When it comes to submissions, I have always seemed to prefer a strangle or choke submission over a joint lock submission. I think from a self defense perspective it makes sense to lean this direction because an opponent with a broken arm can still be dangerous and attack you, whereas an opponent that is unconscious is fairly safe for the time being. Regardless or your preference, as I am certain you have figured out at this point, Jiu Jitsu requires us to learn a lot of various submissions, both strangle and joint manipulation. In order to be ready for any type of attacker, or any self defense situation, we must have a vast knowledge of the techniques available to us.
Of all of the strangle submissions out there, I took a particular interest in the guillotine choke. What I liked most about this choke is you can find it anywhere and everywhere. I found myself hunting for this from bottom half guard and having some success from there, which led to me looking for this when I was in top half guard and so on. I may not be the subject matter expert on all things guillotine, but I feel pretty confident saying it may be one of the most versatile strangle submissions available to us today.
The frustrations that come along with the guillotine are plentiful. So many times you get the choke setup and start squeezing and squeezing until your face is almost purple, yet, the opponent is not tapping… why? Are they super human? Maybe they have traps like rocky mountains and as a result very little neck to attack?
Chances are, we are just missing a small detail that will help us refine our technique and not only get the tap, but do so much more efficiently. It’s always an interesting reminder when I watch high level blackbelts compete. They rarely seem to be straining as a result of using all their might to finish a submission, which just further proves that technique beats strength. As a quick note; while I fully believe technique does beat strength, I would also argue that when two opponents of similar size and skill meet, strength will be a determining factor in who the victor is in this match.
When it comes to the guillotine, there is no shortage of tips, tricks and “pro moves”. I have personally found a liking for Neil Melanson’s teaching style. I like the perspective on the techniques he teaches, having come from a catch wrestling background I find it interesting to see how he transitions from one position to the next, or most notably thus far, how he uses any and every part of his body to maintain pressure on his opponent at all times.
Let’s take a look at the detailed breakdown titled “Killer Guillotine” by Neil Melanson”.
“Some guillotines break the rules, this is one of those that breaks the rules” – Neil Melanson
First, let’s take a look at the grip modification Neil likes to use. Rather than the typical palm over the knuckles of the choking hand, Neil prefers an opposite grip. As shown below it is still palm over knuckles, however, he is using his “choking arm” hand to grab the other hand ensuring he is grabbing over his thumb. The higher up on his hand he is able to grab the tighter the choke will be.
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Now that we have a basic understanding of the grip modification, let’s take a look at how Neil uses this grip and ultimately this choke to submit his opponents, or at the very least, bully them over to their hip giving him a dominate top position where he can begin working other attacks, and will have scored points in a points based tournament.
Neil starts by putting his left arm around his opponent’s neck, just as we would start any guillotine choke submission. This is where the “typical” stops though. Next with his left hand Neil is grabbing the opponents chin and leveraging it to move his opponents head back and forth pulling the opponent towards himself the entire time to break down the opponent’s posture. He is also using shoulder pressure into the back of the opponent’s neck to help establish control and keep the posture broken down.
Neil notes that he must hide his right hand until he is ready to connect his hands. If the opponent gets control of his right hand, the choke is no longer an option.
Next, Neil drops his shoulder into his opponent driving them down and opening up their neck. He then is able to bring in his second hand. With his second hand Neil is making a fist and putting his pinky knuckle in the center of his opponent’s throat. Once this hand is in place he lets go of the chin with his left hand and takes his left hand to meet his right hand doing the grip shown above. His right hand is palm down over his left hand as high as possible on his left hand, ideally gripping over his left thumb.
Now all that is left is to finish. In order to finish, a lot of people try pulling their arm into the opponent’s neck, or squeezing like their life depends on it, but with wide elbows. In order to finish in the most effective manner possible, once we have our grip we simply bring our elbows tight to the sides of our body, once here, now we can begin squeezing in a motion that could be described as trying to hug yourself. In bringing the elbows to our sides we eliminate the space available for the opponent to find a pocket to relive pressure and still breathe. As we pull into our body (hugging ourselves) the space is further eliminated giving the opponent only two choices, tap or take a nap.
Neil adds one last variation in this free technique breakdown video titled “Killer Guillotine”. He shows how to execute this technique if you are in bottom half guard.
Starting in bottom half guard he must first control the opponents arm to ensure the are not able to get an overhook and prevent him from being able to finish the guillotine. He shows various methods of doing this including a single wrist grip, a two on one grip, a kimura attack setup, etcetera. Neil chooses to go for a Kimura, he grabs the opponent’s left wrist with his right hand and sits up like he si going to attack the opponent’s left arm with his left arm but instead wraps his left arm over the opponent’s neck and grabs the chin, just as he did in the breakdown above.
From here he needs to create space and get his hips out from under his opponent. To do this he simply uses his opponent to hold his weight and scoots his butt back. Now we can sit up without the need to use his right hand (currently still gripping the opponent’s left hand) to begin finishing his guillotine submission. Neil let’s go of the opponent’s wrist and pulls their chin with his left hand creating space for his right fist to enter smoothly and be placed on his opponent’s neck.
He can now secure his grip, releasing control of the chin to cover his fist and secure his grip. At this point he tucks his elbows tight and waits for the opponent to drive into him. Once the opponent drives into him he allows this to happen, rolling back to his back while keeping his chest tight to the opponent. Neil does not need to do anything else at this point, because he has the grip secured, his opponent will tighten the submission for him as they drive in.
This is just one quick not even 8 minute video pulled from one of Neil Melanson’s video instructionals and made available for free as a demo of what you can expect from “the man who does everything different, yet all the big stars worship him”.
Imagine the game changing details packed into his 4 part video instructional. In just under 8 minutes Neil was able to give us a detailed technique that is different than anything I have seen before, yet proves to be very effective in not just obtaining the submission, but also controlling the opponent and bullying them over if necessary.
The full video instructional is titled “The Headhunter Guillotine Series” by Neil Melanson and can be found exclusively on BJJ Fanatics, your resource for all of the top video instruction from the best of the best.