Gracie Barra Bristol, (BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 30/08/2012
At 5'7 and around 66kg, I'm fairly small. My legs are short. I've never been good at triangles. However, I don't blame that on the fact that I'm small: it is true that triangles are easier if you have long legs, but it does not mean that they can't be done if you're small. It simply means you have to be more accurate and make good use of angles.
In this lesson, I wanted to discuss the finish to a triangle from closed guard (I might go through a few basic set-ups in more detail next week, unless Geeza wants us to move on to the escape). At all times you want to have some kind of control over their head, most commonly grabbing it with one or both hands. If their head is free, they can posture up, which will make it much harder to apply the submission and help them begin to escape. Gripping higher on the head is preferable, like a thai clinch. If you hold by their neck, it isn't wrong, but they can generate more force when they pull up to resist your hold.
You also need to have your leg right across the back of their neck. If it is part way down their back, then you are no longer pressing into their neck: their body will get in the way. Similarly, your other leg does not want to be obstructed by their body. You therefore don't want to see their shoulder: try and get your leg past it. If they have a lot of shoulder inside your legs, that's a chance for them to drive forward and dig out some room to breathe.
Never lock over your toes. If your leg is locked on your toes, they have a chance to knock your leg off and you're also in danger of injuring your ankle. If you're shorter like me, you will most likely need to adjust to get your legs locked. To do that, the easiest method is to push off their hip with your locking leg foot. Be careful that you don't give them space to escape when you do that. Ryan Hall, whose DVD set on the triangle is probably the most thorough on the market, doesn't like to unlock his legs at all, but then he has long legs.
For shorter people, you can maintain control when opening your legs by squeezing the knee of your hip leg inwards while also grabbing your neck leg shin with your hand. If you want you could put your foot on the floor rather than their hip (if so, it is even more important to keep your leg tight to them), but that opens up even more space for them to pull their arm out.
The other main option, which again comes from Ryan Hall, is to instead use what he calls the 'stomp and curl' method. The reason for his preference is that this uses larger muscle groups than the abductor squeeze method. First, he attains a perpendicular angle, meaning he is looking at his opponent's ear rather than their face. From there, he can now kick forwards with his neck leg (the stomp) while pulling down with his locking leg (the curl).
That perpendicular angle is good for smaller people too, because it means it is harder for the opponent to stack you, because you aren't straight on. The easiest way to get the angle is hooking under their free arm then grabbing around your own knee. This also has the advantage of clamping you in place: should they try to square back up, you'll stay where you are as they move. There's a second benefit too in that they can no longer use that arm to create a frame by linking their hands, which they could otherwise use to press into your hips and make space.
Another point where Hall differs from most instructors is that he does not emphasise bringing their trapped arm across the body. The orthodox method is to lift up your hips, then pull their arm over. Hall repeatedly states that this isn't necessary, because you're choking them with their shoulder, not the lower part of their arm. He demonstrates how you can still choke them even if their arm is on the other side. Still, it isn't 'wrong' to bring the arm across, particularly if you are going for a choke where you're square-on, as per the traditional method. The point Hall makes is that you should never prioritise pulling the arm across rather than controlling the head.
BJ Penn teaches something similar, which he refers to as the 'triangle sprawl out'. This time, instead of straight-arming into your own leg, you're going to wriggle back, then come up on your elbows and finally your hands. From here, keep moving backwards until they are almost lying down in front of you, making sure your triangle lock around their head is still tight. To apply the submission, drive your legs down as your lean your upper body forwards.
Generating that habit of moving backwards to stop yourself being crunched up is a good habit in general for the triangle, whether or not you're going for the Renzo or BJ Penn finishes above. It is less of an issue if you have attained a perpendicular angle, but sometimes you might find you need to shoulder-walk back in order to get the space to create that angle.