Mastering the Arm Triangle Choke – Key Details

Last updated on 31.01.2022 by

The arm triangle choke is an incredibly powerful choke that’s easy to do and has númerous setups to land it. It’s a favorite of those that like playing heavy top pressure games.

Here is a quick breakdown of the arm triangle choke and the details on how to properly lock it in.

The history of the arm triangle choke submission

The arm triangle choke is a submission that is used in every form of submission grappling. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu adopted the submission from Judo, where it is known as the Kata Gatame.

It has been a part of Jiu Jitsu from the beginning, but in the past few decades the technique has seen a surge in its popularity as it has been innovated. This is thanks to the emergence of no-gi Jiu Jitsu and amateur wrestlers transitioning into the sport.

An arm triangle choke seems like it involves using power to finish the submission, but it’s actually quite the opposite. To lock in a tight arm triangle choke, you just need a good grip and to properly position your body in relation to your opponent.

This simplicity and effectiveness is what makes the arm triangle choke one of the basic submissions that you must know.

Basic arm triangle choke from side control

A basic arm triangle choke is generally initiated from side-control or the mount. Let’s start the breakdown by going over the important details of setting up an arm triangle from side-control.

We’ve included an instructional by Neil Melanson with timestamps along the way. Feel free to just watch a few seconds of the video each time and continue reading!

How to hold side-control

Before going into the details of the choke, you need to know how to properly hold side-control. Your chest needs to be on your opponent’s with no extra space between your bodies.

Next your knees have to be pressed against their hip and their armpit with your arm behind their head. Make sure that you’re driving your weight downward on your opponent to keep them in place.

Shoulder pressure

Once you’ve locked in a good side-control, you need to start laying heavy shoulder pressure down on your opponent’s chin. Doing this will force them to defend by turning their head and framing with their far arm. This is the reaction you’re waiting for before proceeding to the next step.

Push the arm across their body

When your opponent goes to frame, cup their elbow with your inside hand and push it across their body. As you push their arm, duck your head under the arm and press it against their shoulder.

Your opponent’s arm needs to be in this position in order for the arm triangle to work. Like in the traditional triangle choke, you’re using their shoulder to  cut off their blood flow on one side once you lock in the chock.

Arm-triangle choke grip

The two most common grips used for an arm triangle choke are a palm-to-palm Gable grip or a RNC grip. An S-grip can also be used, but it isn’t the best option.

I personally prefer the Gable grip for arm triangle chokes, because it takes more space away and is tighter. Slide your hand behind your opponent’s neck to your other hand and connect them together.

If you need more space to connect your hand, use your head to push your opponent’s arm further across their neck.

In this video example, Neil is finishing the choke with just one hand. Definitely play with this variation, but people with shorter arms may find this challenging.

Choking position

Now with your hands locked together, you need to move your body to the same side as your grip. This is the choking position and you have two options to get here.

You can either hop across your opponent’s body or slide your knee across their body and windshield wiper your feet. 

Body position

What makes a good arm triangle choke is how your body is positioned. Your body needs to be flat on the ground like you’re sprawling. Doing this helps stop your opponent from trying to defend by recovering their guard.

Head & ear position

Your head and ear positioning is just as important as how your body is positioned. Keep your forehead on the mat and connect your ear to your opponent’s ear to close off space.

The finish

Once you’ve locked in your grip and properly positioned your body, you can go into the finishing sequence. Slightly move your body to the side, take a deep breath, and squeeze with your whole body like a snake.

When done correctly, your opponent will be forced to tap in only a few seconds.

Arm Triangle choke from mount

How to hold mount

Before going into the arm triangle choke setup, you have to first hold a good mount. Keep your knees against your opponent’s body and watch your balance in case they attempt a reversal.

Ideally, you want to keep your opponent’s head lifted off of the ground – this will take away the power from their bridge and put them in a compromised position.

Hook & push

A good opponent that’s mounted will have their hand connected to their neck to defend chokes. Those that are less experienced will make the mistake of extending their arms.

This step is easier when the opponent extends their arms, but can be done even if they stay tight – you’re just going to do two movements at the same time.

Hook behind your opponent’s head as you push their arm across their neck and drop your head down.

Connect your hands

Once you’ve hooked your opponent’s head and dropped down you’re going to connect your hands together. You can use your head to push your opponent’s arm further to make more space just like from side-control.

Transition to side-control

After connecting your hands together, you can begin transitioning to side-control. Just like before, you’ll need to do the windshield wiper movement with your far leg to transition to side-control – this time it is even easier as you’re already halfway there.

Sprawl out

Just like the arm triangle choke from side control, you are also going to sprawl out your body and flatten out. This will make it harder for your opponent to recover guard.

The finish

To finish the arm triangle, slightly move your body to the side and choke with your whole body to get the tap.

Defending the arm triangle choke

As you can see – the arm triangle is an easy and powerful choke to set up. This means that it is essential to know how to defend against it. Here are some methods you can use to defend an arm triangle choke.

Don’t answer the phone

A common old-school arm triangle defense that used to get taught was called answering the phone.

This is where you hug your arm to your head like you’re answering a phone to attempt to relieve pressure.

We do not recommend this defense as it usually doesn’t work and a determined opponent can still easily finish the choke.

Grab your leg

A defense that will work is grabbing your own leg. Bridge into your opponent’s and bring your knee to your trapped arm.

Then take your trapped arm and wrap it behind your knee. From here you have two reversal options. You can either drive forward or roll backwards depending on your opponent’s reaction.

Wrap up

An arm triangle choke is a must-know basic submission that is one of the easiest and most powerful chokes to use. If you take the time to properly drill this submission, it can be the best move in your arsenal.

It is a legal move at all levels and great to use in either gi or no-gi Jiu Jitsu.

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