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Triangles History And Breakdown

Triangles History And Breakdown

Would you believe the Triangle choke submission is arguably the newest submission in our arsenal of submissions in the sport of Jiu Jitsu?  

The triangle choke in general is a favorite among grapplers across the globe.  Having the ability to strangle someone with your legs and freeing up your hands to either assist with the choke submission, or to use for striking is clearly beneficial in any sport or self defense aspect.  


Where did the triangle come from?  When we look at the history of the triangle choke it seems to stand out from the other Jiu Jitsu techniques.  If we look at Jiu Jitsu as a whole, there is a large percentage of our techniques that have been inspired by wrestling.  Wrestling has been a highly developed sport for thousands of years. In addition to wrestling, we obviously can not ignore the early European mixed martial arts which included grappling along with striking and often times a bladed weapon.  Along with this we have to also take a look at the history of Jiu Jitsu where it began, in Japan. As we look at the drawings and documents that have diagramed these sports over the last several hundred years, or more, there is one missing piece that we lack historical evidence of its existence.  The Triangle strangle submission is no where to be found in the documents or depictions of these ancient martial arts that inspired the Jiu Jitsu we know and train today.

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The best evidence available shows that the triangle choke submission was first seen in Japan at a Judo school in the early 1900’s, shortly before World War One.  There is obviously a chance this happened prior to this point, but this is the only evidence that has been found to date to help us understand when the triangle choke submission made its debut in our world of grappling martial arts. It’s incredible to think about the fact that the triangle choke submission is only roughly one hundred years old whereas so many of the other techniques we utilize in this sport are literally thousands of years old.  Looking at things like a double leg takedown, or a guillotine choke submission, or any other technique that dates back literally thousands of years, it’s wild to think the triangle choke is such and infant submission in when compared to any other submission used in Jiu Jitsu.


While the triangle choke submission was “late to the party”, once it was developed and used for the first time, it spread rapidly!  With a growing focus on mixed martial arts, the triangle choke submission was a welcomed addition to the sport, allowing competitors to dominate opponents much bigger than themselves if necessary.  Royce Gracie used the triangle choke in an early UFC fight to make a comeback and continue his winning streak. Viewers seemed to unanimously feel that Royce was “getting smashed”, and that he had lost the fight, ending his dominating winning streak.  It turns out, the perception was that he was losing this fight because he was on his back playing a guard position and working to setup a triangle choke submission. Viewers were not used to the possibility that someone could be on their back but still in an offensive position.


Professor John Danaher refuses to let his students be anything less than incredible at executing the triangle choke submission.  To Professor Danaher the triangle choke submission is close to the soul of Jiu Jitsu. “The use of your legs to wrestle your opponents’ upper body” is the soul of Jiu Jitsu to Danaher.  When you are comparing upper body to upper body, strength comes into play and will ultimately determine who wins the match. The ability to use your lower body against someone’s upper body gives you an extreme advantage.  Here is an example of Danaher's Perfect Triangle!

 

 

 

Can the triangle really be for everyone?  Obviously, it is ideal to have long and strong legs to execute the triangle strangle submission.  However, there are other factors that can play a part in still being able to execute the triangle submission, even is you have short legs.  Some of the factors that come in to play here are the following:

  1. Body position and angle.  In order to be able to have the best chance at locking a triangle choke submission using shorter legs, or against an opponent that maybe has very broad shoulders, It is important to ensure you have the right body alignment and you are attacking the right part of the opponent.  You should be choking then with the head and arm inside your triangle lock only. Having anything else inside of your triangle lock will only make it more difficult to lock the submission and will become increasingly more difficult if you have shorter legs, or the person has broad shoulders.
  2. Excessive waist size.  Having a little extra in the midsection can limit flexibility and the ability to bring your knee back to your body to shoot the triangle choke at the correct angle.

Both of these two factors are controllable.  While leg size does play a difference, Professor Danaher believes it is the least important factor preceded by Body position and angle and excessive waist size.  He goes on to say that while everyone focuses on the disadvantage of the triangle choke submission for people with shorter legs, there is an advantage unique to those practitioners with shorter legs.  The reality is while you may have to work harder to get the triangle in the first place, once you lock it up it Is going to be much tighter than the triangle lock of someone with longer legs.


What can you do to get better at the factors that are limiting your success with Triangle submission?  Professor Danaher describes a drill in the BJJ Fanatics Podcast “History of the Triangle Choke” that he uses himself, and does with his students regularly.  Essentially, he will have someone start in his closed guard with their hands pinning your biceps to the mat.  He then will work to shoot the triangle back and forth from one side to the other, resetting to closed guard after each lock.  Doing this without the use of his arms forces him to be able to develop his ability to fight with his legs and trust their capabilities.  


Professor Danaher discusses the 5 different types of Triangle Chokes.  The first 3 can be chained together in a series of attacks. The average competitor primarily only uses one of these 5 triangles.  There is a huge opportunity in his opinion to better understand how to add these submissions to the arsenal, and chain them together.


  1. Triangle from the front
  2. Triangle from the back
  3. Opposite side triangle
  4. Side triangle
  5. Reverse triangle

Professor Danaher breaks these down in detail in his “Enter the System: Triangle” video instruction.


The takeaway should be that regardless of the length of your legs, you can be extremely successful with the triangle choke.  Understanding the history of the submission and the details that go into making each of the five variations of the triangle successful, from arguably one of the best Jiu Jitsu coaches in the world should give you confidence that with time and proper training techniques, you too can perfect your triangle game.

John Danaher's Enter The System instructionals have revolutionized how instruction is done. Triangles Enter The System continues that trend by teaching you the ins and outs of one of the most powerful moves in fighting! Enter The System!

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