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The Art of the Triangle
A Great Look At This Mighty Submission!
The mystical triangle, a strangle utilizing the legs of the attacker, is the one of the most commonly utilized submissions in Jiu Jitsu. Its effectiveness can be attributed to not only its strangling power, but versatility. This submission, and its many forms, can be attacked from almost every position in Jiu Jitsu. In the article, I would like to expand on the beauty of this submission by discussing different ways of attacking and finishing it.
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The first place most grapplers learn to attack the triangle from is the closed guard. The closed guard is notorious for submissions using the legs like armbars and omoplatas, and the triangle is no different. I would also say that the triangle from closed guard can also be used against high level grapplers and is a mainstay attack every grappler should master.
Since defenders are generally cognizant of the attacks that can occur when in someone’s closed guard, and this is especially true for grapplers who have been around for some years, it could prove helpful to learn transitions rather than individuals’ techniques.
One counter to the scissor sweep defense as attacking an armbar on the arm you are gripping. The quickness of this technique and elusiveness make it quite interesting and easy to use. In the following video, BJJ Fanatics goes over this technique with great detail.
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. Another way of getting this triangle is when a top player tries to pin their elbow to the bottom wedge so as to start passing. If you see this happening, this is a great opportunity to pull their arm in and attack the submission.
Although old school techniques are often difficult to finish against skilled opponents, we can use those positions to transition to more effective techniques. Interestingly, I only started to focus on my closed guard late into my blue belt period because I became aware of great transitions such as the one above.
An important tip for you is to always cut a strong angle for the finish. I always see people try to finish the triangle choke directly facing their opponent. It is difficult to apply the appropriate pressure from here, but when the angle is cut, the choke becomes very tight. After you cut the angle, also, stomp and curl while you squeeze your knees together for a very strong finish.
Finally, the triangle choke can be treated as a position for transitioning to other submissions like an armbar or omoplata which can also be effective, so don’t limit yourself to just the choke. People’s defenses will often present other submission opportunities so keep your eyes open and your attacks quick.
The lasso guard is a modification to the traditional spider guard commonly employed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, specifically when wearing the gi. This guard provides extensive control of a guard passer’s arms and upper body. Because of the ability to significantly manipulate our opponent’s upper body in lasso guard, it is easy to sweep and submit them without exposing ourselves too much.
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In the traditional spider guard, a submission that is attempted and caught often is the triangle choke. The triangle choke requires the guard player to eliminate one arm of the guard passer to trap a single arm and the head of the defender. Once caught, the attacker creates a leg “triangle” and uses pressure to strangle their opponent.
Because the lasso guard provides good control of a guard passers arms, it becomes rather simple to force the choke. In the following video by BJJ Fanatics, you will see this simple set up in less than one minute!
Traditionally, when playing lasso guard, only one arm is lassoed so that the guard player has good mobility on the bottom to move their legs for submission attacks. In the video, the guard player has a lasso on the right arm and a tradition spider grip on the left arm. This allows the guard player to force the right arm down so they can quickly throw up the triangle.
It is important that when throwing up the triangle, you must elevate your hips as much as they can go. If you shoot up a shallow triangle, you will not be able to lock it up properly and your opponent can respond by stacking you. Also, so that you don’t have to do this at a later step, move the trapped arm across your opponent’s neck as soon as possible to secure a strong finish.
Although many grapplers believe that spider and lasso guard are only effective in players with relatively long legs, it can be utilized by practitioners of all sizes and experience levels. The main tip is to always control the posture of the guard passer. 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.
If you weren’t already aware, the bow and arrow choke is one of the best, if not the best, submission in the gi. If this lapel choke is caught and cinched tight, it is almost always a tap. This submission can be caught from many positions but is usually caught from back or side control. With the appropriate amount of leg and torso control, this submission can destroy the will of any grappler.
Usually, the only time people can escape this choke is in the short time frame the attacker has to set up the finish. If the defender can create enough slack on the choking arm and tuck their head, they can slide out from under the attacker. Because the attacker may recognize the defender’s movement, they should consider transitioning to a different submission position. The position most obvious and available is the reverse triangle.
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The reverse triangle, just like the bow and arrow, is considered another checkmate submission. Although it is utilized more often in no-gi, there is absolutely no reason it could not be attacked in the gi. The reverse triangle is an even more troublesome position for defenders because there is many ways to finish the submission.
Check out this short video by BJJ Fanatics that illustrates how simple it is to make this transition:
You may notice in the video that as soon as the attacker transitions, the defender’s far hand is still trapped on the inside. Unlike the traditional triangle choke, this is no problem as it is extremely difficult to use it to make space. In fact, it probably makes the submission worse because there is no free hand to defend.
My personal favorite attribute of the reverse triangle is its versatility. In terms of submissions, you choke by squeezing and pushing the back of head, finishing a kimura, armbar, or even Americana. It is also a great position for MMA as you can deliver multiple undefended blows. Also, in terms of self-defense, the defender isn’t going anywhere and you can maintain a good view of the environment.
One of the last things people usually think about while passing the guard is catching submissions. This is because it is usually difficult enough to pass a guard, let alone considering what potential submissions could be caught. People who attack submissions when passing the guard are individuals who have been around for a while have the experience to understand the safety and mechanics of these attacks.
Because there is a greater distance to cover when attacking submissions while passing the guard, the attacker must be skilled with timing to be successful. For example, the rolling kimura attack requires the attacker to move at the precise moment that he has the wrist and the defender’s elbow is slightly elevated. They usually only have a second or two to see this and attack appropriately.
One submission that can be attacked from the guard that many grapplers are not aware of is the triangle. The triangle is unique in this case as it is a submission usually attacked while on our backs such as in the guard. However, when inspected, all the triangle really requires is the head and one arm. Anytime you can isolate a head and arm, the triangle is potential submission to be attacked.
In the following video by John Danaher, the triangle from the guard passing position is illustrated as a response to when the defender posts with their arm.
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. 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.
Before attempting this technique in rolling or competition, you must have drilled it many times because if done wrong, you can injure your opponent. Also, another submission to consider that can be attacked the same way, is the armbar, the triangle’s cousin.
Before moving onto the concepts necessary to defend the triangle choke, I first want you to understand the importance of the mechanics for the finish. Sometimes, even after catching the triangle, we can have a hard time finishing it. The following video be John Danaher goes through some of basics behind finishing this awesome choke.
The first step in defending the triangle choke is to create a strong posture with our upper body. The posture we create by looking up and straightening our backs is still breakable if the attacker gets a hold of the head. To mitigate this, it is vital to wedge our knees as deeply under the attacker’s butt as we can. This wedge will create a large amount of distance between us that can make it impossible for the attacker to re-break our posture. In the following video, you will see how Tonon places his knees deeply to create this posture and ultimately escape the choke.
As you can see, Garry will follow the posturing by standing in a squatted position while keeping his back straight. Finally, when ready, swing either leg onto your opponent’s torso, sit, and lock your legs together. It is important to protect your arms here is the attacker is able to finish a painful armbar if they get ahold of it
Garry follows the escape by moving onto a leg lock. This is not necessary if you do not wish to attack legs or if you are in a competition that does not allow leg locks. It is to swing your legs behind you to get on top and begin your guard passes.
The main characteristic most triangle escapes have in common is that they allow the defender to create posture. Posture is necessary as it does two things, it helps create space so that the choke isn’t tight, and it also makes it difficult for the attacker to keep their legs locked for long. So remember this, anytime you get caught in a triangle, the first thing you should look for is to create posture.