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Secrets of the Triangle Choke

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Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Referring to the lack of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu knowledge possessed by current judges in the sport of MMA, Dana White so eloquently stated, “I don’t think you should be judging or reffing a fight unless you’ve actually rolled and know what a submission feels like.”

Having the judges feel the devastating effects of a submission, such as the triangle choke, would give them further insight into the intricacies surrounding the grappling aspect of MMA. The triangle choke is a submission designed to render an opponent unconscious by utilizing leverage and certain principles of physics. This article will focus on the application and technical analysis of one of the most common submissions seen in the octagon and ring.

When former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva (33-5-0) defeated Daiju Takase (9-13-2), Travis Lutter (10-6-0), and Chael Sonnen (29-14-1), he finished his opponents with a triangle choke, with the exception of Chael Sonnen, in which he utilized a triangle-armbar variation. The success of the triangle-choke in MMA is unquestioned, for many fighters have finished their opponent with this submission or some form of triangle-choke variation.

The Mechanics:

The secret to executing a successful triangle choke is to understand the mechanics behind it. This submission is called a triangle-choke because of the triangle formed by your hips and legs, with your hips being one point of the triangle, and your knees being the other two points. This submission is effective because it constricts the blood supply to the brain. Blood is supplied to the brain by a pair of carotid arteries that are located on the neck, one on each side. As one artery is closed off by one of your legs, and the other artery is being closed off by your opponent’s own arm that is being squeezed by your other leg, the brain no longer receives oxygenated blood and proceeds to shut down leaving your opponent unconscious. This vice-like submission, for its efficiency and versatility, is a favorite amongst Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and MMA fighters alike.

The Setup and Execution:

I’d like to first state that the triangle-choke can be applied from various positions, however the most common and widely seen position is from when a fighter is on their back with their opponent in their guard. See picture below.

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As your opponent rains down punches in an attempt to inflict damage, you must defend yourself by tying up their arms, preferably by taking control of your opponent’s wrist. See pictures below.

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Once wrist control has been established, one of your opponent’s arms and his/her head must be isolated in order to apply the triangle choke. This can be done by pulling one arm towards your head, while pushing your opponent’s other arm through your legs. As you focus on your hands to manipulate your opponent’s arms, open your guard (legs) to anticipate your attack. See pictures below.

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Place your foot (same side as the arm you pulled through) on your opponents hip bone, using it as a step, to elevate your hips in order to close the distance between your hips and your opponents neck. At the same time, use your other leg (same side of your opponent’s arm that has been pushed through your legs), to club your opponent’s head with your leg, connecting the back of your knee against your opponent’s neck. Immediately grab your shin, essentially controlling your opponent’s posture, caging them within your limbs. Now here’s the secret to executing a successful and efficient triangle choke; Push off with your leg that’s on your opponent’s hip (keep holding your other shin to maintain control of your opponent’s posture), and pivot your hips towards your leg that’s draped over your opponent’s back to help apply further pressure on your opponent’s neck. This added pressure, created from a slight angle change, increases the constricting force of your choke. See pictures below.

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To lock up the triangle-choke, place your free leg (the leg on the same side of your opponent’s arm that you pulled towards your head), over the leg that’s draped over your opponents back and that you’re currently holding. The back of the knee (the free leg) should be connected with the ankle of the other leg, forming a figure-four. See picture below.

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Once the triangle choke has been established, place your hands on the back of your opponent’s head, pulling his head down while lifting your hips to tighten the choke. At the same time, squeeze your knees together creating a vice that applies pressure on both sides of your opponent’s neck. See pictures below.

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After making your opponent either tap or go unconscious, stand up with your arms raised victorious knowing you have applied what you’ve learned in this article.

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Keep training, you’re that much closer to the 10,000-hour mark. Special thanks goes out to Todd Aimer and his team at Z-Ultimate Martial Arts in Huntington Beach, CA. Check out their ever-growing program at MartialArtsHB.com

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Scott McCamish
Scott’s passion for combat sports has transformed into a lifestyle. After wrestling in high school, he began training in the arts of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and boxing, turning his passion into a career as a trainer and coach at a local MMA gym in Lake Forest, California. With over five years as both a trainer and a high school wrestling coach, he has made it a goal to share his knowledge while attempting to provide people with a healthier lifestyle. After receiving his brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the tutelage of world-class coach, Lucas Leite, Scott decided to go back to school where he is currently pursuing an English degree at UCLA. His analytical and writing skills coupled with his extensive knowledge of combat sports, has led him to seek out a career as an MMA journalist.