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A Guide on BJJ Guillotine Variations

Going for a guillotine.

Going for a guillotine.

Getting All Choked Up

The guillotine choke is probably one of the first submissions you learn in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and it might even be an early mark of success for you. Over time, your partners will adapt, and you'll need newer versions to counter your partner's ability to escape and to facilitate getting the submission.

Here, we'll look at the classic guillotine, then examine a few very tight variations, both from the wrestling shot and from the guard.

Basic Guillotine From the Shot

The wrestling shot is one of the easiest ways to start working on your guillotine setups and finishes, although it's far from the only spot you'll catch them. As your partner shoots in with their head on your right hip, snake your right arm around their neck, focusing on making sure that your armpit is over the top of their neck. This will put your right forearm all the way across their neck, acting sort of like a French Revolution-era guillotine, only inverse.

Make a fist with your right arm, and grab your fist to pull upward and create pressure, securing the choke. You can either push your hips forward to finish or you can pull guard. If you end up in guard, just push your legs away, stretching your partner's neck out, and crunch into your right for the submission.

10-Finger Version

The "10 Finger Guillotine," sometimes also called the "chin strap," is among the most annoying submissions to be caught in. As your partner shoots in on you, use the same armpit on top of the head reference point, but this time, cup your partner's chin with your right hand, making sure the top "blade" of your hand ends up directly under your partner's chin. Reinforce this grip with your other hand, cupping just underneath the attacking hand and driving it up and in. Use caution with the speed here, as your partner might not have been exposed to this attack!

Rear Naked-Choke Style

A very tight way to finish is the rear naked choke (RNC for short) version. As your partner shoots in, instead of aiming for your armpit on the top of their head, shoot your arm through way, way deeper. The ultimate goal here is to be able to grab inside your own biceps on the other side of their head, essentially securing an RNC grip around their neck, but from the front. Your right elbow should be lined up with your partner's chin this time, making sure your biceps and forearms cut off the carotid arteries completely. You can once again finish either from the feet or from your guard.

Over-the-Top Finish

Butterfly guard is another great place to snag a guillotine. Wait until your partner is looking down toward the mat; this will often happen as a consequence of them getting ready to try a guard pass. As their head dips, use your left hand to guide their head over to your right side. While guiding, keep your left elbow in close to your body, like doing a Muay Thai clinch.

Once you've fed the head under your right armpit, snake your right arm through, just like the RNC version, making sure your right elbow is lined up with your partner's chin (but under it). Once your right arm is through, make an S-grip with both hands (turn your right palm up, your left palm down, and hook your fingertips together). This will facilitate your ability to rotate your left elbow up and over your partner's shoulders and back, ultimately making both an extremely tight blood choke, and a very, very difficult guillotine to escape.

To finish, allow your right foot to slip out from in between your partner's legs, and slide it across their hips, sort of like a backwards scissor-guard position. Finally, throw your left leg over the top of your partner's back, making a rolling escape all but impossible.

The Close

The guillotine choke is a submission you're likely to see several times at any grappling tournament you attend, and probably at every few MMA events. It's a time-honored submission that has managed to stay relevant even as the defenses have evolved and adapted over time. Try out these variations, and, as always, let me know if these moves are working out for you!

© 2018 Andrew Smith