How to Finish the Triangle Choke (a BJJ Tutorial)

Updated on October 20, 2016
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Andrew Smith is a 3rd degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs the BJJ Tutorial Encyclopedia here.

Tightening Triangles

Ever have someone in a triangle and think it's check mate, and then have them turn the corner and pass your guard after waiting it out? How about the person who doesn't seem to have any carotid arteries? This is the tutorial for you. You probably learned how to finish a triangle choke when you first started training BJJ, and even if you're new to the art, some of the details here will help you out, but you'll really get a lot out of this one if you've been training with experienced partners who are able to survive, or if you're just looking to finish your triangle chokes much more efficiently. Let's get started.

Leg Hinge

Knee Hinge and Leg Positioning

Two crucial details are presented here. Recall the previous triangle finish details, especially the idea of your top leg's foot pointing toward the back of the room. Keeping this posture in mind, the next important thing is to make sure your foot ends up below your knee. As you're making adjustments, you've got to avoid the classic "hip out" or "shrimp" movement, and simply pivot. No matter what, be sure your foot is lower to the ground than your knee is, or else your triangle will be all kinds of crooked. Finally, whenever you are closing your triangle at the end, what often will happen is your partner will time this opening and rip their arm free, posturing and ripping out into side control. To prevent this, keep your foot on their hip as normal, knee in tight, but also utilize the knee hinge. This concept allows you to pivot your left leg out without disengaging from your partner's hip, and then hop over your other leg by scraping over your foot. It's important that there's no space whatsoever here.

Squeezing the Knees

Virtually everyone knows that finishing a triangle is largely a function of squeezing the knees together in order to tighten the choke. However, it's not always so easy to explain exactly HOW to squeeze your knees together. While simply trying to touch the inside of your knees together is a good start, we can do much better. While your right leg is rotating inwards, your left foot will circle down and out. This will have the surprising net effect of crushing your knees together with a great deal of force, closing off the space a great deal. You're also effectively clamping your right leg with your left when you do this maneuver.

Final Angle Adjustment

That Angle, Though

Another aspect of finishing the triangle virtually every decent jiu jitsu practitioner understands well is that you need to create a right angle with your partner. Again, the question arises: how? If you take the conventional wisdom of putting your foot on their hip and turning yourself, that will definitely work, but a savvy partner can also use this opportunity to rip their shoulder free, as previously described. My rule of thumb is that if you've already got the figure four locked in, keep it locked in. Instead of releasing it to step on the hip, simply rotate your top leg down and out (just like the squeeze finish detail). A helpful tip is to underhook their arm while doing this (some folks prefer to underhook the leg instead, and this is definitely legit, but you can't always get underneath their leg, whereas you can often underhook their arm).

Most irritating triangle defense

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Devil's Details

If you're starting to get pretty good with catching triangles but having a hard time sealing the deal, or even if you've been finishing triangle chokes for a decade or longer, you can always afford to allocate some time on finishing more efficiently. Work through these subtle tips, and, as always, let me know how they work for you. The basics are certainly essential, but smaller details have helped make a tremendous difference in my game over the years, and I hope that one or two of these things work well for you!

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      Johannes Andersson 17 months ago

      Man, I would love to watch that :D

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      Andrew Smith 19 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Man, I would love to be able to roll with you.

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      Nidan 19 months ago

      The key to a successful sankaku jime is the angle. The "triangle" as you call it can be applied to someone that is quite larger than yourself. Don't try this as the photo shows above. Ebi "shrimp" yourself to as close to 3 or 9 O clock as you can. For the above photo 3 O clock. Think of the two of you as two hands of a clock. Uke's head is the minute hand and Tori's head is the hour hand. With this angle you can apply the jime "constriction" more effectively. It has the benefit of working 100 time faster and working on all sizes of people. The next trick is to squeeze your knees together. A proper sankaku there will be no need to pull the head down. Uke should feel like his head is being ripped off with the added inconvenience of not being able to breath, quickly followed by lightheadedness or complete loss of consciousness. Sankaku Jime is a very powerful It can be finished from your back as shown in the photo, on your knee side or on top. It can also be done foot side but I find it uncomfortable sometimes painful. It can also be done if you have uke's back

      Happy newaza!

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