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Get a Grip on the Guillotine with Karel "Silver Fox" Pravec

Get a Grip on the Guillotine with Karel "Silver Fox" Pravec



Protect Your Neck

The guillotine is a brutal choke. It goes on fast, it goes on from many angles, and it doesn’t care how strong you are. This versatility and speed makes the guillotine an ideal choice for sport practitioners, who occasionally specialize in the move to a frightening degree. A look at Marcelo Garcia’s career will demonstrate the effectiveness of the guillotine in competition versus a trained opponent. 

Its utility goes well beyond the mats as well. Of the many moves we may need to use for self defense, a guillotine is one of the most likely against an untrained opponent. If someone attacks recklessly, an automatic guillotine is a valuable tool for protection. To understand the depth of possibility surrounding this choke, it’s helpful to hear from an expert like Karel Pravec.

The Voice of Experience

Known affectionately as the Silver Fox, Karel Pravec is a black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie. He was born in the former country of Czechoslovakia to a political family who came to the United States in the 1980s. By the mid 1990s, Karel was hard at work on the mats in New York City. By 2006 he began a successful competition career, and has now turned some of his focus to spreading his knowledge of the game.

Take a look at his discussion of the many dimensions of the guillotine game:


All The Possibilities

Listening to a Jiu Jitsu genius like Pravec is inspiring, but it can also be daunting to absorb the sheer amount of knowledge and information that a veteran like the Silver Fox has. Although he doesn’t phrase it exactly in these terms, I’ve turned his analysis into a series of choices that determine the particulars of your submission. Check out the breakdown below for an easy-to-follow summary of Karel’s discussion of the multidimensional guillotine choke. 

Develop A Sophisticated Guillotine Game With Karel Pravec!



Choice #1: Left or Right?

The first choice to make is which arm to hone your sharpest guillotine with. In a perfect world, we’d have equal precision on both sides. Practically speaking, however, we need to improve the guillotine on the side of our natural lead leg. If your natural reaction is to drop back in a traditional stance, right leg forward, then you’ll want to have an incredibly tight right armed guillotine at the ready. On the flip side, southpaws or those who stand in a wrestler’s stance with their left leg back will want to drill that side to perfection.

Choice #2: Head and Arm, or Head Only?

The second decision you need to make is which type of guillotine to take. Sure, in some cases your opponent’s pressure and movement will decide for you without much thought. In many cases, however, you can take your pick of choke. Karel Pravec recommends taking the head only approach whenever possible. Why? The answer is simple: you control both carotid arteries instead of only one when you leave your partner's arm out of the choke.

Choice #3: Offense or Defense

Another important decision is the context in which you’ll use the guillotine. This move can be used offensively to pass the guard, snap down the head, or even finish your partner from mount, turtle, full guard, and even standing. On the defensive side of things, a guillotine is one of the absolute strongest counters to a wrestler’s bread and butter: the single and double leg takedowns. If your opponent changes levels to shoot for a takedown, and especially if they are reckless enough to bend at the waist instead of changing levels, the guillotine is a prime defense.

Choice #4: Which Grip

This choice is not a simple one. There are a seemingly endless amount of guillotine grips taught in schools today. So many, in fact, that I’ll just stick to the two referenced in Karel’s discussion. One style of grip requires you to get very deep under the neck in order to bring your elbows high and finish the submission; the “high elbow”guillotine. The Silver Fox prefers a shallower grip that mimics a mini rear naked choke with the wrists and covers your partner’s trachea. The benefit of this approach is that you don’t need to shoot your arms nearly as deep to complete it. 

Choice #5: Control or Submit

The last thing that Karel talks about in this clip is the choice of function. How are we going to use the guillotine? Your first plan should be to finish the guillotine, but there are many times where it’s not possible. Perhaps your partner made a quick read and positioned themselves to prevent your attack, or maybe they’ve got a particularly strong neck. In any event, it’s worth remembering that the guillotine grip is an incredibly dominant control position even if you can’t finish it. Don’t blow your arms out trying to squeeze the neck to compensate for positioning. Just use the grips to advance your position and flow to something else.

The Silver Fox

Pravec is active in the community of Jiu Jitsu instruction, and has authored both books and video series to teach others his knowledge of the sport. Some of his video instructionals, including the source of the video clip above, Mastering Guillotine Concepts and Principals, are available on If you’ve struggled to add a tight guillotine into your game, or if you want more entries for your already-deadly choke, make sure you take a look at Karel Pravec’s system.



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