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Become a Master of the Triangle Choke
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Become a Master of the Triangle Choke

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The triangle is one of the most artistic and exciting submissions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although the triangle choke is one of the oldest submissions in the sport, it’s still one fans gasp and yell in awe of when they see a grappler catch it in a competition.

 The triangle choke takes a position as one of the most versatile submissions in Jiu Jitsu, which is odd considering its mechanical nature. In this article, I want to discuss the power of the triangle and give examples of different ways of attacking it. 

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The triangle choke is usually first learned as a submission from the closed guard. As we are all aware, most submissions from the closed guard entail the use of the legs as the primary finishing structures. That means in order to have a good closed guard, you have to be skilled in the use of the legs.

Furthermore, compared to the armbar and omoplata, the triangle choke is a high percentage submission that is used at the highest level of competition successfully, and it’s not due to chance.

Closed Guard Triangles

In the following video, Black Belt Jiu Jitsu instructor Neil Melanson will illustrate a simple closed guard armbar you can use known as the “arm on the mat triangle.” See below:

One of the major difficulties that arise as one progresses through the ranks is attacking simple submissions like the triangle from closed guard. As a consequence, we either ignore these submissions or end up finding more intricate ways of setting them up.

A common theme you will notice among high level practitioners is their ability to use one technique to set up another. This will be even more important for closed guard attacks since more defenders will be aware of your set ups.

A simple, yet elusive way to set up the triangle choke from closed guard is setting up from the scissor sweep. In order to do this, you must modify your scissor sweep so that the leg that extends across the belly goes over the defender’s arm instead.

In order for this technique to work though, especially against experienced grapplers, is that the guard player needs to fully sell this sweep. If the bottom player is hesitant, a top player may become wary of that and pull back.

In the following video by BJJ Fanatics, you will see how we can use the scissor sweep to set up the triangle choke in closed guard. See below:

You might never be able to finish the scissor sweep against the talented students in your academy, but you will be able to trick them into the triangle.

A trick I tell new students often about the triangle from closed guard is a way to set up when the guard passer digs their elbow in to open their legs. If you take the hand of the same arm and push it to their chest, it is easy to open your legs and throw up the triangle.

Many students begin ignoring the closed guard as they progress the the belt ranks. Interestingly, I only began getting interested in this old position as a blue and purple belt, as I hated it as a white belt.

Lasso Triangle

Although the closed guard is a great position to set up triangle chokes from, there are numerous other great guards to attack it from. One example is the lasso guard.

The lasso guard is a modification of spider guard in which the guard player’s legs are weaved through the arms rather than having the feet placed on the biceps. This is an excellent way to control the guard passer’s posture.

In order to set up the triangle choke from lasso guard, we need to find a way to get rid one of the guard player’s arms. Sometimes this is easy, but often times we need intricate ways of doing this in advanced guards.

In the following video by BJJ Fanatics, you will see how you can set up the triangle choke from lasso guard. See below:

When using lasso guard, you can either weave both legs, which is excellent for control, or weave one leg and allow the other foot to push on the bicep.

Anytime you set up a triangle choke, especially against a standing opponent, you have to ensure that you lift your hips as much as possible.

If you don’t throw up your legs high enough, it won’t take much for the defender to break your legs apart and pass your guard.

However, one benefit of doing a triangle choke against a standing opponent is that it’s easier to move their arm across their neck than if you attacked while they were on the ground.

Many grapplers consider spider guard and lasso guard to be to advanced and difficult. With enough practice, these positions can be just as natural as closed guard.

Even if you don’t particularly like this guard, this technique is so easy that you should still drill it for the rare occasion that you end up in this position.

Reverse Triangle from Bow and Arrow

So far, we have been discussing front triangles, which essentially means that you are position in front of the defender while attacking and finish the choke. There are other triangles though, the reverse triangle being one of the best.

Here, we will discuss how we can set up the reverse triangle from the bow and arrow choke.

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The bow and arrow submission is one of the most powerful and difficult-to-defend submission in the gi. It is extremely high percentage, which explains why it is so common in competition.

The bow and arrow choke can be caught from numerous positions but is usually set up from back control or side control if the defender is facing away from you.

A common method of defending the bow and arrow choke is by slipping your head under the choking arm. This is actually the only defense I have seen used successfully. If you notice a defender doing this, you need to move quickly and transition to a different submission. Due to the mechanical nature of the position, the reverse triangle is the easiest to catch.

The reverse triangle is also of the submissions that is extremely high percentage. The way I see it is that the reverse triangle is the bow and arrow of no-gi Jiu Jitsu.

