How to do the Guillotine Choke

How to do the Guillotine Choke

The guillotine choke is one of the simplest and most powerful chokes in grappling. It is one of the simplest chokes to apply and also one of the most versatile.

A guillotine choke can either be a blood or wind choke depending on how the submission is being held.

This submission has been around for centuries used ancient grappling forms before it got it’s current name. It's named after the French torture device meant for beheading prisoners.

In Judo, the name for a guillotine choke is known as Mae Hidaka Jime that translates to front naked choke. (opposite a reverse naked choke)

In this guide, we are going to break down the mechanics of a guillotine choke. We’ll show you how to set it up along with different variations and how to hit from every position possible.

How to Perform a Basic Guillotine Choke

Next to a rear naked choke, the mechanics of a guillotine choke are one of the simplest in BJJ. The choke looks similar to a front headlock. You wrap one arm around the opponent’s neck in a circular motion and connect your hands to lock in the guillotine. 

The inside forearm of your choke hand is what chokes the opponent. To finish the choke do a side crunch, while putting the squeeze on their neck.

It looks as if the opponent is an actual guillotine. Although, the choke itself is actually more similar to being choked with a noose. There’s also little details with grips and angles we’ll get into with the different positions and set ups.

Arm In vs No Arm Guillotine Choke

Generally guillotine chokes are done with no arms or one arm. Which type you use depends on the situation and position you’re in.

For tips on how to perform a great arm in guillotine watch this video of Renzo Gracie.  He is world renown for his great arm in guillotine choke.

What are the Types of Guillotine Grips?

There isn’t just one particular grip to perform a guillotine. There’s a lot and here are some of the most popular grips and how to execute them.

Ball in Socket: This basic grip involves grabbing the fist/wrist of your choke hand. It’s a tight grip and quite common for putting on guillotines.

10 Finger Grip: Generally done from a front headlock, you cup both hands palm on the opponent’s throat.

High Elbow: Get your choke hand real deep, where your hand is on the opposite side of the neck. Reach with your other hand in between their shoulder blade and neck with your elbow high.

Pretzel Grip: This grip is a palm to palm grip around the neck with both hands facing down. It’s a tight grip and your hands look like a pretzel, hence the name.

Check out world champion Gary Tonon show one of his favorite high elbow guillotines in this video:      

What Positions Can You Lock In the Guillotine Choke?

Another thing that makes the guillotine choke such a great  technique is you can hit it from so many positions. Down below are some of the positions you can land the choke with details on the set ups.  

Guillotine Choke from Guard

One common way to set up a guillotine choke is setting it up by faking a sweep. You act like you’re going for a hip bump sweep and when they defend it their neck is open. Wrap your hand around their neck to lock the choke in and close your guard. It’s a basic and super effective set u to get the guillotine choke.

Another way to take a guillotine from guard is if the opponent makes a mistake with their posture. If they’re leaning over with their neck exposed just sit up and take their neck for the guillotine.

Here is a video of one of the Greatest of All Time - Marcelo Garcia giving pointers on the guillotine choke from guard.

Guillotine Choke from Standing

When a match starts, you can immediately start setting up a guillotine choke from the initial tie up. Start by clinching their neck with one arm and controlling the opponent’s arm/wrist with the other. Push them back to make them push back and then snap their head down and set up your guillotine. You can finish from standing with a squeeze/side crunch or drag them down to guard/half guard

This choke is a great option after you defend a takedown. When you’re sprawled out and stuffed their takedown, they may leave their neck exposed. If they do this you can wrap up a guillotine choke easy and pull them into guard to finish.

Nick Diaz in this video shows one his favorite standing set ups for guillotines along with other tips:

Guillotine Choke from Side Mount

There are a few different set ups to get a guillotine from side mount. One in particular starts by pulling the opponent onto their side. When you do this, they might go for a leg and leave their neck exposed. Lock your grips and roll to your guard to finish or you can stay on top if you have the leverage.

Marcelo Garcia explains this set up better in another video here: 

Guillotine Choke from Full Mount

Grabbing a guillotine choke from mount is possible and you can still maintain the position if you miss it.  From mount you can pummel their head/arms a bit to get them to go for an underhook. When they go for the underhook it can leave their neck exposed for a guillotine.

Guillotine Choke from Turtle/Side Turtle Position

There are some powerful arm in and no arm guillotines you can hit from the turtle position. You can grab a grip and slide in from the front. There is also a good technique from the side you hit when you bait them into raising their head.

Chewjistu in this video shows a great guillotine set up from turtle and also an RNC option:

Some Key Details to Consider

Here are a list of tips to help you lock in guillotine chokes from these positions.

  1. Break Their Posture: In order to finish a guillotine you must break their posture first. Their head needs to be arched down or they can lift their head up and escape easier.
  2. Chinstrap: A chinstrap is where you cup under an opponent’s chin with your hand. It gives great control and I would recommend learning it to set up guillotines.      
  3. Grab The Choke Arm Hand/Wrist: To execute the choke you need to grab the hand/wrist of the choke hand. If you grab the hand/wrist of your outside hand, the choke is incorrect.
  4. Wrap The Arm Under The Chin: You need to wrap the choke arm under their chin. If your wrap around their face it becomes a face lock. Very painful, but not a guillotine choke.
  5. Don’t Fall Straight Back: Don’t fall straight to your back when you get the choke. Fall back at an angle to make it a tighter choke.
  6. Lock Grips Before Pulling Guard: If you don’t have your grips set, then you don’t have a choke. Lock your grips first or they will escape.
  7. Don’t Hold Your Breath: Some people have a tendency to hold their breath when squeezing. If you do this, you will gas out and have problems if you don’t finish the choke.
  8. Let It Go If They Pass Guard: If you have a guillotine choke and the opponent passes guard, you lost it. Let it go and defend or you’re in danger of being put in a Von Flue Choke!

How To Defend The Guillotine Choke

  • Grab their Wrist: When the opponent has the guillotine wrapped around your neck, you need to do two important details to defend it. Grab the wrist of their choke and put your arm over their shoulder.                                                                                                                                                        
    By grabbing the wrist of their choke hand and lifting your chin up it gives you space to breathe. At the same time take your other arm over their shoulder.                                                                                                                                
    Doing this while grabbing their wrist relieves pressure and the opponent will either give it up or try to counter. It works whether they try to guillotine you on the ground or from standing. 
  • Hop over their Guard: When the opponent goes for a guillotine and tries to fall back into guard, you need to hop their guard. If you can hop over their guard to the opposite side that they have your head, you’re out of it.  

    They immediately have to let it go and start defending side control. Be sure not to hop over the same side they have your head or it’ll make the choke tighter! 
  • Pull Guard: As soon as they break you down and grab your neck, you can pull guard as a defense. Either closed guard or butterfly guard will work depending on your preference.  

    Closed guard will still be uncomfortable on your neck, but it prevents them from arching their back for the squeeze. If you do this while grabbing their wrists you should be okay and they’ll probably go to something else.  

    Pulling butterfly guard offers a sweep option if you’re fast enough to react. Immediately as they grab the guillotine, you can possibly get under their hips and flip them over. These aren’t the best defenses, but they’re better than getting submitted. 

Final Thoughts

The guillotine choke is one of the best submissions in Jiu Jitsu and is a must learn for any practitioner

If you develop a great guillotine choke no matter your size or experience, you will always have a chance during rolling. 

All you have to do is get a hand around their neck and lock up a grip. They've got no other choice but to tap or nap!