Learning and applying the triangle choke

BJJ is full of amazing techniques and moves. And if you have trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for more than a week, you’re probably already becoming aware of at least some of its most basic positions. Chances are that by now you may already know what full-guard, side-control, and mount are. There’s also a pretty good chance you’ve seen a move called the triangle choke in action. It is like that because this jiu jitsu choke is one of the most fundamental techniques that you can use in the entire arsenal of BJJ. And if you wish to learn a bit more about how to execute and defend it properly, then keep reading the rest of this article to find out.

Basics of the triangle choke

The triangle choke, in Portuguese “Triângulo” or in Japanese “Sankaku-Jime”, has its roots in Judo. In the most classic version, to execute it, the attacker must wrap his legs around the opponent’s neck.

One of the arms of the person under attack must be inside this “leg wrap” and the other one outside. The pressure of the thigh across the neck will cause the blood flow to be disrupted leading the target to either submit or pass out. The triangle is one of the most basic techniques in BJJ. This is due to its fairly simple mechanics, which makes it suitable for beginners as well. If you want to see this technique in action just check the video below. It is a presentation of 3 great triangle choke attacks variations from guard – close, medium, and long-range attacks for all situations.

The History of the Triangle in BJJ

The creation of the triangle choke is awarded to two famous Judo Masters of the early 20th century and direct students of Jigoro Kano – Tsunetane Oda and Kanemitsu Yachibei Hyoe. Even though there is a common misconception that the triangle did not exist in BJJ before Rolls Gracie, who according to some circles would have found the technique in an old Judo book, the truth is a little different. The triangle is a very old technique from Judo and it was used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from the beginning. 

Applying the triangle choke

If you want to drill it, then a good starting point is the bottom full-guard position. From there you can execute the move very easily if your opponent is not careful enough. All you need to do is grab one of his hands and push it down so that you will be able to throw your other leg over his neck. If your opponent manages to somehow clear your leg with the arm that you have pushed, then the move will fail (unless you find a way to redo it). But if you have successfully managed to throw your leg without your opponent clearing it with his arm, then you will be able to close off your leg with your other leg at the point of the ankle.

You will need to lock your first leg with the use of your second leg at the point behind the knee. If you manage to lock your legs in this way, then all that remains for you to do is to rotate to the side of your first leg in order to increase the pressure. At the same time, you need to squeeze your opponent’s carotid arteries with your thigh and his arm. Finally, you can add additional pressure by pulling down on the head of your opponent with your two free hands. This will result in an inevitable tap-out.


Although triangle choke from the guard is the most famous variation of this choke, there are many different other triangle choke variations. This includes triangle choke from the mount, rear triangle choke, and others.

Triangle choke from the back (rear triangle)

Back Control is one of the best, if not the best, positions in BJJ and there are plenty of submissions from there, rear-naked choke being most famous. Although not common, it is possible to do a triangle choke from this position. See how to do this submission in the video below.

Triangle choke from the mount

Another effective way in which you can execute this move is from the top-mount position. If you can manage to clear your opponent’s arm with one of your legs and to put that leg under your opponent’s head, then you will easily be able to roll to the side and put the triangle lock into place. Aside from the full-guard triangle choke, the triangle from mount is probably the most successfully applied version of the triangle choke.

Mastering the triangle choke

No matter who you are, what weight category, or level of advancement you are in, it is always a good idea to spend a long time mastering the triangle choke. There is a reason why it’s one of the most basic chokes in the entire arsenal of BJJ, it is a simple yet very effective technique. And if you want to improve your skills in this regard, there are several things you can do. Of course, the most important thing is practice, because it is a practice that makes perfect. However, there are other ways to improve your skills as well. And one of these great ways to improve is watching high-quality tutorial videos. That’s why the best tutorials of this type are listed below.

