OK, today we’re going to talk about something that’s both very simple and incredibly important.
I’ve explained this to SO many grapplers over the years it’s not even funny, and most of the time the reaction is a “Doh! I should have known that!!!”
Here’s what I’m talking about…
The guillotine choke has a strong side and a weak side.
Attacking with a strong sided guillotine is MUCH more powerful than a weak sided guillotine.
And, conversely, defending a weak sided guillotine is MUCH easier than defending a strong sided guillotine.
First let’s look at pictures and talk definitions…
The Strong Side of the Guillotine Choke
If your opponent’s head, legs and body are all on the same side of your body – like in the picture above – then you’re applying the guillotine on the strong side.
(Of course I’m not advocating that you should like there like a corpse. In the photo my legs are only straight so you can see exactly what’s going on. In real life you would try to block the right side of your opponent’s body with your legs, or at least entangle his right leg in your half guard to secure the position.)
A strong side guillotine is the most powerful way to apply this choke. Not only does this position twist the top guy’s neck sideways, breaking his posture, but it also tightens the choke up without the bottom guy having to squeeze any harder.
Therefore attackers should do everything they can to put their guillotine victims on the strong side and keep them there by blocking further movement with their legs.
But if you’re the one being choked then you want to scramble, scramble, scramble from the strong side (pictured above) to the weak side (pictured below) because it increases your chances of surviving the choke exponentially.
The Weak Side of the Guillotine Choke
When the person getting choked has his head on one side of your body and his legs on the other then you’ve caught him in a weak sided guillotine.
This sucks for you on the bottom, even though you’ve supposedly got his neck in a choke!
In this alignment the top guy’s spine is strong and straight, it’s MUCH harder to choke him, and you’re vulnerable to a number of counterattacks including the Von Flue choke.
If you’re on the bottom of a weak sided guillotine then you really can’t finish it unless you have a Marcelotine style of guillotine already locked in. If it’s a regular guillotine then please don’t continue squeezing – unless you’re incredibly strong you’ll never finish the guy and just burn out your arm muscles.
Using the Weak Side to Escape a Guillotine
If you get caught in a guillotine choke and have any mobility at all then you should IMMEDIATELY start scrambling towards the weak side.
In this situation I often don’t even defend my throat with my hands at first; it’s much better to use my hands to monitor my opponent’s legs and prevent him from wrapping me up in the closed guard or half guard.
But this reflex to go the right way takes time to develop – lots of people have scrambled the wrong way, manoeuvred themselves onto the strong side by accident and practically giving their opponent the free submission.
I have a really cool drill to make this anti-guillotine scrambling instinctive. I cover this exact drill in detail starting at the 2:20 mark of the video at the top of this page.
This concept of the weak side and the strong side of the guillotine choke is well worth understanding, drilling and applying. It’ll make both your guillotine offense AND your guillotine defense much more powerful.
More Guillotine Choke Resources for You
Standing Guillotine Choke Defense. Here’s how you might just survive a tight guillotine choke if you get caught in one on your feet.
How to Do a Flying Guillotine Choke. You’ve heard of flying triangles and flying armbars? Well, here’s how to use a low single leg takedown to set up a flying guillotine choke!
Guillotine Choke Control and Finishing Masterclass. This is a really amazing resource that I produced with Rob Biernacki’s material that’ll give you tons of guillotine choke setups and finishes.