Anyone who’s been a fan of MMA and grappling knows that the triangle choke is one of most common and effective counter attack in the sport today. The figure-four chokehold constricts the blood flow from the carotid arteries to the brain by encircling the opponent’s neck and one arm with the legs in a configuration similar to the shape of a triangle, giving the ability to render the opponent unconscious. Although it can be applied from various positions, it is mostly employed on the guard, or open guard positions.
It’s such a fundamental technique that it became one of the most used submissions in MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions. An early example of triangle choke being used in MMA was in UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors, when Royce Gracie applied the choke to Dan Severn that led to a tap out.
Within months of training you’ll be shown how to do a triangle choke, regardless of where you train MMA or Jiu Jitsu. That’s the same time you’ll be taught how to escape and counter them. The best and easiest way to avoid the triangle is to not get caught in it. Not getting caught means never having one of your arms in between your opponent’s legs while the other arm is outside. It is always important to either have both of your arms above your opponent’s guard or have both arms below the guard. Doing so will make it very difficult for your opponent to set up a triangle choke.
But sometimes, you do get caught. So if you end up in the triangle choke position, here are the 6 simple escapes you can use:
1. Stack and Spin Defense
This is probably the easiest to pull off when you’re in a triangle. Once caught, push your fist into the ground next to your opponent’s head, across your body. The purpose of using your fist to stand up is to stop your opponent from turning his head. Bring your leg over his head while grabbing his far leg and either straighten your arms or hold his leg in place as you fall back to release the triangle. Your weight should be bearing down on your opponent to prevent him from maneuvering into a position that will enable him to hyperextend your arm.
2. Posture Up
Usually, when your opponent catches you in a triangle, it is not fully locked-on right away. You can posture up immediately when your opponent attacks for the choke. Get your hips off your heels as you get your heads up. Put your hands inside the knees then shake them off to open their guard. Once you increase the opening between the opponent’s knees, you can shoot your other hand inside and secure a guard position.
3. Knee Pry
This technique lets you easily break free from the triangle choke by utilizing a subtle weight shift towards your opponent’s body. First, you need to plant your elbow to the ground to create space to breathe as you grab your opponent’s knee. From there, you can start stacking up and driving forward to release the triangle choke. As you pass his back, you can control him from the side mount.
4. Tail Bone Thrust
Yes, I’m one of those who are a little skeptic with this technique. But after trying it out on training, I can now conclude that this escape technique is really effective despite of its unconventional approach. The technique starts off by grabbing your opponent’s knees with both of your hands and tipping it to the ground. As you start to walk your body around, you need to thrust your knee to the tail bone and start pushing it really hard, making it really uncomfortable for your opponent.
5. Stacking to Neck Crank
MMA Legend Bas Rutten shows us an effective defense against the triangle choke. Placing your body weight on your opponent will prevent him from straightening out to lock the triangle. It also makes it tough for them to breathe. Combining it with a neck crank will surely put a lot of stress on his neck leaving your opponent with no choice but to release you.
6. Double Leg Bridge
Another common escape when caught in the triangle choke is by standing up to your feet and pulling the opponent’s far leg a little bit over their head. Plant your foot around over his shoulder and sit down to extend the legs and the body. In that way, you can relieve the pressure and the choke. This technique needs to be done as quickly as possible to prevent your opponent from hooking his hands to your leg.
Being caught in a triangle is not a pleasant place to be and escaping from the choke will never be easy, but practicing the concepts and techniques in these videos will at least give you a chance in escaping and reversing the figure-four lock.