Cutting Through All the Noise: Triangle Escapes

An interesting video popped up in my Facebook feed this week. It was an unusual triangle choke escape. I had never seen anything like it. I watched it a few times and every time I watched I found a new problem with the technique. After a few watches I came to the conclusion that anyone who learned this technique would likely be making their Jiu Jitsu worse. Before I go further watch the video here:

Watch it a few times and then we’ll talk…

When I first started Jiu Jitsu there was scarce information available. I remember after UFC 1 obtaining a bootleg copy of the first set of Gracie instructionals. That tape was gold. It was the only thing a person living in the middle of Alabama could get that showed anything of the art that this Gracie guy used to dismantle all these martial arts experts. When I managed to start actual Jiu Jitsu instruction at Straight Blast Gym the situation was better but not ideal. There were some instructionals available and a few books. Youtube was not in existence and videos online were not a thing yet. Why this is important is that the lack of information then and the overwhelming amount of information now changes fundamentally my job as coach. Back when I first started coaching we were glad for any Jiu Jitsu information. We didn’t know a lot about what was good and what was not. We’d be grateful for anything we’d get. We’d test it live and keep what we thought worked. There were no easily accessible external resources. Data was scarce so all of it was valuable. My job as coach was to find as much as I could and test it for functionality.

Things are way different today. I can now make the assumption that all of my students have access to the internet. If you type in triangle choke defense on Youtube you will get 127,000 results. The pendulum has swung far in the other direction. There is too much information available and my job is not necessarily information seeker as much as it is now filtering the information and finding the good from the bad.

How has this changed my coaching? I will never teach anything in class that I would not feel good about teaching to a group of white and blue belts. This is regardless of who is actually in the class. This limits me to what we call fundamentals. Fundamentals as defined by my coach Matt Thornton means what is most important and not what is most basic. That’s an important distinction. Because of the big volume of Jiu Jitsu information online now I’ve managed over the years to come up with a loose rule set I use to determine if something is valuable or not. Here are my “rules.”

  1. When I see instructional videos online my first filter is “Could a white belt pull this off?” if the answer is no then I move on.  Anything not available to white belts violates my fundamental rule that Jiu Jitsu should be available to “every body” and a likely indicator that it’s not fundamental.
  2. Find the apex moment. The moment the submission is guaranteed, the moment the escape is assured, the moment the reversal is locked in… Find that moment and freeze frame it. Look at the postures going on there. Could you put yourself in that posture and survive it? Could you hold that posture? Can you even put your body in that position?
  3. Look at the posture progression through the technique. Is your posture incrementally getting better and better as you progress through the technique? Yes? Might be a good one. Do you have to give up posture or go from a good one to a worse one in order to execute the technique? Probably not OK.
  4. Pace. Does the technique rely on being done quickly? What happens to the technique if you slow it down? If it requires speed it’s not fundamental and relying on an attribute to make up for that. Move on.
  5. Every technique has counters. There is no technique that isn’t defensible. Having said that look at the starting position and follow step by step through the progression. Are there steps in the progression where you are in a worse or more vulnerable spot than where you started? If there are then it may not be a good technique. Good fundamental progressions improve your odds incrementally at every step. That way if you get stuck you are always at least better off than when you started.

That’s a partial list off the top of my head. Let’s finally get down to the triangle choke and look at a few vids with these ideas in mind.

We’ll start with screen grabs of postures at the apex moment of each of the escapes. Look at the postures and tell me which one you’d be most interested in defending? If I had to start you in one of these positions for a grappling match which would you choose?

I”d venture to bet that about 98% of Jiu Jitsu people would say that the last one is the best and the first one is the worst.  Let’s look at these two for a bit. We’ll examine the postures available in each escape.

Here’s the sequence of postures from the first one:

Looking at the sequence I can see that his posture does improve from image 1 to image 2. The elbow comes in and frames on the hip. At that point though it’s all downhill. The posture gets worse with each photo until the last one he’s in a real bad position. I know that my coach would end up in mount top 10 times out of 10 if I even managed to get this far into the escape. It initiates a scramble that the triangle player is already 2 steps ahead on.

Now let’s look at the other escape and examine the postures.

Stephan is starting his posture early preventing the bottom guy from getting to a full triangle lock.

Starting to improve his posture by straightening out his back and looking up. This elongates his spine and puts the triangle choke further away

Hands framing on hips and applying downward pressure to hips while head and shoulders apply upward pressure to the feet. Bottom guy’s hips are being controlled and top guy is in a good defensible base.

Legs are broken apart and hip is under control. Escape is nearly 100% from here. Posture is good and Stephan is in a good position to defend anything the other guys tries at this point.

It’s a no brainer to me which one I’d be teaching in class. Stephan’s technique improves your posture incrementally through the escape. If you had to stop and defend any of the positions they get better and better as you progress. That way if you get stuck you are always better off than where you started.

Here is the Kesting video:


Take a look at these videos and apply the rules above to see which ones are likely better bets to put in your arsenal.


One Comment

  1. Great article, Cane. The only videos that I use now are Roy Dean’s White to Black series. All of it is based on fundamentals. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.