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Guillotine 101 – How to Master This Submission

What is the Guillotine Choke in BJJ

The guillotine choke in bjj is one of the simplest and most effective submissions in brazilian jiu jitsu.

While the concept is simple enough – wrap your arms around your opponent’s head and squeeze, many peopel fail to perform this submission as effective and efficiently as they could.

While most people are able to get the squeezing aspect down, they miss out on the two other prerequesits for the guillotine submission:

  1. keeping your arms, elbows, and shoulders high
  2. crunch your upper body in to force their chin into their chest

Here are some reasons why you should master the guillotine submission:

  • it is often available in scrambles
  • it is an excellent counter to a strong wrestler
  • it offers a large amount of control over your opponent
  • it can lead to other submissions or sweeps
  • when your opponent is in bottom turtle or front head lock:
    • you can play a dilemma between going for the guillotine or to their back

In this post, we will explore the basics of the guillotine submission, common setups, and finishing details.

If you are new to BJJ then you probably heard or learned about BJJ choke already. But today, we’re going to dig deeper on what it really is. Additionally, we’ll talk about how you can utilize it in your game play. 


So what is it really? The guillotine choke is one of the earliest submissions you will learn in BJJ. It has been named after the medieval device because the mechanic or idea is the same. 

Hence, what you have to do is to wrap your arm around your opponent’s neck then lock your hands together. From here, you tighten it to strangle or choke out your opponent. From here, they can either tap out or pass out if done correctly.

what you have to do is to wrap your arm around your opponent’s neck then lock your hands together. From here, you tighten it to strangle or choke out your opponent.


Although it may sound simple, it has proven its effectiveness on the mats and in real life scenarios. So aside from being effective what’s so great about this guillotine choke? 

It’s extremely versatile. There are different variations that you can use your guillotine choke like: 

  • High elbow
  • Low elbow
  • Arm in

 Moreover, there are different positions wherein you will be able to access it like: 

  • Standing
  • Mount
  • Sprawl
  • Turtle

Therefore, if a guillotine choke has been taught to you already. I highly suggest that you master it because it’s something that you can utilize as you gradually increase in rank. In addition, you can utilize this attack not only during Gi sessions but also for No Gi.

Check out this video demonstrating the arm in a guillotine choke. 

Types of Guillotine Chokes:

High elbow

Most likely one of the tightest guillotine chokes out there is the high elbow. In addition, we can also say that the high elbow guillotine is extremely hard to defend. 

It is one of the counters you can use, if your opponent tries to defend your normal guillotine. 

In a normal guillotine choke, your opponent can defend by stopping you from locking your grip. Meanwhile, in your high elbow guillotine, you can pass this, by: 

  1. You are going over their arm.
  2. Hence, while you have your one arm controlling the head, you bring your other arm between their shoulder and neck.
  3. You can use your clavicle as a marking point to know that you are in already. 
  4. From here, angle up and tighten your grip so finish the choke. 

Here’s John Danaher, explaining how to work on your high elbow guillotine. 

Low Elbow

This is probably the most common form of guillotine chokes. Of course, since it’s a guillotine choke, then it will be quite similar to the high elbow. But what makes it different and how can you achieve it? 

  1. Find your guillotine opening. 
  2. Position yourself, choose your preferred gripping method – many prefer the a gable grip. 
  3. From here, maintain elbows low and aligned.
  4. Then finish the submission by shrugging upwards and crunching in.

It is quite easy to learn. You just have to work on making sure your hands are able to get under their chin and maintaining a position so that you can finish your attack.

Arm in Guillotine

One of the most common and effective ways to execute your guillotine choke on your opponent is by doing going for an arm in guillotine. Additionally, I can say that this guillotine choke position is quite a bit more easy to get compared to the other variations.

One of the most common entrances into the arm in guillotine is when your opponet is goinf for a take down – so it makes an excellent counter to someone more experienced with wrestling.

So how does it work?:

  1. If their head drifts down or if you utilize snap downs you can enter into the guillotine/front headlcok position
  2. Or if they go for a takedown you can sprawl then lock your hands around their head and arm
  3. The arm that goes around the arm, will grab the wrist of your choking hand. 
  4. Once your hands are together make sure to keep your elbows low and tight together. 
  5. Make sure that you control their arm by pushing it closer to their body by using your arm. This prevents them from defending. 
  6. Bend their neck downwards and turn your lat into them. 
  7. Finally, crunch your body in and from their you can choose to fall back to the mat or finish it in a standing position.

Types of grips:

10 finger

Another variation of the guillotine is with using the 10 finger grip. So what happens here? Once you have your opponent, you will now hold their chin with your one hand, then your other hand over. 

In addition to that, you can actually picture yourself holding a football. Hence, if you want to finish this, you will have to bring your arms close to you and while you tuck their head down. Lastly, make sure that you use your chest to push them down further to tighten up the choke. 

One arm finish

Did you know that most people think that you need both hands to choke? To be honest, that is incorrect! 

There are different chokes that you can finish with just one arm, like guillotine. As long as you are able to understand the mechanics, and have the correct position then you are set. 

So for the one arm finish, you wrap your arm around your opponent’s neck and tighten it with how you would angle yourself.  

Ball and Socket

Another way to work your guillotine choke is by having a ball and socket grip. The ball and socket grip is one of the basic grips you will learn in BJJ. In addition to that, you will be using this type of grip as you move ranks. 

So how do you do it? You have one hand in a cupping position facing you, while the other hand will cup, the cupping hand. Meanwhile, another variation is you can place the other hand, just above the hand and wrist.