In this short video by BJJ Fanatics, you can see how easy it is to transition from the bow and arrow to the reverse triangle.

When doing the reverse triangle, defenders may often try to sneak their far hand in to make space. Unfortunately, it’s not a great idea because it won’t actually help. In fact, if the defender does sneak that hand in there, it will make the choke tighter while making it more difficult to escape.

There are a lot of great ways to finish this devastating submission. If you have strong, thick legs, it might be a good idea to finish it by squeezing. Personally, I like to finish it with an arm submission like an armbar or kimura.

In terms of MMA and self-defense, the reverse triangle is a great position to be in as it allows for undefended strikes while allowing you to maintain a good visual on the environment.

Advanced Triangle Attack While Passing Guard

At a Gordon Ryan seminar I once attended, I learned about the three different styles of guard passing. There is standing, aka quick passing, pressure passing, and passing using submissions. None of this was new to me, but I started thinking about how we can use passing to set up submissions.

Attacking submissions while passing guard is not easy and is not something most grapplers even consider.

Mastering the art of attacking submissions while passing guard is a trick that will elevate your skill level tremendously. When passing guard, guard player’s will often respond in ways that opens them up tremendously. Sometimes they open up leg locks, in other scenarios, though, they open up upper body submissions.

There are tons of different submission attacks you can look for when passing. Rolling kimuras are a great example of such. Some of my favorite submissions to hunt for while passing are guillotines and anaconda chokes. Darce chokes are also often available too.

The submissions people don’t generally look for when passing guard are ones like the armbar and triangle. These submissions can still be caught when passing, although they are tricky and more advanced and require a lot of practice.

When hunting for a triangle choke, we usually look for a head and an arm. It shouldn’t matter where we are hunting from so long as we get those two together. This actually happens quite often when passing guard.

In the following video, Professor John Danaher explains how to set up the triangle choke while passing guard. See below:

A couple important details to consider with this triangle is foot placement before jumping. If you notice, John’s left foot is placed on the outside of the legs as opposed to the inside. If the foot is on the inside, there is a chance that it can get stuck while jumping.

It’s time to SYSTEMIZE your Closed Guard! Click Learn More!!

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 The other detail, although less significant, is to try to land on the elbow. Defenders can have many responses to this move and remaining on your elbow is vital to allow you to counter their defensive reactions.

Due to the nature of the technique, it is expected that if a mistake is made, you can injure your training partner or opponent. Due to this, its recommended that this set-up be drilled numerous times until a safe level of competency has been met.

Details For Finishing Triangles

So far we have covered numerous ways to set up the triangle choke ranging from simple to complex methods.

Sometimes, even after getting the triangle choke position, we may struggle with the finish. In the next video, John Danaher explains some the of necessary elements behind finishing this killer strangle

A common issue student face when attacking triangle chokes is a lack of getting to the appropriate angle. To finish a triangle, our bodies must be positioned perpendicular to our opponents’ rather than parallel.

When your head is facing the same direction as the defender’s, it is difficult to apply enough pressure on the carotid arteries to get the tap. If you have the correct angle, it becomes easy to apply that sideways pressure.

Triangle Defense

Now that we have discussed much of what is necessary in regards to triangle choke offense, I want to discuss what happens on the defensive end a little bit.

Defense in Jiu Jitsu is complicated because your defense will change depending on how far in to the technique the offensive grappler is.

The initial element involved in triangle choke defense is creating a lot of posture by looking up, getting our heels under us, and then keeping our back straight. Here, its absolutely necessary to prevent your opponent from getting your head.

In the following video, you will see how Garry Tonon wedges his knees under his opponents’ to create this posture and ultimately escape the choke.

Posturing does two things here; it makes sure the choke does not get tight and it also allows you to stand up so that you can transition to your actually escape.

After getting on your feet, you can proceed by a number of different methods. Personally, I think the best one is bringing your leg over and sitting as Garry does.

When performing this escape, make sure to pay attention to your arms as a common counter to this defense is switching to an armbar. I’ve been caught in this before.

Finally, the triangle choke can be used as a position for switching to other attacks like an armbar or omoplata which can also be effective, so don’t limit yourself to just the choke. Your opponents’ counters will often give rise to other submission opportunities so keep your eyes open and your attacks quick.


Gordon Ryan has already changed the course of Jiu-Jitsu with his Guard Passing DVD now he is set to do the same with the Closed Guard! Systemizing Closed Guard will provide the road map to success when in Closed Guard. Update your classic Closed Guard technique with a modern HIGH PERCENTAGE approach to attacking from Closed Guard!

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