I’m going to confess right off the bat that I love using the triangle during my rolling sessions. Whenever I remember to actually focus on what I’m doing out there, I like to keep my legs in my back pocket to use when I need them. When rolling, people oftentimes forget about legs and to have them tucked away, ready to use as a powerful submission mechanism is great.
I study the triangle a lot and when I do, I usually look for various setups. I’m not too much into the finishes anymore because I think I’ve got a handle on them. I can generally submit anyone once I’ve got a nice clamp around their neck, unless of course, they’re giant and they simply overpower me. I’m not going to have someone bending my legs all over the place just so I can get a tap.
Triangle setups are probably the most important thing I can look at when I’m studying this topic, but what I’m really trying to dig up are themes that transcend across most, if not all triangles. Because themes are what I’m going to rely on when I’m all out of breath, sweaty and can’t think anymore. (Well, front facing triangles that is. I’m not talking about rear or bottom triangles here.)
I do want to talk about why I like triangles so much and what I think about when I’m setting them up on the mat.
When I’m out there rolling, I don’t like to give my opponent “big” areas to block or to work with. What do I mean about “big?” Well, think of big as my chest, head, arms – basically the upper body. People are way too used to blocking and working with the heaviest part of what makes up a human. I prefer to make my opponent have to deal with smaller, more precise challenges.
Think of it this way. Pretend you’re standing in the middle of the road and you have a bus rolling towards you. You probably wouldn’t argue that you would have a tough time seeing that bus and getting out of the way as it approached you. Simple scenario as buses are “obvious.”
Now pretend that you are standing in the middle of the same road and someone shoots an arrow straight towards you. Would you still have the wherewithal to get out of the way? It’s doubtful you would. The arrowhead is much smaller than the front of the bus, almost invisible in fact. The surface area of the arrow is much more difficult to detect. I’d say that arrows are “less obvious.”
I recognize that my example above was fairly extreme, but I think it demonstrates the type of thought process players should have when choosing techniques and setups during matches. If I can avoid walking straight toward my opponent, offering a big, broad chest for them to defend against, and force them into a situation where they have to defend against only a foot, with a leg to follow, I think my chances are good. Often times, my opponents won’t think of only my foot or my leg as a threat. They’ll readily let it slide by as they retain their focus on my upper body. But at the same time, what I’m doing with my foot and leg is the beginning of the next challenge they’ll face.
When I’m setting up my triangle, I like to keep my partner broken down. Whether I’m beginning in closed guard or open, breaking my opponent down is critical. I can’t chase someone down who has good, upright posture. My legs simply aren’t that long. Also, if my opponent has good posture, they’re more likely to see what’s coming their way to start defending it. If they’re broken down, they’ll likely have their lack of vision to contend with, which is a plus for me.
To break my opponent down, I need good grips. If we’re rolling no-gi, I’ll use under hooks and a neck hook and if we’re rolling gi, I’ll use sleeve grips and hand placement behind the elbows. Working these types of grips when I’m attempting triangle submissions is also helpful practice for the rest of my game. Tons of other submissions rely on the same types of controls.
When breaking down my opponent, I always think of folding them in half. If I have them in my closed guard, I pull their head down towards me and if I’m in open guard, I use one foot on the hip and at least one hand gripping their sleeve. If I can push their hip away, while pulling their sleeve toward me, they’ll most likely end up in some sort of a folded position. Or, at the very least, an uncomfortable one.
After I get good control of my broken down partner, my main objective is to keep them there as well as to advance my submission attempt. One good way I’ve found to accomplish both of these objectives is to get a high guard. That is, to have both legs over their upper back, right under their armpits. If things are going well, I’d like to have one arm in, one arm out. The faster I can get that, the faster I can submit.
I guess what I’m trying to say here – and what the point of this post is – is that if you learn proficiency at the fundamentals of the triangle, why it’s used, how its setup and technical aspects can bait an opponent – if you can learn these things, you’ll advance the rest of your game. The trickery and skill required to pull off a decent triangle is exactly what transcends through everything else. Triangles are one of the submissions players never see coming.
I think different players are born with different instincts. From the very beginning, I knew I would fight from guard. I’ve worked out with guys who resist guard at all costs. They prefer to fight from top. Usually, the bigger, heavier guys like to fight from top. This is simply an observation that I’ve made through the years. I’m not sure which one is better because we all have our games, but what I do know is that we all have to face fighting from the guard at one point or another. So the sooner people get on their backs, the better.
There is one area I’d like to mention here that’s kind of off topic. I was going to write a post about this yesterday, but never got around to it. What I want to talk about is some advice for “younger” players. By younger, I mean white and blue belts.
Some younger players are constantly looking for ways to get better at their game. I think one of the ways they go about doing this is to look through Youtube in a very unfocused way, attempting to study various submissions, with the intent of showing up to class to demonstrate the latest and greatest to their classmates. If you’ve been practicing BJJ for any length of time, you know exactly who I’m talking about.
While their intentions are well and fine, I’d like to offer a bit of advice to make life easier. This is what I used to do way back when I played a lot of tennis and found great success with it. I’ve also used the idea with Jiu-Jitsu and have found that it helps tremendously.
Okay, here goes – two things:
1. Find a few world champs (or really high level guys) who remind you of yourself – body size, personality, weight, strength. Fall in love with them. See what they use day to day and discover what type of game they rely on. Study who they are and find interviews they’ve given. These guys are going to be the leaders for your game. If you commit yourself to focusing on only a handful of worthy individuals to guide you through your BJJ career, you’ll have a much easier time getting better and advancing. By spreading yourself too thin and watching any video that’s shown in the Youtube search results, you’re doing more harm than good. Face facts – none of us will ever learn every single technique that’s devised in this game. It’s nearly impossible.
2. Start watching tournaments and matches instead of “how to” technique videos. By watching live rolling, you’ll start developing and recognizing “styles” as opposed to segmented “spasms” of technique. Jiu-Jitsu is about flowing and constant movement. Watching technique after technique is only training yourself to start and then stop. Start and then stop. And anything you’re currently working on is bound to be seen during live rolling, with the added benefit of observing how both players react and handle various scenarios. Nothing beats real world example.
You should also watch others spar in class. If you’re sitting out to take a break or if you’re doing some sort of round robin, use your down time to soak up what some of the higher level players are doing. I can’t tell you how many times I used to sit in the lounge area of the tennis center I used to play at, watching matches of tennis. I developed my serve and forehand from simple observation of a few pros at the club. Very helpful.
I think what I’m trying to say here is to use your time wisely. If fellow students constantly show up to class in attempt to show you the technique of the day, avoid them. If others are fooling around while they should be spending time studying the higher belts, move to the corner, pop a squat and watch and wait. You’ll find yourself in a better place for it later on.
Alright, those are my thoughts for the day. I’ll leave you with a nice triangle setup by Sean Roberts (one of the guys I’ve chosen to study).
Athletic Body Care: The Perfect Triangle Choke w/ Sean Roberts