The Triangle Choke, known as “Triângulo” in Portuguese or “Sankaku-Jime” (Japanese), is a very common submission in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which originated from Judo. The triangle choke occurs when the attacker wraps his legs around the opponent’s neck (commonly) leaving one of the target’s arms inside this “leg wrap” and another arm out. The pressure of the thigh across the neck will cause the blood flow to be disrupted leading the target to either submit (give-up) or pass out.
The History of the Triangle in BJJ
The creation of the triangle choke is awarded to both Tsunetane Oda and Kanemitsu Yachibei Hyoe, two famous Judo Masters of the early 20th century and direct students of Jigoro Kano. Oda (according to Judo Info) received his 1st dan (black belt) with only 1 year of training. A true talent of his era, Tsunetane Oda’s speciality became Katame Waza (submissions and pins). Kano’s system of judo was more Nage Waza (takedowns & throws) orientated, the development of the submission game in Judo is often attributed to Tsunetane Oda.
It is a common misconception that the triangle did not exist in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu before Rolls Gracie, who (according to some circles) would have found the technique in an old Judo book. When asked about the veracity of this statement, Mario Tallarico, Rolls Gracie’s second black belt, said:
The triangle was a very old technique from Judo that was used in Jiu Jitsu from the beginning. As it was not associated with the armbar or the crossing of the arm to the side, it was too easy to defend and seldom used.
It was the group who started the closed guard at Osvaldo Alves‘ gym who associated the triangle choke with the armbar, setting up one of the most famous combos in Jiu Jitsu. Regarding the subject of association the arm attacks from the triangle, Otávio ‘Peixotinho’ (one of the members of the closed guard group) said: “The first attack from the closed guard was the armbar, then we picked up the triangle. Everyone started getting too wise to this and we had to re-think things. This created the arm attack from there.”
The triangle became a weapon of choice from the closed guard, and later, with the growth of new open guard attacks, this technique was solidified as one of the most popular submissions in Jiu Jitsu and MMA, later being used to decide some of the most memorable fights in combat sports, such as Royce Gracie vs Dan Severn (UFC 4), Fabricio Werdum vs Emilianenko Fedor (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum) or Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen (UFC 117).
*Percentage score above taken from adult male black belt divisions.
Famous Submission Fighters that Use(d) the Triangle
- Demian Maia
- Keenan Cornelius
- Marcio Cruz
- Ryan Hall
- Jefferson Moura
- Mario Reis
- Fabricio Werdum
- Braulio Estima
- Rodrigo Minotauro
- Robert Drysdale
Triangle Choke in MMA
Roberto Abreu vs Braga Neto
Fernando ‘Terere’ vs Marcelo Garcia
Early footage of Tsunetane Oda