Ultimate Submissions: Breaking down the arm triangle choke


It is Wednesday, Maniacs, and that means it is time for another adventure into the world of submissions in mixed martial arts (MMA). Today, Ultimate Submissions will switch from the kneebar and joint submissions to yet another choke.


The arm triangle.


This submission is often seen being pulled off successfully by fighters that have very solid top control of their opponents and that really press the weight down on the upper body of the fighter.


It's a devastating move, one that isn't easy but is also none too difficult to execute.


Without further ado, let's dive right into the technique and notable usages after the jump.


The arm triangle choke is a blood choke submission that basically leaves your opponent strangled between their own shoulder and your arm. Similar to that of the traditional triangle choke which is performed by the legs. That choke is very similar to that of the arm triangle.

The choke can also be a side choke. From the side of your opponent using your forearm along with your opponent's own outstretched arm and shoulder, you will cut off the air and blood flow to your opponent. You also want to squeezes a forearm into your opponent's neck to better accomplish the submission.

If done effectively the choke will take just moments to take effect because of its ability to cut off the blood flow on both sides of the neck. With both sides and arteries cut off, it will be seconds before the tap out comes or your opponent falls unconscious.

For the most part, the arm triangle choke is usually achieved while being in side control of your opponent; however, it is also achievable from the mount position as well as the half guard position. It can also be done in other positions but it becomes much more difficult.


From the half guard the choke is a little more technical due to needing to pass the half guard to get into a better position. Ideally, you always want to secure your opponents head and arm. When passing the half guard you want to post your weight on your opponent and be as heavy as possible, and all that weight should be on your bicep on top of his neck. Always pass the guard to the side of your opponent your head is at to be in prime position to gain the leverage and angle to finish most effectively.


When in side control, the best way to finish the choke is to cut off the angle and walk your body up towards your opponent’s head. The angle the choke will create will make it tighter and tighter as you continue to walk your body up.

From your full guard it gets trickier. I like it because it isn’t done a lot and rarely do people know it’s coming when someone attacks with it. Eddie Bravo and his 10th Planet System drills it a lot as they stick to their attack from defensive and neutral position teachings and beliefs.

What is good about the arm triangle attack from the bottom is that it is an easy way to counter elbows being thrown by the guy on top of you. If you are able to slip to the side of an elbow you place yourself into perfect position to start attacking with the submission. His arm is already passed to the side waiting for you to wrap your arm around the arm and head.

When in your full guard you want to break down the posture of your opponent on top of you, it would be beneficial to close your guard up if you need too. It’s easiest to counter the elbows but if you break him down all the way and grab an underhook, you can still get to the necessary position.


So, in your full guard you need to pass your opponents right arm to the side (this is coming from a right handed guy, so if lefty then switch accordingly). You need to get your head in between your opponent’s tricep and also get your bicep onto his neck as well. Your right arm should be fully wrapped around the head and arm, and that right hand should be placed on your head.


Now here is where it will be different from inside your guard. If you can lock in the choke, you can apply the pressure from your upper body and also use your closed guard to tighten the body and push downwards, forcing more tension on your opponent to try and escape. However, if you are a little bolder with your guard you can attempt to use your legs to sweep your opponent over.


I do not suggest this unless you have really drilled it because it can land you in danger and you can lose the choke. However, if you do intend to try it, this is what you do. Open your guard up and place your foot on the side of the choke on the hip of your opponent. Push off, which will create separation and, using a single butterfly hook with that leg, elevate his lower body and, using your free leg, come over the top of his leg in a scissor motion. If done correctly, you should end up in half guard with the choke in prime position to complete the choke from a dominant position.


"Alright, I was taken down and suddenly my shoulder is choking my throat. Can you help me get out?"

As always, I will start saying by encouraging the tap out if you already feel like you are losing consciousness. Losing blood flow to your brain is no joke and it can come with dangerous consequences especially so when both sides of the neck are being sealed off. There will be other battles to fight.

