The September issue of Black Belt magazine features an article I wrote on countering guillotines to submission, as demonstrated by BJJ black belt Eric “Red” Schafer, who’s one of my favorite grapplers. I am thrilled to see the piece in print, and hope some of you will pick it up–particularly if you’re struggling with getting guillotined in tournaments or on the mat.
Magazines typically cut stories short for space, and this story was no different. A couple of readers have asked me to share some of the details not covered in the piece. Since not everyone can get to Milwaukee to train with Red Schafer himself, I am happy to oblige.
The purpose beyond this article was to help people not only prepare to defend guillotine chokes, but to actively seize the opportunity to counter them to submission. High level grapplers like Red typically chain together submission attempts. Like chess players, they’re always five steps ahead of their opponents, smoothly transitioning from a submission attempt that isn’t working, to another, and another. This post will describe some of these transitions, and I threw in video footage where it was available.
The guillotine to slam was the first submission reversal in the article. This is the one where you put your arm over their shoulder and then the other arm under their leg, transitioning to a slam for MMA (or self-defense), or simply setting your opponent down in a grappling match. A notable example Red gave me was from UFC 7: Marco Ruas vs. Larry Cureton,.
The guillotine to kimura was the second submission in the magazine, using lockdown position.
Not pictured in the magazine was the next step–a side choke transition from a failed kimura attempt. You basically let go of the kimura, let your opponent pull their arm out, lock in a gable or S-grip, drive your head to one side, and then set up a side choke on the other side. Extend the lockdown from half guard out, take a deep breath, and pull with your lats, squeezing tight. Your bicep is applying a choke on one side, and your opponent’s own arm chokes them on the other side. I’m not really sure whether this will make sense to anybody else, but my attempts to find video footage on this have failed and I do not own the photos. If nothing else, know that you can set up a side choke from a failed kimura attempt and eventually you may see it at your gym.
Like all high level grapplers, Red is amazing at chaining submission attempts. So even if your kimura fails and your side choke fails, you can still transition to a back collar choke from a failed side choke attempt. (This was also not in the magazine.) Just slide your arm down along your opponent’s back, grab their belt with that same arm, unhook your figure-4 lockdown, shrimp your hips out to pull yourself around the corner, and then use the leg that was in half guard into a near side back hook. As you spin around, your other leg can land the far side hook. Once back control is established, the choke is all yours.
Guillotine to Von Flue was illustrated in Black Belt. Here’s a video of one notable example, Jason Von Flue himself using the choke against Alex Karalexis at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 3.
Not pictured in the magazine were two more transitions from failed or abandoned submission attempts. First, there’s a side choke from an abandoned Von Flue choke. If your opponent lets go of the guillotine before you can trap their hand, the Von Flue choke is gone. You’ll need to keep your hand under your opponent’s neck, like in the Von Flue choke, but most importantly to keep your head glued to the mat. Then you transition from side control to mount using a knee slide. (Bonus: your opponent’s hand can’t block your knee, because it’s on the other side of their head.) Basically, you need to keep your head inching forward on the mat and tight to your opponent, transitioning to mount, and set up the side choke from there, finishing it by backstepping or hopping into side control after your grip is established.
Another set up is the Von Flue From Half Guard. This happens when you get your leg caught when trying to hop into side control, and your opponent maintains half guard on the opposite side of the choke. This variation is slightly less powerful, but there is more control, because you pinch your opponents legs with your leg to prevent them from reguarding. A notable example is Jamal Patterson vs. Chris Baten, at the IFL 2007 Team Championship Final.
I’m not really sure that reading this verbiage is the best way to understand this BJJ lesson. If this is all totally confusing, I recommend just focusing on the three guillotine counters in the magazine, which has full color photographs and step-by-step instructions which are accessible to beginner BJJ players. But I’m hoping some of the people who asked me about what was left out of the article understand BJJ conceptually, and well enough to be able to understand what the heck I’m talking about. Once again, thanks to Red for sharing his knowledge. Any errors in translation are, of course, my own.