Guillotine Choke: How to do and defend

One of the most basic moves in the entire BJJ arsenal is the so-called guillotine choke. For those of you that are not well-versed in history, the guillotine was a device that was very popular during the French revolution from a few centuries ago – and it was used to behead the enemies of the revolution. By knowing this you will have an idea about what the BJJ guillotine is all about.

How to perform the guillotine choke

The most basic way to do a guillotine choke comes from the classical guard position in BJJ when you have a bottom guard. You can then do a crunch and put your arm around your opponent’s head in a way that your hand will rest directly under your opponent’s throat.  Then use your other hand to clasp your first hand and then you begin to twist your opponent’s head.

This will result in your opponent losing consciousness and going to sleep, or, much more seriously, in a serious injury to your opponent’s neck. The guillotine as a move is very effective and should never be taken lightly by the BJJ practitioners.

Variations of the move


That being said, the guillotine is a flexible move and it has several variations. One of the most popular variations of this move was popularized by BJJ legend Marcelo Garcia – and it’s unhappily called the Marcelotine in his honor. The difference between the regular guillotine and the Marcelotine is that here you will put your forearms over your opponent’s trapezius muscles. This will put additional leverage on your opponent’s neck and it will increase the odds of the move being successful – if you can perform it right.

Arm-in guillotine choke

Then there’s the arm-in guillotine. You begin the move in the same way – you wrap your arm around your opponent’s head and under his throat, but you then clasp this arm of yours under the arm of your opponent. This submission is frequently seen in MMA matches – but this is not a 100% effective move and if you don’t do it exactly right then you may get your muscles burned out in the process for nothing. If you wish to see a demonstration of a failed application of this variant, then check the first fight of Woodley vs. Thompson in the UFC.

One-arm guillotine choke

Another version of the move is the one-arm guillotine. This is best done from the mount position but it can also be done from the half-guard. From the mount, you will wrap your hand around our opponent’s head and throat and then you will do two things: you will lift up your opponent’s head while pushing his body down with your hips. When done right this will create just enough pressure for your opponent to go to sleep or tap out. A notable example of this variation can be seen in the first fight of Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold in the UFC.

Defending the guillotine choke

There are a few ways in which you can escape from this move as well. If you can see that your opponent is gunning for your neck and for the guillotine move – then you can shrink your neck much like turtles do in the face of danger – and use your arms to block your opponent’s arms. If you’re caught from bottom guard then the move will be ineffective if you can pass your opponent’s guard and into side-control.

A lot of BJJ novices make the mistake of continuing to hold to the guillotine for dear life when the choke is doomed to fail – in this way you even risk to get choked out with a Von Flue Choke. Finally, if your opponent has wrapped his hand around your head and clasped his hand with his other hand, then you can throw your arm behind your opponent’s back. This will alleviate the pressure to a great degree and it may enable you to get out of the predicament.