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How to Do the Guillotine Choke and Its Variations

Updated on March 30, 2015
The guillotine choke can be an effective weapon in both MMA and submission grappling or BJJ competitions.
The guillotine choke can be an effective weapon in both MMA and submission grappling or BJJ competitions. | Source

On the surface, the guillotine choke is one of Brazilian jiu jitsu’s simplest submissions. After all, you just grab your opponent’s neck and squeeze, right? That strategy might work on beginners, but as you begin competing against more experienced opponents in jiu jitsu, submission grappling or MMA, you will need a more scientific approach. These three variations of the guillotine choke, should be in any grappler's arsenal; which is the best option will depend on your opponent and the exact situation in which you find yourself. Keep in mind that all directions below can be reversed to perform the choke on the opposite side.

# 1: Traditional Guillotine

A traditional guillotine is most commonly (although not always) initiated from a sprawl. Immediately after you sprawl on your opponent, slide your right arm under his chin so his throat rests on the sharpest part of your forearm, just past the heel of your hand. Hook the blade of your right hand with all five fingers of your left hand to establish the beginning position for the guillotine.

At this point, most beginning grapplers pull guard, lean back and pull for all they are worth in an attempt to finish the choke. This means that a more experienced grappler will frequently be able to protect his neck and pop his head out of the choke.

When you are setting up the guillotine, it is critical that you take your time and establish the position instead of going for the finish too soon and losing everything. Once your hands are locked, pinch your elbows together tight and push your right shoulder forward into the base of your opponent’s neck. This will “close the back door,” so to speak, preventing your opponent’s head from sliding out of your grip. Now you can finish the choke by pulling guard, locking your legs as high on his torso as possible and extending your hips to stretch him out and drive the Ablade of your right forearm into his throat.

The tighter you keep your shoulder to your opponent's spine, the lesser their chances of slipping out of the guillotine choke.
The tighter you keep your shoulder to your opponent's spine, the lesser their chances of slipping out of the guillotine choke. | Source

# 2: Power Guillotine

The power guillotine, also known as the elbow-over guillotine, has been used to devastating effect in recent years by Marcelo Garcia (hence its nickname, the "Marcelotine"), but other grapplers have used different variations of the elbow-over guillotine for many years.

Begin by establishing the same beginning position as in a traditional guillotine. Slightly relax your grip with your left hand to allow you to rotate your left elbow over your opponent’s shoulder. Ideally, your elbow should point down your opponent’s back while your left forearms rests against the side of his neck. To finish, simply apply downward pressure with your left elbow. This uses your opponent’s shoulder as a fulcrum, transferring the force from your left forearm, to your right forearm, to your opponent’s throat.

This guillotine variation comes on very quickly; for this reason, it is often effective against quick, athletic opponents. It frequently requires no additional hip pressure to finish. However, you can pull full or half guard for additional leverage if necessary.

You may need to loosen your grip slightly to slide your forearm all the way over your opponent's neck until your forearm touches their neck.
You may need to loosen your grip slightly to slide your forearm all the way over your opponent's neck until your forearm touches their neck. | Source

# 3: Bulldog Guillotine

If you face a particularly strong opponent who is trying to pull your right forearm out from under his throat, your best bet is to transition to the bulldog guillotine. Simply use your left hand to pull your right forearm around your opponent’s neck until his throat is in the crook of your elbow. You may be able to finish the choke here by transitioning to a palm-to-palm grip; Jon Jones used this variation in his championship fight with Lyoto Machida. If necessary, however, you can tighten the choke further by sliding your right hand onto your left bicep and your left forearm across the back of your opponent’s neck, securing a grip very similar to that used to finish a rear naked choke from the back.

Most guillotines are wind chokes (also known as air chokes) because they prevent air from reaching the lungs. The bulldog guillotine, however, is a blood choke, so called because it prevents blood from flowing to the brain.

The bulldog guillotine is generally set up, and frequently finished, on a standing opponent.
The bulldog guillotine is generally set up, and frequently finished, on a standing opponent. | Source

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