Triangles Enter The System by John Danaher


It’s best to learn from the best. And who will be a better teacher than recognized as one of the best grappling coaches in his generation, John Danaher? He is a bit of a living legend and is just great at explaining the techniques. And it is no different in the case of this video as well. The description of the instructional really doesn’t lie. It is really the most comprehensive course on triangles ever created.

As always, Danaher really breaks everything down and explains all the details. He is just that detail-oriented. His teachings are also very structured and extensive. Danaher shows the full picture, not just clippings. He is explaining what you are looking for and trying to do when setting up triangles etc. Moreover, this video series is very accessible for both beginners and experienced practitioners. Danaher has just a truly systematic approach and this is simply a video of great quality and an unbelievable amount of knowledge. You will definitely not regret buying it.

The Triangle Machine by Craig Jones

Craig Jones is recognized as one of the best Australian grapplers. He is both a great competitor with numerous successes and a coach from whom you can learn a lot. And with this instructional from him, you will become a real pro when it comes to triangles. Craig’s teachings are very easy to understand and to repeat on your own. Techniques are well demonstrated and he just explains everything very clearly. After watching this material you will know exactly how to get to, apply and finish the triangle. You can say that thanks to this DVD series your whole BJJ game will change. Moreover, the price of this material, especially the one on promotion, is very good.

Invisible Triangle concepts by Braulio Estima

And last but not least, triangle secrets by Braulio Estima, who with these exact triangle chokes won multiple Black Belt World Championships and ADCC Championships. Braulio Estima is actually one of the best triangle artists of all time, so it would be a crime not to include him on this list. This material just gives you a completely different perspective on various triangle entries and setups. It is because this instructional teaches not only a range of entries into the basic triangle, but also reverse and inverted triangle chokes. Estima shows entries from closed guard, De La Riva, lasso, some sweeps, spider, side control, knee on belly, etc. In the video, he shares useful details and insights. His instructions are also very clear. So if you want to use triangles more often and/or increase their effectiveness, this series will be perfect for you.


But what happens if you are inadvertently caught in a triangle choke yourself? Is there a way out? Well, many BJJ “experts” would tell you that there is an exact sequence of moves that you can execute if you want to pull out from the triangle. But for the most part, they are wrong. It’s very difficult to pull out from someone’s triangle if it’s already locked. Everything works against you, even the gravity. You will feel pressure from all sides and it’s very likely that you will begin to choke soon. But there are still some things that you could do in order to maximize your odds of surviving, even though it’s impossible to escape the triangle with a 100% efficacy, once it’s set in place.

The first thing that you need to do is to post up. This will give you room to breathe and it will block the triangle choke. However, your opponent’s legs may still be locked and chances are that your opponent will try to grab your neck and pull you down so that he can finish the choke. You need to sit still and resist these attacks. If you manage to do this for enough time, then your opponent will likely burn out his legs, as the triangle demands a big effort in this sense. After this, it will be easy for you to dismount the legs and get out of the triangle.

But your best bet is to not get into the triangle choke in the first place. Since this is a basic move that’s very quick to execute, you always need to have your wits about you. Be especially mindful if your opponent has long, strong legs because it means that it will typically be easier for him to execute the triangle. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the triangle trap and you will be fine.

Escape videos

And if you are afraid that you will not always be able to prevent a potentially dangerous situation, you can also train yourself a bit in escaping from submissions. For example, look at a video at the very bottom of the page. This and the instructional by one of the most accomplished American grapplers of all time – Tom DeBlass will be very helpful here. Be sure to just watch the video below and if you are thinking about buying Tom’s instructional, read on and learn about its advantages. 

Submission Escapes by Tom DeBlass

What’s cool about this material is that Tom’s explanations are really straightforward. He is very descriptive, which makes his teachings easier to understand. The techniques are broken down into easy-to-follow steps that anyone can understand and repeat. The techniques are not only shown in an accessible way, but they are themselves also very accessible. It means that everyone will do them, they will be good for both beginners and advanced. Generally, it is simply a comprehensive collection of escapes that will give anyone a defense a boost.