Learn To Be A Guillotine Machine

Want a submission that you can apply in a variety of different positions in an effective manner? How about a submission that can scare your opponent into forgetting about passing, or being passed?  There is definitely a great balance between attacking submissions and attacking a pass or sweep. Getting your opponent’s mind off of one or the other is what open’s them up. This is where the Guillotine Choke comes in.

One of the most basic submission techniques in BJJ is also one of the most underutilized and misunderstood. So why is the guillotine such an awesome submission? There are several factors that play a part in making the Guillotine revered and feared.

Learn To Be A Guillotine Machine

Opponent’s Fear

Any submission that attacks the neck gets a very specific reaction out of people. That reaction is to defend, and defend immediately. Getting choked unconscious is a scary thought for most practitioners, and when you attack somebodies neck with aggression they will defend it harder than necessary out of a conscious or sub conscious idea of not wanting to take a nap.

Tying up your opponents hands as they try to escape this fearful position opens up your game to passes, sweeps, and other submissions, all depending on where you are at the moment.

Surprise Factor

The ample opportunities for the Guillotine Choke is one of the things that makes it so sweet!  You can throw a Guillotine on your opponent from so many different positions it’s ridiculous. Front headlock, guard, half guard (top or bottom), side control, and mount are a few of my favorites. When you’re looking for a pass from half guard and your opponent tucks in too tightly, BOOM, Guillotine.

When they defend, that opens up your legs to look for a pass. If they don’t defend, awesome, choke the hell out of them.

Would You Like a Guillotine With Your Guillotine?

Whoever says the Guillotine is easy to defend, let me ask you, which guillotine do you feel comfortable defending? There’s the basic guillotine, the high elbow guillotine (as shown in the first video below), the arm in guillotine, the fist finish, and the knuckle finish to name a few. That’s a lot of Guillotines and there’s more. Well lets take a look at a couple of awesome videos, then break down some extra details on this technique.

High Elbow Guillotine

Arm in Guillotine

Here are some things to focus on when applying a guillotine choke:

When going for a basic, or high elbow guillotine:

Try to get the bony part of your wrist against their throat. This will make the choke tighter, and much more uncomfortable. Not to say that making submissions uncomfortable is what you want in BJJ, but there seems to be a direct correlation between Guillotine effectiveness and lowered comfort level.

Make sure your opponent doesn’t get a hand on your choking wrist. This will impede greatly on your ability to choke them unconscious. Squeezing your arms into fatigue is the last thing you want to do, especially on a submission you are not completely sure you’ll get, so keeping the amount of pressure needed to make them go to sleep is a necessity. To keep your opponent from getting a hand on your wrist, keep it tight against their throat from the moment you attack the submission. If they expect a Guillotine and start defending preemptively you might be out of luck on finishing it.

Keep your armpit/bicep tight to the back of their head.  I like to picture dropping my shoulder forward and down when applying a Guillotine. That will give the downward pressure on the back of their head needed to finish the choke, and helps keep their head trapped so they cannot escape.

When going for an arm in guillotine:

Get a good grip from the get-go. If you are fumbling around switching grips while setting this submission up, your opponent will defend quickly and escape any danger before it envelopes them. There are several great grips for finishing this choke, here are a few I enjoy:

  1.  The gable grip. Like smooshing a hamburger patty between your hands, this is very controlling and powerful.
  2. Grabbing the wrist. Like shown in the video, this is both controlling and a great way to finish an opponent.
  3. Fist, or knuckle finishes. Making a fist with your choking hand, use your other hand to push up on the bottom of your fist. You can use your palm, or for extra extension and a nasty choke, extend your pointer finger to the first knuckle, and bend the rest in (almost like making a circle with your pointer finger and thumb, but collapsed).

For both:

Try not to let them pass your guard. If you are applying a Guillotine from the closed guard, it can be essential to keep them trapped. The extension of your legs helps finish the choke, and keeps them from escaping. Though you can possibly finish Guillotines from a passed guard, it becomes much more difficult, so why not keep it easy?

Keep a constant pressure.  If you squeeze hard, then release, then squeeze hard, then release, your opponent will never go unconscious. Practice drilling this move with a partner, squeezing as lightly as possible at a constant rate, to see how hard you need to squeeze to finish. There’s no need to squeeze your arms out for a submission. You can finish a guillotine with surprisingly small amounts of pressure.

Don’t forget the variety of uses. A big part of what makes guillotines such a useful tool is how many positions you can use them in. Don’t forget to whip one on in places either than closed guard. It can open up opportunities for countless other techniques even if you don’t finish it.

Written by Keifer Johnson

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