoulder into their back and shoulder area will stretch their neck putting them in a vulnerable spot for the fist to be placed properly.

Versatility of the guillotine

Melanson also demonstrates the versatility of this guillotine from the bottom half guard position.  Most importantly, one should note that should the opponent continue to attempt to pass, the guillotine must not be abandoned and can be used for an effective reversal and finish by using the opponent's forward momentum during the pass to take them over and sweep them.

In both variations of the guillotine that Neil Melanson demonstrated, it's also key to note that the choking hand, the one that makes the fist must be protected or hidden at all costs.  If the opponent is able to get ahold of this hand, the choke will be almost impossible.  If you let the opponent get control of that choking hand, you must address this fact before anything else to ensure that you are able to pull off the choke.

Give this version of the guillotine a try and soon you will be wrecking necks at both your academy and the competition mats.  By keeping in mind the "rules" of the standard guillotine, coupled with the ways that this particular version from Neil Melanson allows you to break them, you will be more equipped to finish the guillotine and make it an even higher percentage submission in your own game plan.

Look for Neil Melanson's new guillotine instructional coming very soon from BJJ Fanatics!  In the meantime, check out his amazing 4 volume collection, "The Ground Marshal Guard" available here in DVD and On Demand combo formats on sale from BJJ Fanatics!

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