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Jiu-Jitsu Spotlight: Arm-In Guillotine
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Jiu-Jitsu Spotlight: Arm-In Guillotine

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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. 



Neil is starting here in his opponents half guard with wrist control of his bottom arm. A lot of people will take a shotgun or ‘V’ grip on top of the wrist and try to pull their opponents arm towards them, which can be really hard as they can resist will some big muscle groups. On top of this they will often lean into their opponent, which makes them vulnerable to being rolled from the person on bottom.

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Instead of coming with a top down grip we see Neil is switching his grip so that the back side of his hand is facing the mat. As his opponent is planted on their elbow this grip allows Neil to use the anatomy of his opponents arm against them by straightening his own arm against the weaker muscles of his opponents arm and shoulder.

Now with the arm bent and their shoulder heavy on the mat Neil’s opponent is having their mobility strongly reduced in half guard.

Here we see how important the grip set up is. With the top down V grip our opponent can still bend their arm and therefore come up off the mat to attack us from half guard. With the grip Neil shows us our opponents arm is moving towards the beginning of a figure four position and their mobility is killed. 

To move into the next phase of setting up the arm-in guillotine we need to know the difference between a whizzer and an overhook:

  • A whizzer pressures and compresses our opponent down into the mat.
  • An overhook opens up our opponents arm and lifts them upwards. 

Combining the wrist grip and overhook Neil opens up his opponents armpit and brings it close to their neck so he can get a tight guillotine even with their arm in there too.

As Neil is in his opponents half guard they come up with their top arm and secure and underhook. As they do this Neil widens and lowers his base and at the same time drives up with his overhook. The overhook breaks down his opponents posture and makes their weight heavier on their bottom elbow, reducing it’s mobility.

As he does this he’s taking a fingers down grip on his opponents wrist and drives it to the mat while driving the top of his head into the bottom of their jaw. Keeping his weight into their jaw his opponents posture and power is being broken down, allowing Neil an opportunity to step through their half guard.

Now Neil has passed his opponents half guard he backs his pressure off and brings his outside leg forward to drive his shin against his opponents arm, pinning it to the floor and freeing up Neil’s hand.

Now Neil’s hand is free he loops his arm around his opponents head so he can get the blade of his forearm around the front of his opponents throat. At the same time Neil has kept his overhook high and tight by squeezing his own arm against his body. 

Now Neil can reach through and connect his hands. 

The options for gripping here are either the standard guillotine grip or in an MMA context where gloves can be an issue an ‘S’ grip is good to protect the fingers from being peeled apart. 

Now he has his grip connected Neil circles with his top leg and pulls his opponent upwards so as they come up they go deeper into the choke.

Getting these details right is a game changer as the arm in guillotine is a very effective and high percentage choke.

The mechanics of this choke are really important so once we understand that what we are doing with the arm in guillotine is lassoing our arms around both his neck and arm. Lifting our opponents arm closes down the space in the lasso and therefore deepens the choke.

It’s for this reason that Neil focuses on getting the overhook nice and high and squeezing their top arm upwards more than he focuses on lifting his connected hands up. Having a clear picture of what we’re trying to mechanically achieve will really help us with the details of this choke and lifting the arm up is key here.

As well as squeezing with his top arm Neil is also squeezing with the arm that looped around for the guillotine. What this squeeze does is change the angle of his opponents neck and close down all the space around the choking hand so that he’s forced deeper into the choking hand. 

With this squeeze our opponent can’t turn out of the choke. 

The other final detail of the upper body part of the choke here is our posture, which we want hunched over like a stereotypical old grandmother pose. The reason for this is we want, again, to get rid of all the space around the choke and get our shoulder onto the back of our opponents neck. The way to check we’re doing this is if our chin is on our opponents back. 

Without this closing down of space our opponent may slip their head out of the choke and we’ve wasted all our energy.

The Headhunter Guillotine Series by Neil Melanson
For the rest of the crucial details with the legs watch the video and for a really deep dive into the guillotine with one of the finest coaches out there check out ‘The Headhunter Guillotine Series’ with Neil Melanson here!

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