A few years ago, I visited a NAGA tournament to support a few classmates of mine. While I was there, I saw a kid, probably no older than seventeen or eighteen, competing in another area while wearing a bright red gi. I wasn’t sure what to make of the gi, but when I watched this kid submit his opponent by triangle, I thought he was the coolest thing since sliced bread.
I’m not sure – but I think there’s something about the triangle choke in BJJ that makes it special. It’s rare, it takes skill and not everyone has the body style to support it. And it just looks good. I’d even go as far as saying that it looks magazine cover good, if executed by the right person at the right time. Much more magazine worthy than a hidden clock choke. Of course I’m just talking about style and ego here because I’m sure there are many more efficient and higher percentage submissions out there, but I bet if you asked any prospective BJJ white belt what they’re interested in learning right off the bat, they’d say the armbar and the triangle.
Anyway, I saw a video this morning where Dean Lister demonstrated a fairly basic triangle defense. I believe he called it an escape, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll call it a defense. Someone tries to throw a triangle around your neck, you defend against it to move onto greener pastures. Done.
I’ve been playing with my triangle for years now and I’m fairly confident that I can submit about 80% of my opponents with it. I’ve got sort of a system to go about things. I’ve also got long legs which doesn’t hurt the situation. While I’d say that 80% is high, there are those in that 20% I would never be able to triangle. Those are the players who are either too heavy, too strong or just way better than I am. They don’t even let me get the beginning of my setup. They see me walking through the door, slap my hand and immediately take my legs out of the equation. And to be honest with you, that 80% is most likely getting smaller because as I roll with people more and more, they learn what they need to do to steer clear of the lower half of my body. Our first roll together, yeah, I can sneak a few triangles in there. The next day, about half. The next day, they’ve learned to throw some wrestling kung fu my way and pin my legs to the ground. I find myself in the very annoying position of trying to escape side control. Really? Side control?
But still, I know what needs to get done for me to submit my opponent this way. And really, it’s all in the hips. If I can’t move my hips to line up correctly and make my body perpendicular to my partner’s, all I’m going to find myself doing is squeezing the poor guy’s head until it turns purple. I may even pull the back of his head down in case my instructor’s looking or something, but let me assure you, I most likely won’t get the submission. Unless, of course, it’s a new guy and he has no idea what’s happening.
Take a look at Dean’s video and then I’ll talk about the major points below.
Dean Lister Shows Triangle Defense With Keenan Cornelius
Okay, did you watch it? Good. Let’s go over what you would need to do to prevent my long legs from getting in the way of blood flowing to your brain or air getting into your lungs. I’m going to use myself in this discussion because I know no one’s brain better.
Resistance – The first thing Dean mentioned was that you need to resist your opponent’s attempt at getting a good connection. If you’ll notice at 1:42, you see Dean bringing his right arm across Keenan’s body to plant on the ground. Forget about MMA for a second and only think about sport BJJ. When I throw my legs around the upper portion of your body and start getting in position for a triangle choke, what’s the first thing I’m going to try to do after getting a nice tight high guard? I’m going to start pivoting my body to the right. As I said above, I’m going to attempt to move my hips in perpendicular fashion to yours. By posting your hands to the ground and positioning your arms to block my hips, you effectively thwart my attempt and keep our bodies aligned in parallel.
The reason I called this escape a defense above, is particularly because of this very first counter to the triangle. If planting your hands next to my hips and keeping space between your neck and my inner knee was all you were to do, you’d probably tire my legs to the point of me giving up the position. We’ll call this a good triangle resistance.
Survival – Just a few lines above, I talked about moving your head in such a way that would aggravate the connection I’m trying to achieve between the innermost portion of my knee and your neck. In order for my triangle to be successful, I surely need that connection. If you were to dive into my position as Dean mentions in the video and bring your shoulder over to block me, you’d be in good shape.
Escape – At 3:10, look at the way Dean walks his body in the opposite direction of where I would want my hips to move. If I need my hips to travel in one direction and my opponent essentially walks them to another, he’s going to escape my triangle. Or at the very least render it ineffective. I may play stubborn for a while and just hold on, but all I do with that is take a few years off the life of my knees. And they’re bad enough as it is.
Check out how Dean keeps walking to his right. He goes and goes until the triangle is broken. Most guys, including me, can’t take that kind of pressure, especially against someone who’s got his hands planted to the ground in such a way that I’m basically stuck. In other words, I’m getting stacked and the only one who is allowing it to continue is me. Pure stubbornness.
So really, if you’re trying to get out of someone’s triangle, the first line of defense is to see it coming from a mile away. Start working your way out of a submission that hasn’t even begun yet. If your opponent does manage to get his legs up there and in position, DO NOT get lazy. There’s nothing I love more than watching someone allow me to swivel my hips around and get all comfy because once I’m in good position, they’re toast. If my hips are where they’re supposed to be and, as instructor Seth says, I’m looking into your ear, you can fight all you want. Once I tighten my hamstring, you’re going nowhere. It’s that little tap tap tap I’m looking for that makes it worth the time.
If your opponent gets past the seeming point of no return, start working one of the many triangle escapes out there. Grab the leg, throw it to the ground. Screw up your opponent’s setup and move your body the opposite way of where your opponent wants it.
Do you have a take on this? What’s your favorite triangle defense? Once you feel you’re stuck, what do you do?