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How to Escape or Counter a Guillotine Choke in BJJ and MMA

Updated on May 6, 2015
Grapplers of all skill levels rely on the guillotine choke -- which is why learning early to properly defend it is so important.
Grapplers of all skill levels rely on the guillotine choke -- which is why learning early to properly defend it is so important. | Source

Although certainly not easy to perfect, the guillotine choke is a relatively simple submission hold for beginning submission grapplers, Brazilian jiu jitsu players and mixed martial artists to attempt. For that reason, it is also a very common submission in which to get caught. However, that does not mean that you must resign yourself to a life of tapping to guillotines over and over again. With these guillotine escapes and counters in your arsenal, your opponents will be afraid to attempt a guillotine choke on you in the first place.

Escaping the Guillotine Choke on the Ground

  1. When your opponent locks on a guillotine from guard with his right arm under your chin, begin by protecting your neck with your left hand. Hook over the top of your opponent’s wrist with all five fingers, then use your lat to pull your elbow down toward your hip. This will not prevent the guillotine, but it will buy you a few seconds to work your escape.
  2. Next, slide your right arm as deep as possible over the top of your opponent’s left arm and shoulder and under his head. Establishing a stable base, step up onto both feet and drive your weight through your right shoulder and into your opponent’s neck, preventing him from extending his hips and applying the choke. In addition, your right arm prevents him from raising his left arm over your shoulder to increase his leverage.
  3. To finish the escape, place the tip of your left elbow on top of your opponent’s right knee or thigh. At the same time, perform a calf raise to elevate your hips as much as possible, while simultaneously increasing the pressure on your opponent from your shoulder. Next, sharply drop your heels back toward the mat, jolt your hips downward and press sharply down your opponent’s leg with your elbow. You may need to repeat this motion several times; eventually, though, your opponent’s legs will begin to slide below your waist and down your legs.
  4. Once your opponent’s hips have fallen all the way to the mat, drop your hips sideways to your right over the top of your opponent’s legs. Use your left hand to block his legs while you back-step and slide completely free of them, then immediately switch your hips to face the mat and establish a strong side control on top of your opponent.
  5. Reverse these directions if your opponent locks the guillotine on with his left arm instead of his right.

If you neglect to protect your neck before you begin your guillotine escape, you will frequently that they choke comes on before you work your way out of the position.
If you neglect to protect your neck before you begin your guillotine escape, you will frequently that they choke comes on before you work your way out of the position. | Source

Escaping the Guillotine Choke While Standing

  1. When your opponent locks on a standing guillotine choke with his right arm under your chin, begin as you would when defending from guard by use all five fingers of your left hand to protect your neck. Next, slide your right hand as high as possible over your opponent’s left shoulder. If you are competing in a gi or kimono, grip the fabric behind his back; otherwise, simply rest your hand flat against his back. Either way, the crook of your right elbow should support your weight as he attempts to finish the choke, preventing most of the pressure from reaching your neck.
  2. To finish your escape, take a large step with your right leg so that your foot plants behind your opponent’s left foot. Buckle his knee by bumping it with your right knee, then immediately pull him straight to the floor with your right arm. You should drop to your knees as you pull and immediately establish a tight side control.
  3. Reverse these directions if your opponent locks the guillotine on with his left arm instead of his right.

When defending the standing guillotine, make sure you angle away from your head, not towards it as this grappler is incorrectly doing.
When defending the standing guillotine, make sure you angle away from your head, not towards it as this grappler is incorrectly doing. | Source

Countering the Guillotine Choke – Von Flue

Once you have escaped the guillotine choke (either the standing or the grounded version) and established side control on your opponent, you can begin to immediately look to counter your opponent’s guillotine attempt with your own submission. If he neglects to let go of your neck as you pass his guard (a common rookie mistake), lock your hands together to prevent the arm from escaping. Your right arm should still be under his head, while your left arm should be right next to your head and as high on your opponent’s right wrist as possible to prevent the arm from slipping out. Pinch your elbows together tightly, then sprawl to your right and drive your weight into your right shoulder on top of your opponent’s neck to finish the Von Flue choke.

Von Flue Choke in the UFC

Countering the Guillotine Choke – Armbar

If you do not feel comfortable attempting the Von Flue choke, the armbar can also be an effective guillotine counter. As soon as you establish your side control, remove your right arm from beneath your opponent’s head and hook underneath your opponent’s right arm (which may or may not still be around your neck, depending on your opponent’s skill level).

Immediately run to your right around your opponent’s head. As you move, your weight should drive through your shoulder and chest, rolling your opponent up on his left side and exposing his right arm. This will allow you to easily step your left leg over your opponent’s head, pinch your knees together, hug the arm to your chest and fall back for the armbar finish.

Remember, even if you do not manage to secure a counter finish off your opponent’s guillotine attempt, your primary goal is simply to escape the guillotine. As long as you accomplish that, you will be able to continue fighting and eventually find the finish.

What counter to the guillotine choke do you prefer?

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