Over the last several months of focusing on no-gi chokes, I have tried to tie them together by finding fundamentals that apply to the wide range of techniques and situations. Here are the fruits of my labor.

Note: By no-gi chokes, I’m specifically referring to front chokes like the guillotine. For the sake of clarity, we’ll consider the rear naked choke and arm triangle to be in a different category.

Some chokes, like the brabo, blur this distinction, but its mechanics are more easily taught when split up this way.

When I first approached this subject, what surprised me was how many different ways something as “basic” as a guillotine is done. Shouldn’t it be as easy as “grab head, crank”? Yet it seemed that everyone had their own unique version, with a particular grip they like, a certain spot on their arm that does the choking, how they applied finishing pressure, and so on. Was one way better than another, and which should I use?

Rather than overwhelming myself with a mountain of seemingly disassociated techniques, I’ve tried to catalog them so I can compare their similarities and differences. From this, I’ve then tried to distill the key ingredients and find a common thread.

I owe Jon Gunnar for sharing this first simple but important lesson with me. Two basic mechanics hold true for every guillotine or no-gi choke from the front:

  1. The crown of their skull is forced down.
  2. Your arm is raised up into their neck.

The first point could also be described as bending their neck forward (towards 90 degrees) or making their chin touch their chest. These all describe the same situation. The crown of the skull is the spot with the best leverage to do this, so I phrased it that way.

(These rules also hold true for many gi chokes, with the collar taking the place of the arm, such as Batata’s loop chokes, but we’re sticking with no-gi for now.)

Look over all front chokes and you’ll find these mechanics in action to greater or lesser degrees. The guillotine and its variants, the anaconda, brabo and darce all work off these two forces.

Knowing this, we can examine how to achieve these effects.

Depending on the type of choke, different parts of your anatomy presses on the back of their head:

  • Forearm, such as with a darce grip.
  • Upper arm and biceps.
  • Armpit and pectoral muscle.
  • Chest or the ribs just below the sternum.
  • The back of your leg for the drop guillotine.

A range of spots on your (and their) arm can apply pressure to the neck:

  • Hands and thumbs, as in the ten finger guillotine.
  • Wrist.
  • Blade of forearm.
  • Forearm and biceps at crook of elbow.
  • Their own shoulder or biceps.

This diagram illustrates most of these:


Armed with the concept of primary leverages and an inventory of the anatomy used to achieve them, we can see why so many variations exist and hopefully see which works best for yourself.

Why does Pequeno do his guillotine differently than Renzo? Why does Minotauro get the anaconda while Shinya Aoki does the brabo in the same situation? Why can the brabo be finished from so many positions and by spinning in almost any direction?

Per what we covered above, I chalk up all of these differences to personal preference based on body type and personality. They each fulfill the same two points, regardless of the specifics. In that sense, as long as it works, one isn’t any better than any other.

So how do you find what works best for you? As with everything, experiment.

Speaking from my experience, through drilling and sparring, I’ve picked out the ten finger, the brabo and the drop guillotine as my favorites. They just suited my build and fit into the rest of my game the best.