In Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, no other move exemplifies effective simplicity better than the guillotine choke.
The guillotine choke is one of the most intuitive moves that any white belt will learn, and it’s one of the first chokes worth mastering. Many athletes in both BJJ and MMA have used the guillotine choke to win fights; some grapplers from the Alphamale Gym have even developed a single-arm deep-arm trap iteration of the move.
The guillotine choke is a must-have in any BJJ athlete’s arsenal. Learn how to do a guillotine choke with our guide.
What’s a Guillotine Choke?
When an athlete uses a guillotine choke in a match, the athlete forces the opponent’s head under the armpits. The athlete then applies pressure on the trachea using the forearm.
The athlete then squeezes the trachea by pulling the forearm up with the other hand while raising the chest for added pressure. The pressure from both the athlete’s chest and forearm crushes the windpipe, causing enough pain to force the opponent to tap.
The other way to apply this is a “blood choke” that cuts circulation to the brain. The technique is similar to the earlier method, but to stem circulation to the brain, the athlete must angle the choking arm to the point where the antecubital fossa (the cavity created by the elbow) is directly under the chin.
Angling the arm out causes the upper aspect of the forearm and the lower end of the bicep head to pressure the carotid arteries, cutting off blood flow to the brain. Usually, the opponent doesn’t tap due to the absence of pain, but they pass out later on.
When to Use a Guillotine Choke
Here are some of the best times for BJJ athletes to use the guillotine choke:
From the Bottom of the Guard
There are many options for submissions from the guard position. One of the most common and effective is the guillotine.
In the guard position, the opponent on top will often try to posture up to avoid submissions. The athlete in the guard position must keep the opponent’s head low to open up opportunities for submissions. The opponent’s head will often be in a position where the athlete can sit up, push the opponent’s head down, and position the forearm around the opponent’s windpipe.
During a Clinch
In a match on the mat or against the fence, a clinch puts the opponent’s head within a grappler’s reach — close enough for a guillotine.
During the clinch, the grappler will be in a collar and elbow tie-up with the opponent. The opponent can opt for a quick finish by snapping the back of the head down. The grappler then wraps the forearm around the neck for the guillotine finish.
Off a Sprawl
Opponents will shoot for takedowns. Unless the takedown is a throw, the opponent’s head will be in a position that presents an opportunity for a guillotine choke.
As soon as opponents shoot for takedowns, athletes can “stuff” the takedown by performing a sprawl. To sprawl, grapplers should push their opponents’ heads down to the mat. As well, grapplers should do this while shooting their legs back to avoid a secondary takedown attempt from opponents.
The sprawl renders the opponent’s head exposed. All the athlete needs to do is slide the forearm under the chin, grab the hand or wrist with the free hand, and squeeze to finish the guillotine.
How to Perform the Guillotine Choke
A guillotine is essentially a choke where the opponent’s head is under the armpit. In short, the mechanics and finish of the choke are the same.
Here’s a breakdown of how to perform the guillotine choke, from start to tap-inducing finish:
1. The Head Snap and Opening of the Guard
The head snap is a violent tug on the back of the opponent’s head or the nape. The head snap places the opponent’s head below the level of the grappler’s armpit, setting the opponent up for the guillotine.
While snapping the head down, the grappler needs to sit up to encase the neck under the armpit. To do this, the grappler needs to open the guard by unlocking the legs for a moment.
2. Wrap the Arm Around the Opponent’s Neck
The grappler must sit up and loop the choking arm over the opponent. The forearm must be directly on the opponent’s throat. Alternatively, the grappler can place the choking arm’s hand higher so that the bicep and forearm pressure the sides of the neck.
To maximize the chances of finishing the move, the grappler needs to completely place the back of the opponent’s head under the armpit. No part of the back of the opponent’s head or neck should be visible.
3. Squeeze with the Free Hand
With the choking arm locked on the trachea or carotid arteries, the grappler can lock the choke using the free hand. To lock the choke, the athlete can grab the opposite wrist and pull it towards the chest. This will add pressure to the choke and prevent escape.
While squeezing with the free hand, grapplers close their guard again by locking their legs to prevent the opponent from escaping.
4. Raise the Chest While Squeezing
Raising the chest allows a grappler to add pressure to the neck without using more arm strength. As the grappler squeezes while raising the chest, the back of the opponent’s neck and head should remain completely under the armpit.
Variations of the Guillotine Choke
The guillotine choke comes in several variations, most of which depend on the position from which grapplers attempt the choke and the position of the choking arm.
Here are some other versions of the guillotine choke:
Standing Guillotine Choke
This version of the guillotine choke is common during the clinch or tie-up. The standing guillotine choke is preferable to a takedown if the grappler wants to finish the fight early.
To perform the standing guillotine choke, the grappler can snap the opponent’s head down. Right away, the grappler can latch onto the head with the opponent’s head under the armpit. From here, the grappler can finish the choke by placing the forearm on the windpipe and squeezing with the help of the free hand.
Guillotine from the Guard
This is the most common version of the guillotine. From the bottom of the guard position, the athlete must snap the head down and unlock the guard momentarily. Wrapping the arm around the opponent’s neck, the grappler then applies pressure to the throat. The grappler should also re-lock the guard to prevent the opponent from rolling over to escape.
Arm-in Guillotine Choke
The arm-in guillotine locks in both the windpipe and the opponent’s arm. This takes more strength, but it’s better for preventing escape.
The grappler performs the arm-in guillotine by locking the choking arm around the windpipe and neck as in the other versions of the guillotine choke. The grappler’s free hand then comes in under the opponent’s arm.
From here, the grappler can push the opponent’s arm inward as the free hand comes in to lock the choke. As a result, the choke’s effect will resemble that of a triangle choke or arm triangle.
One-arm Guillotine Choke
The one-arm guillotine is a staple for fighters like Uriah Faber. The one-arm guillotine relies heavily on strength and favors grapplers with longer forearms.
The one-arm guillotine starts the same way as other versions. The choking arm then loops around the neck and windpipe as the grappler sits back and sweeps the leg over the opponent’s arm.
The leg denies the opponent an opportunity to escape or roll. To lock the choking arm in, grapplers can grab their napes or the lapels of their gis.
How to Escape a Guillotine Choke
In every version of the guillotine choke, the forearm has to be on the throat. Hence, grapplers can begin defending against guillotines by protecting the windpipe. The simplest way to protect the windpipe is to tuck the chin in as soon as the opponent goes for a head snap.
Another key ingredient to a successful guillotine attempt is squeezing with both the arms and the chest. This requires the opponent to be tight on the grappler. The grappler can push the head away as the opponent goes for the choke to create more space.
While there is space, the grappler can posture up. This buys the grappler enough time to plan a guard pass or a scramble.
Got the Guillotine Choke Down? Try It Out at Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu!
Knowing how to do a guillotine choke is one of the most adaptable tools that any grappler can have. Its easy application and high success rate make it a BJJ choke worth mastering.
Mastery comes with repetition and application. For an environment that supports you in your BJJ journey, check out Granite Bay Jiu-jitsu. You can try a free week to begin mastering your guillotine choke and more!