The triangle choke is one of the staple moves of BJJ and is a hallmark of Jiu Jitsu. Almost everyone who has been practicing BJJ for any amount of time, gi or no-gi, will have been taught this technique – and for good reason! The choke is effective from white belt to black belt and even in MMA.
Because of this choke’s potency it is important that you learn how to protect yourself from it when someone inevitably throws one on you! Keep reading for key details for escaping a triangle before it is fully locked on.
What is a Triangle Choke?
The triangle choke is a blood choke, constricting blood flow to the carotid arteries of the neck. With one side of your neck being compressed by your own shoulder and the other compressed by your opponent’s leg, the triangle choke is extremely effective. Since your opponent’s choke is coming from their legs this is a very difficult choke to escape, even against smaller opponents.
The triangle relies on you having one arm in the guard and one arm outside of the guard, a common enough position that occurs from a wide variety of passes. The simplest way to prevent a triangle is to always have both arms in, or both arms out of the guard. As soon as only a single arm is inside your opponent’s guard alarm bells should be ringing in your head to remind you of the precarious position you’re in!
Early Triangle Choke Escape
However, there will come a time when you find yourself being inexorably dragged into a triangle choke. It’s inevitable. When that happens you’ll need to have solutions. The quicker you react to the threat, the easier your job of escaping will be.
Rener and Ryron Gracie of Gracie University present a great escape for the earliest stages of the triangle – which for the sake of clarity is usually called the diamond position. This position is referred to like this because your opponents’ legs have not yet been locked into the triangle position and still resemble a diamond. Sometimes BJJ names are beautiful in their simplicity.
The diamond position offers your opponent a great deal of control and if you don’t know how to effectively deal with it the incoming triangle choke can feel inevitable.
While the usual advice for escaping triangles is to aggressively make posture, the Gracie brothers demonstrate that this is not always the case. Instead, they focus on keeping your trapped arm from getting dragged across your opponent’s body. This arm drag is one of the first steps that your opponent needs to execute in order to finish the triangle.
As your opponent pulls your head down you’ll need to frame on the outside of their hip with your inside arm. An important detail is keeping your elbow on the ground to bolster your frame.
Your next stop is getting your knees and hips back allowing you to pivot around your trapped arm, creating an angle for your other arm to sneak in and grab the pelvis right under the hip frame grip.
At this point you can abandon the hip frame and use your inside arm to hug your opponent’s knee, going around it from the outside. At this point the threat of the triangle has been neutralized and all that remains is to get out of your opponent’s guard.
To do that you need to keep your posture low, something that Rener does throughout this triangle choke escape. Since you have control over one of your opponent’s legs, you can create space to sneak your head out. Rener feeds his outside arm back inside the guard, places his palm on his head, and then uses his arm as a protective lever to extract his head from the guard.
From there you’ve exited their guard and are free to pass as you see fit.
In general, escaping dangerous positions early is the key to success. The longer you wait and the further you go into a control position like a triangle, the less likely you are to escape. Even if you do manage to escape a deep triangle, there is a good chance you’ll be fatigued for the effort and your opponent will be able to capitalize on that weakness.
In a perfect world, just don’t get into a triangle! Remember, both arms in, or both arms out. But we all know that the world isn’t perfect, so be prepared with this early triangle counter!