Triangle Chokes for People with Short Legs


The triangle choke is one of the signature submissions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Just about everyone takes a stab at perfecting it during their grappling career. But you can run into problems with the triangle choke if your legs are short.  Just like the reader below…

Q:  Hi Stephan,

I’ve been having problems with the triangle choke. I have rather thick, maybe even short, legs and I just can’t lock it in. I always seem to only be able to get my foot half way up my calf, then no more.

Are there tips or tricks or anything to help me, because I would hate to admit that the triangle choke is unavailable to me and many others.

Thank you,

A: Hi Jeremy,

The quick answer is that in your situation you can sometimes create more room for your legs to lock properly by positioning your body at an angle instead of remaining straight-on to your opponent.

Say you’ve got his head and right arm trapped between your legs…

If you’ve got super-long legs like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria (in the photo to the right) then you can stay right in front of your opponent and still apply the triangle choke.

But if you’ve got shorter legs, try this.  Instead of staying in a straight line to your opponent bring your head and your upper torso to your right, so that you’re lying just in front of his left knee.

Angling your body like this sometimes helps create more room to lock your legs up correctly.  It can make the difference between success and failure in borderline cases…

But I’m not going to lie to you –  like any technique, there definitely ARE limits to the usefulness of this particular choke.  And you’re 100% correct that the triangle choke is a lot harder to do if your legs are short.  And the situation is made even worse if you’ve got muscular or ‘thick’ legs because now there’s even less room to work with.

Physical attributes such as leg length, flexibility, speed, strength, build, hand size, etc. DO affect which techniques will work best for you.

But it’s not all bad…

The same physical attributes that make the triangle choke difficult could give you a wickedly powerful kneebar, for example.  I discussed this concept in more detail in this blog post: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and physical attributes.

And a final word of advice for short legged grapplers…

Keep in mind that almost every triangle choke situation can be converted into an omoplata. That means that you can still use all those cool triangle choke setups your instructor is showing you!  Just get to the general position and then be prepared to bail out and switch to the omoplata if you can’t get the triangle to work correctly for you.

To get you started, here’s a primer on how to do the omoplata armlock.

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