A study of the guillotine-choke

Written by John B Will

It’s the way of martial arts: an attack is faced, a defence is devised and thus a technique is born. But then, through further training, that technique is analysed and, almost inevitably, someone finds a counter to it. Now, what was originally the counter is looked at as an attack, and a new defence for that is devised. And so the process continues, and as the counters to the counters are developed ad infinitum, the art, too, evolves. Here, BJJ coaching guru John Will reveals how this process works by putting jiu-jitsu’s guillotine-choke under the microscope and tracking its metamorphosis via the petri-dish of dojo training.

 Images by Charlie Suriano

The guillotine is a classic example of how a technique becomes more robust through constant pressure-testing. A student learns the basic guillotine, has some early success with it and so attempts it more and more frequently every time he or she hits the mat. The more often that student is successful, the more likely they are to try it again; and so the cycle of success begins. Over time, though, regular training partners will become immunised against it; they know what it looks like and they learn to see it coming. So now, our guillotine addict needs to find new ways to apply his or her beloved choke; not only counters to the opponents’ counters but equally importantly, new angles or positions from which to apply it.

Click to view the Evolved Guillotine from Sweep Attempt technique