But, I know you do not want to tap so here is a few things to try while attempting to escape.

When stuck in an arm triangle it is the most simplest of techniques but basically you answer the telephone. You put your arm and hand up towards your head as if you were about to answer a phone call. You can additionally release pressure more by using the other hand to push the inside of the elbow to create some much needed space. But don’t just answer the phone and try to survive. While your opponent may gas his arms and eventually decide to release, odds are he will hold on.

While answering the phone turn yourself into your opponent which will relieve a little pressure off your neck, now try and get your trapped arm out and around the neck if possible. If you can slip the arm you are free and now will have to figure out to get out of your opponents dominant position. Randy Couture defended a head and arm choke with the telephone method. What is also very important in defending any choke is relaxing and trying to control your breathing.



You can also try putting your palm of the hand on the side being choked pressed against your chin. If you can do so and your opponent tries to disrupt that, you should have enough time to snake in a hand in the gap to beak up the choke.

However, I have two ways I like to use to escape but I will say it isn't easy to do. The best way to escape an arm triangle is during the transition BEFORE it's fully locked in. When you feel your opponent using his head to push your arm in place you have to fight it by dropping that arm to the mat and circling it around to the other side of his head.

Sounds easy, right?

Sometimes he'll drop his head, too, in an effort to keep you trapped, but he loses a lot of his leverage and you can wait it out. Make space slowly and creep under and around to the other side of his head. This works 100-percent of the time for me, but the trick is to see them coming.

The riskiest way to do so, however, comes with the biggest reward. It can be dangerous for your neck and can be stifled if not done correctly so use at your own caution.

You want to start by rolling backwards on your shoulders, absolutely not on your neck. Odds are my opponent will have my left arm trapped so I will be rolling over my right shoulder. I will use my untrapped arm to post outside and help me with my roll. If you can swiftly roll right over the shoulder you will pop out from underneath in prime position to take your opponent’s back. Again, be careful not to roll on your neck.

Notable Usages

Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin


Rarely do we see submissions from two enormous heavyweight fighters, especially when both are wrestling oriented and use brute power over finesse and technique.


(Note: If gif is not playing, you will have to click on the picture and view it separately. I do not know why I am having such a hard time with this gif)

In the title fight at UFC 116, Brock Lesnar showed his evolution in the submission game. In the beginning of the clip we see Brock trapping Carwin's left arm and beginning to pass his guard. It is very possible Brock could power his way to a tap out from the guard; however, he would very likely tire out his arms. Now that the choke is locked, Brock moves his legs and body to the right to cut the angle which tightens the choke. That alone shows some technique in the jiu-jitsu game of Lesnar.

Brock avoids the defense put up by Carwin by adjusting himself and in doing so, finds a comfortable position and secures the tap out victory.

Jacare vs Matt Lindland


This is a typical dominant performance from a top level jiu-jitsu guy who knows how to work from the top position. Jacare, a world champion in grappling, demonstrates the arm triangle on a out-classed wrestler in Matt Lindland.


At the beginning of the clip, we see Jacare stuck in the guard of Lindland but actively working to get out while already capturing the arm and head inside the choke. He uses his legs, hips, balance and excellent body positioning to snake out and immediately jump over to the side he is choking. While in side control, he is able to tighten the choke while staying very heavy on the upper body of Lindland until he secures the tap out.


Rick Story vs Brian Foster


Finishing an arm triangle from the guard is very difficult. It requires a lot of power and low resistance from your opponent. Up and coming prospect Ricky Story was able to secure the victory from inside his opponent's guard.

In the clip, Story already has the choke and makes no attempt to scoot his legs out from the guard, he positions his weight to be top heavy especially on Foster's chest. Foster does very little to escape and eventually succumbs to the choke giving Story the submission victory.

That's it for this week's breakdown of Ultimate Submissions!!

Until next time, Maniacs.

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