A Tale of Three Triangles with John Danaher
The triangle is as historic as it is effective.
It’s a fundamental submission of BJJ, and its evolved over many years to serve us in a variety of different fashions. While it is considered a basic submission, I find that the triangle is one of the more complex techniques, and takes a little bit of time to understand it fully. Many times, at the earlier stages of learning it can be confusing to know which arm we need inside the legs, or what to do the moment we’ve landed in eh set up process of the triangle.
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I find that many students give upon the triangle early, feeling that it only lends itself to the flexible population of BJJ practitioners. But again, we have to go back and look at the idea of mechanics. If our techniques are buttressed with eh proper mechanics, they will evolve to serve you no matter your body type, or flexibility level. Listen to John Danaher speak about the triangle choke in this video. He references some of these ideas and key points.
Let’s take a look at several variations of the triangle with Danaher. In the following videos we will break down the techniques, and try to understand the mechanics of the triangle on a deeper level.
I feel the best place to start is with the classic front triangle position. From this video we can gather a large amount of information from Danaher about the proper mechanics of the triangle. This will help us to understand the technique better as we move through the rest of the variations. Have a look at the front triangle.
So, I don't know about you, but when I first learned the triangle, I never created an angle like the one in this video. As time went on, I would reach under the leg and establish and angle to complete the submission and make it tighter. Danaher gets to an angle ASAP. This is a very important concept to remember. Staying right in front of your opponent during the acquisition of the triangle keeps you in their workspace. This is where you either succumb to being smashed, or end dealing with your opponent’s posture. Neither of which ar favorable to finishing.
Danaher eliminates both of these obstacles by controlling the head, and achieving an angle as his first order of business. He’s no longer in a position where he can be affected by these factors.
One of the other pitfalls of the triangle is having the bulk of our partners upper body inside of our legs when trying to complete the submission. This leads to trouble when trying to lock the triangle for the finish. With the angle that Danaher achieves he’s able to essentially make his partners shoulder disappear by covering it with his knee. This leaves only his partners head and arm inside of his legs, and makes securing the figure of four much easier. This previously mentioned detail is paramount to those of us with shorter legs hoping to land a triangle choke.
The last critical element here is the finish. Danaher lifts his lower back from the floor and brings his support leg to the choking leg to lock the figure of four. This allows for no open space on the far side of the triangle, and an easier transition to the lock. Once the submission is fully secured, it seems the tap almost manifest itself without any additional effort.
There are some gems contained here in this sequence. It’s worth your time to study the intricacies here and begin putting them to work, especially if you’ve given up on the triangle, or have had trouble understanding it in the past.
Let’s look at a side triangle next. You may be less familiar with this variation, but many of the same concepts apply. Danaher demonstrates this variation from a guard passing scenario. Have a look.
The technique begins with what looks like a back take using the kimura. You’ve probably seen this type of back take before. From the open guard, Danaher finds his moment to secure the kimura grip and does a shoulder roll, the position he lands in is filled to the brim with options. He now has an incredibly compromised partner, and time to decide how he’d like to advance.
Danaher’s partner is really only left with one option, to turn away. This sets the stage for the events to come. As he does this, he opens a pocket of space under his body through which Danaher can enter his bottom knee. This is still looking like a back take isn’t it? Here’s where things take a turn. Danaher throws his top leg over his partner’s head in the style of an arm bar, and loops it through his partners grip. He then travels to his knees and punches the leg through deeper.
As he returns back to his side, he now has the length in his legs necessary to lock an incredibly tight triangle choke. Danaher has again created an extreme angle, getting perpendicular to his partner, and creating a scenario where only the head and arm are inside the lock. This again allows him to use the maximum length in his legs to finish the submission.
Let’s lastly look at a set up that finishes with a triangle from the back position. The triangle from the back has its own set of appealing attributes. It’s a nice option, and your success with finishing will probably have a great deal with how your transitioning to the technique. In this video Danaher carves a path to the back triangle from the turtle position. Check it out.
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From the turtle, Danaher secures a tight waist, makes a post with his outside hand, and uses his knee as a wedge in which to off balance his partner. As this occurs, his partner is forced to catch his balance and open up a pocket of space between his elbow and knee. He then places his head over his partner’s head and acquires an inside tie on his partners wrist. Danaher uses his outside hand to control his partners outside wrist, and then penetrates the space between the elbow and knee with his inside knee. His outside leg now has the task of circling around his partners arm and stealing it from him.
Now with both knees planted on the floor, Danaher steps his back leg up once again, covering his partners hips. He then sits back and looks to control his partners wrist, mirroring it with his own from the inside. He lays back and aligns his legs. After crossing his feet to close the trap, he uses his hands to complete the locking of the figure four. He keeps the arm for himself, as he lays back and applies pressure to the lock, forcing the submission.
Though all of these triangles vary in their positions, they all share some very common ground. Danaher applies many of the same mechanics for securing and finishing each of the triangle variations.
Understanding techniques on a deeper level is important for many reasons. It can unlock doors you thought were previously bolted shut. If you’re a competitor or have aspirations of competing at the highest levels, studying the intricacies of your favorite techniques can be extremely beneficial to your game, and may be the deciding factor in a win or a loss.
Before you give up on the triangle, or any technique for that matter, dig deeper, and see what you can find. You may be missing one detail that can connect the dots for you, and completely change your perspective.
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