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John Danaher Leglocks
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Arm on the Mat Triangle with Neil Melanson

Arm on the Mat Triangle with Neil Melanson


Neil Melanson has an incredibly rich grappling pedigree so it’s great to have him with us here at BJJ Fanatics teaching his unorthodox and incredibly effective style.

Neil has trained UFC athletes at the highest level, including Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Dominick Cruz, he was coach at the Alliance MMA and Blackzilians teams and many many more. 

Early on in his training Neil studied with Gene La Belle aka “Uncle” Gene as he made so many people say “Uncle” with his punishing Judo game, and also Gokor Chivichyan. Both Gene and Gokor were well known as really high level, pioneering and punishing grapplers within both Judo and Catch as Catch Can Wrestling. 


The triangle choke, traditionally known as sankaju-jime, was seen in early Kosen Judo, or judo that focused on groundwork, and has gone through various phases of application since then. 

When we think of the triangle choke we often think of our opponents arm coming across our body, which helps to close down the space between our opponents neck and their shoulder. 

Update your guard with Neil!


Neil however prefers the arm on the mat finish for the triangle as he feels most of his triangles are going to come from a trap applied to the upper body, like an overhook, shoulder pin, rubber guard, which keeps the arm on the mat. 

As long as his opponent isn’t using their arm to block his hip Neil will aim to finish the triangle from there, rather than add in the extra step of taking his opponents arm across his body, which alerts them to the danger of an oncoming triangle. 

As with all technical approaches we need to pay attention to details to get the most effective technique, and the arm on the mat triangle is no exception to this. 

Neil starts in guard and works his leg onto the top of his opponents shoulder, then closes his guard behind his opponents back. At this point Neil’s opponent will be wanting to maintain space between their own shoulder and neck.

For this reason it’s really important that as early on in the transition to this position Neil closes this space down. If he leaves too much time his opponent can start to settle in and counter what’s happening, and Neil is going to need to expend more energy than he has to in order to close down that gap. 

So as soon as possible in this transition to setting up the triangle Neil squeezes his legs towards each other, paying attention to the placement of his legs.  The goal with the triangle is to close down the space in between the shoulder and carotid artery on one side of our opponents neck, and close down on the opposite carotid artery on the other side also. 

If we are too far down our opponents arm with our lower leg then we are squeezing into their trap muscle and making it almost impossible to close the space down that we want. Pay attention to keep the lower leg pressed into your opponents deltoid on the outside of the shoulder to get the squeeze

So, early on in the transition to triangle Neil is going to curl his legs towards himself and squeeze in to close that space down. In addition to this he will grip the back of his opponents head with one hand and grip his own shin with the other. This is further mechanically reinforcing the lock on his opponent and making sure they have as little space as possible.

From here Neil shows us a way to finish the triangle without fully locking our legs in the usual manner by having the top of one foot behind the knee of the other legs.

As he already has a tight set up and is further reinforcing this by grabbing his shin, Neil can now reach with his arms so that the inside of his elbows are on the outside of his knees and take an ‘S’ grip. With all of these connecting limbs around his opponents neck Neil can now use his whole body to squeeze and compress in, and this will give him the tap.

As Neil mentions, this is a shortcut of sorts but it still requires the right set up and understanding the mechanics of what’s going on.   

Another variation here was made famous by Eddie Brave and is the Tepee finish to triangle. 

Neil brings his legs to the triangle position he’s already shown but instead of having his elbows only on the outside of his knees, he reaches completely underneath his calf muscles and pulls his opponent with his hands down against him. This crushes his opponents ability to posture up

On top of this pulling down with the hands Neil curls his heels in, creating further compression and pressure. Now Neil extends his legs and gets the tap.

Advanced Guard Systems by Neil Melanson
To go even deeper into Neil’s submission from guard check out ‘Advanced Guard Systems’ by Neil Melanson here!



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