The triangle choke is one of the most powerful BJJ submissions. Thousands upon thousands of matches have been ended with it, including in the UFC and other MMA events.
Knowing how to do the triangle choke properly is an absolute necessity for every grappler
This choke originated in Japanese Ju-jutsu and was then incorporated into Judo in the early 1900’s where it is known as sankaku-jime (三角絞).
At some point, probably in the 1960’s, the triângulo started being used in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Some say that Rolls Gracie learned it from a book, but it’s also possible that it percolated into the art from the extensive judo scene in Brazil at this time
Enough history, let’s get started on how to choke people out with this move…
Table of Contents
The 5 Main Variations of Triangle Choke (Overview)
There are different types of triangle choke, but in every variation you’re going to form a triangle around the neck of your opponent and one of his arms.
Usually this triangle is formed with your legs by tucking one ankle behind the knee of your other leg before you squeeze to get the choke. In some variations, however, you can use your arms to form the triangle shape as well.
His arm being inside your legs is important; it’s a combination of your leg against one side of his neck and his own shoulder against the other side of his neck that makes this choke so effective!
Here’s a review of the five basic types of triangle choke. Note how every one of them includes his head and one arm trapped inside your triangled limbs…
Variation 1, The Standard Triangle Choke
The standard triangle choke (or mae-sankaku jime in Judo) is the variation you see 90% of the time in jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts competition, so it’s definitely the one to start with.
This specific submission most often applied from the guard although there are also ways to enter into it from the top position.
In this technique you face your opponent and bring one of your legs behind his neck across the back of his neck like the blade of a French revolution guillotine. The ankle of that leg then gets tucked behind the knee of your other leg on the side of his trapped arm.
Here’s Brandon Mullins choking me out and showing a ton of high level details to make the choke more effective…
Variation 2, The Rear Triangle Choke
The rear triangle choke (or ura-sankaku jime in judo) was originally a bit of a novelty submission. For example, I only hit it a couple of times against good opponents in my first 15 years of training BJJ.
But then things changed! In the last few years the rear triangle became a much higher percentage submission as grapplers have learned to systematically get into the rear triangle from the back position. It’s now included in the go-to arsenal of chokes and armlocks from the back.
In this technique you’re essentially behind your opponent with your shin coming across the front of his neck. Your legs are triangled on the side of his trapped arm. Here’s how it’s done and how to get into it…
Variation 3, The Side Triangle Choke
The side triangle (yoko-sankaku jime in Judo) is used more in judo than in BJJ. In judo you only have a few seconds to attack a defensive opponent who is turtling, and the side triangle is a very effective attack against that position.
But if you’re sharp then this same submission can definitely be used in a jiu-jitsu when your opponent shoots in to take you down, if he temporarily turtles in an attempt to escape a pinning position, or in the context of a flow where your legs and his arms get entangled
The video below takes you through the basics side triangle technique. Make sure to focus on the positioning of your knee and heel initially, and then adjust your thigh so it’s under the back of the neck at the end…
Variation 4, The Reverse or Inverted Triangle Choke
The terminology for this attack is quite variable: in English some people refer to it as the reverse triangle, but others call it the inverted triangle. In Japanese the confusion is also not quite standardized, and I’ve heard it referred to as both gyaku-sankaku jime and ushiro-sankaku jime.
Regardless of what you call it, this is a very useful variation to add to your triangle choke arsenal.
The easiest way to learn this move is actually from the bottom of side control when the guy on top has left one of his arms between your legs, but there are competitors like Braulio Estima who regularly apply the inverted triangle from the guard as well.
Variation 5, The Arm Triangle Choke
All the triangle chokes we’ve looked at so far have been predominantly applied with the legs. But you can also apply a very similar choke using many of the same principles using your arms to tap your opponent out.
This branch of the triangle family is known as the arm triangle choke, or kata gatame in Judo.
Here’s how to set up this submission and then use the movement of your body, rather than the squeezing of your arms, to power this choke…
More Triangle Choke Resources
The 10 Second Choke Fix
What if you’ve got a triangle choke in place but your opponent just isn’t tapping out?
Do you squeeze harder? No, you’ll burn out your legs. Do you abandon the position? No, you’ve worked so hard to get here!
How to Reliably Set Up the Triangle Choke
Being shown the triangle choke is one thing, but figuring out how to reliably and repeatedly land it against quality opponents is quite another.
You don’t want to uselessly spam the attack again and again. Instead you want to learn how to systematically disrupt your opponent’s alignment so that he’s in no position to stop you from applying or finishing your attack.
My Two Favorite Triangle Choke Defenses
I want to share my two best triangle choke escapes with you.
I’ve experimented with lots of different defenses, but unfortunately I’ve found that many of them rely on your opponent being totally incompetent or you having an 18″ neck, gigantic traps and high levels of pain tolerance….
Here’s what works well for me, given that I’m not built like a pro bodybuilder…
The Free Grapplearts BJJ Master App
In section 2 of the main article above I included a detailed video breaking down the rear triangle choke. And that video is from an instructional on attacking the back that I did with Rob Biernacki.
You can get that entire instructional – Weak Side Back Attacks – entirely for free in the Grapplearts BJJ Master App. It lives in the ‘BJJ Formula’ section of the app.