Chinstrap is one of the most common ways to position yourself before submitting your opponent with a guillotine choke. 

So how does it work? If you are both standing, then you find their head level high, you can definitely pull their chin towards you. One thing to remember is to shrug your arm towards your body. 

Meanwhile, others like to maintain this position until they find the opening. So what they do is control their opponent with the chinstrap, as they move together on the mats standing. 

 Pretzel Grip

Eddie Bravo, founder of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, created the pretzel grip. You start off with positioning your ball and socket grip. From here, the hand that is looking at you will face away. Keep in mind that you go all the way over your thumbs. 

From here, you have to pull your grip towards your sternum. Furthermore, you will have to bring one elbow up and the other one down to finish your guillotine choke. 

When to use it?

There are different ways to use the guillotine choke. Like I mentioned earlier, you can use it when standing. This is when your opponent tries to take you down and you find your opening.

Aside from that you can use your guillotine if you are in a full guard position. Moreover, you can also find your opening in turtle position or even from a mount. 

What is so great about this extremely powerful and reliable choke, is the variation. There are so many ways for you to bring into play this attack not only during Gi class but also for No GI. 

How to Finish the Guillotine

If you are able to find your position already, you want to be able to finish your guillotine correctly. So what are the details to remember? 

  • If you fall, do not just pull your opponent towards you. You always have to maintain compression. 
  • Focus on keeping your elbows and shoulders high
  • Crunch your body down or force their chin into their chest

Keep these in mind so that you do not lose your position. 

Guillotine from full guard

One the most famous ways to get your guillotine choke is from a full guard. From landing to the mats, what will be your next move? 

  1. You are now on the ground with your full guard. 
  2. Next thing you have to do is choose an arm. In this case, let’s say I chose the right arm. 
  3. After choosing, I will scoot up to a bum sweep, then place my left arm over my opponent’s shoulder. 
  4. From here, I will wrap my left arm over their neck. 
  5. This will now leave us to the most vital detail to prevent the other person from escaping. 
  6. Once we sit back down to the mat, we angle our body to the side. 
  7. Relative to the scenario I am describing, I will angle up to my left to prevent their head from popping out. 
  8. The big question? How do I finish? Tighten your grip until they tap or pass out. 

Here are some tips: 

  • Try to switch up your grip, find one you prefer and the tighter one. 
  • In this case, a cable grip would be great because you can play it out and tighten it up. 

Here’s a full video detailing how you can do a guillotine from a full guard. 

Guillotine from turtle

If you find your opponent in a turtle position, then you have a lot of opportunity to finish them with a choke. Moreover, there are different choking attacks that you can apply like your: 

  • Darce
  • RNC 
  • Guillotine 

But today what we’ll go over is your guillotine choke from the turtle position. So how do we do it? 

  1. Maintain the turtle position. 
  2. Use your thumb, to slide your arm underneath their chin. 
  3. Go as deep as possible. 
  4. From there, slide through and fall on your but as you slide through, you pull your arm out further. 
  5. Then, you can now work on your grip and finish your guillotine choke. 

Here’s are some tips for you: 

  • Block their arm with your leg, this can prevent them from escaping. 
  • If they roll over, you can still finish your guillotine choke on a mount. 

Here’s a detailed video to help you understand further on how you can work on your guillotine choke from a turtle position.  

Guillotine from mount

So earlier we talked about how to get your guillotine from a full guard and turtle position. Now, we’ll go over how to do it from mount. 

Here’s a detailed step by step guide on how you can work on it: 

  1. You finally found yourself in a dominant position.
  2. Maintain your mount and prevent your opponent from escaping. 
  3. From here, grab their head and place it on your shoulder. In this case, I am grabbing their head with my right arm and placing it on my right shoulder. 
  4. My left hand will now move towards my left as I move my opponent’s head on my left shoulder. 
  5. From here, I will leave a space between so when my opponent pulls their arm out, I  can position my guillotine with my left arm.
  6. To add to that, I will work on my grip to be able to finish my attack.  

Here are some tips if you want to do this: 

  • Position or placement is everything. Make sure that you position before submission. 
  • Timing is everything if you want this type of choke. 

Here’s a full detailed video on how you can do your guillotine choke from mount. 

How to escape the guillotine

In case you find yourself stuck in a position where your opponent can finish you with a guillotine, do not worry! BJJ is a sport where you will always be able to counter your opponent’s moves. 

Again, it is vital to escape first and find a good position before you do a counter attack. But I do have some tips for you on how you will be able to escape that guillotine half guard bottom position: 

  1. Stay calm. Trust me, you don’t want to panic. BJJ is called the “gentle art”. Focus on your breathing so that you will be able to think clearly on how you will be able to get away from your current position. 
  2. If the scenario is, your training partner or opponent is on their knees. 
  3. From here, you will try to sit up but then they position a guillotine. 
  4. Ofcourse, you want to defend. But how? 
  5. You drop, pull and extend your upper body away from your opponent. This prevents them from being able to crunch you down and finish the attack. 
  6. Now you need to get your left leg, and place it on your opponent’s leg. 
  7. Once you’re able to place your leg in, you will have to push their right leg away. 
  8. From here, you will pin down their left leg with your right leg. 
  9. Now, the grip is still there. You will now have to work on disengaging it. 
  10. Their grip will definitely be lost here, and you can just take their arm away. 
  11. This then will expose their back and you now have the advantage to work on your attacks. 

Here’s a full video explaining how you escape by Garry Tonon: 

I hope this has been a great read. 

Keep training and learning! I am highly anticipating that you will be able to apply some of these moves and tips on your next rolling session. 

Til next time!

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