Guillotine Choke: A Fundamental Submission You Must Master

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling-based martial art that has gained popularity recently due to its effectiveness in real-life situations and sport grappling competitions. One of the most essential submissions in BJJ is the highly versatile guillotine choke. 

The guillotine choke is a neck choke restricting the opponent’s blood flow and oxygen intake, leading to a potential submission.

In this article, we will dive into the mechanics of the guillotine choke, how to set it up and finish it, how to counter it, and the best ways to train it effectively. Whether a beginner or an experienced practitioner, mastering the guillotine choke can enhance your BJJ game and make you a formidable opponent on the mats.

Anatomy of the Guillotine Choke

The guillotine choke primarily targets the opponent’s neck, specifically the trachea and carotid arteries. 

The trachea is the tube that carries air from the mouth and nose to the lungs, while the carotid arteries are the two large blood vessels that carry blood to the brain. The choke can quickly render an opponent unconscious by applying pressure to these areas.

Guillotine Choke

How to Apply The Choke

The guillotine choke can be applied from various positions, but the basic mechanics are the same. To perform the choke, you must wrap one arm around the opponent’s neck while using the other to control their body. 

You can use either a one-arm or two-arm grip, depending on the variation of the guillotine choke you are using.

Once you have secured the grip, you must apply pressure to the opponent’s neck by squeezing your arms together. This will compress their trachea and carotid arteries, making it difficult for them to breathe and cutting off their blood flow. To finish the choke, you must maintain this pressure until your opponent either tap out or passes out.

Guillotine Choke Variations

There are many variations of the guillotine choke, each with unique mechanics and applications. Some of the most common variations include:


  1. Arm-in guillotine choke: In this variation, you trap your opponent’s arm between your body and their neck, making it difficult for them to defend the choke.
  2. Arm-out guillotine choke: This variation involves wrapping your arm around the opponent’s neck without trapping your arm. This can be more difficult to apply but allows more control over the opponent’s body.
  3. High elbow guillotine choke: This variation involves keeping your elbow high and tight against the opponent’s neck, making it more difficult for them to escape.
  4. Low elbow guillotine choke: This variation involves keeping your elbow down and applying pressure to the opponent’s neck with your forearm.

Finishing The Guillotine Choke

Finishing TechniqueDescription
Squeezing your armsThe most basic technique for finishing the choke. Once you have wrapped your arm around your opponent’s neck, you squeeze your arms together to compress their windpipe and cut off their blood flow.
Turning your hipsIf your opponent can defend against your initial squeeze, you can try turning your hips towards them to increase the pressure on their neck.
Walking your legsIf you are in a guard position, you can walk your legs up your opponent’s back to create additional leverage for the choke.
Rolling to your sideIf your opponent can defend against the above techniques, you can proceed to your side and use your entire body weight to apply the choke.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While the guillotine choke is a highly effective submission, several common mistakes can make it challenging to finish. Some of the most common mistakes include the following:


  1. Not securing your opponent’s neck properly: If your grip on your neck is not tight enough, they may be able to slip out of the choke.
  2. Using too much strength: While applying pressure to the choke is essential, using too much force can make it easier for your opponent to defend.
  3. Not controlling your opponent’s body: To apply the choke effectively, you must control your opponent’s body and prevent them from escaping.

Counters and Escapes

Countering the Guillotine Choke

Counter TechniquesHow to Perform
TakedownIf your opponent is attempting the choke from a standing position, shoot for a takedown. This will take them off their feet, and make it harder for them to apply the choke.
SprawlingIf your opponent attempts the choke from a takedown, sprawl to make it more difficult for them to wrap their arm around your neck. To sprawl, drop your hips and bring your legs back as far as possible while keeping your chest up.
Counter with your own submissionIf your opponent attempts the choke, you can try countering with your own submissions, such as a kimura or armbar. This requires quick thinking and technical skill. Be sure to practice these submissions regularly.

Escaping The Guillotine CHoke

Escape TechniquesHow to Perform
Turn your headIf your opponent is applying the choke from the front, turn your head to the side to relieve pressure on your neck. This can give you enough space to escape or transition to another position.
Posture upIf you are in a guard position, posture up by straightening your back and lifting your head. This can relieve pressure on your neck and make it harder for your opponent to apply the choke. Be careful not to posture up too much, as this can make you vulnerable to other submissions.
Roll to your backIf your opponent is applying the choke from the side, roll to your back to relieve pressure on your neck and give you more room to escape. Once on your back, you can use your legs to push your opponent away and create space. Be sure to move quickly and use this opportunity to escape or transition to another position.

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The guillotine choke is a total submission that every grappler should master. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, the choke is a versatile technique that can be used in various situations.

By understanding the mechanics of the choke, learning how to set it up, and mastering the finishing techniques, you can add a powerful submission to your grappling repertoire. Additionally, you can become a more well-rounded and effective grappler by knowing how to defend against the choke and counter your opponent’s attempts.

To master the choke, it is essential to train the technique regularly, apply it in live training, and troubleshoot common mistakes. By following the training tips outlined in this article, you can improve your technique and become a more confident and skilled grappler.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is the guillotine choke effective in all grappling styles? 

A: The guillotine choke is a versatile submission used in various grappling styles, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and submission grappling.

Q: Can the guillotine choke be used as a counter-submission? 

A: The guillotine choke can be used as a counter-submission if your opponent attempts a takedown or shoots for a single-leg or double-leg takedown.

Q: Can the guillotine choke be used in MMA? 

A: Yes, the choke is a popular submission in MMA due to the close-range nature of the sport. It can be used to defend against takedowns, as a submission from the guard, or when standing against the cage.

Q: What are the most common mistakes to avoid when applying the guillotine choke? 

A: Common mistakes include improper form and positioning, lack of patience in setting up the choke, and focusing solely on the choke without being prepared to transition to other submissions or techniques.

Q: Is the guillotine choke safe to practice and apply? 

A: Like all grappling techniques, the  choke can be dangerous if improperly applied. Training the technique with a qualified instructor and applying the choke safely and responsibly in live training and competition is essential.

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