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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

09 August 2019

09/08/2019 - Teaching | Lapel Guard | Overwrap to Triangle

Teaching #893
Artemis BJJ (Easton Road), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 09/08/2019

There are lots of ways to set up the triangle, which is one of the fundamental submissions in BJJ. The name comes from the 'triangle' shape you form with your legs, capturing their neck and one arm inside that structure. The basic process is:

1. Get their head and one of their arms inside your legs
2. Put your shin behind your knee to 'lock' the triangle
3. Squeeze your legs into their carotid arteries on either side of their neck.

Of course, there is much more detail to a successful triangle than that, which I'll break down in the rest of this post. Generally I teach this from closed guard, but there are various options from open guard too. The main one is from spider guard: from the lapel guard overwrap, you have a similar option.

Lapel guard has numerous variations. The one I learned from Mario at the 2019 BJJ Globetrotters Heidelcamp is what is commonly known as squid guard. Given that's a rather unhelpful name, I'm choosing to refer to the position in a more descriptive way, so a lapel overwrap. Start off by getting a grip of their lapel, putting your same side foot into their hip and shoving.

You then want to grasp the lapel with your other hand too. The hand on the same side of the lapel should be on the bottom, in order to facilitate transferring the grip later on. Be aware that this can put a lot of strain on the gi, so an old gi might not enjoy the tension much (as I discovered when I taught this ;D).

You are then going to let go with your same side hand, underhooking their leg. You may need to swivel sideways slightly for this. Bring your same side foot slightly past their hip at this point, while also bringing their lapel over the top of both your leg and their leg. Pass the lapel to your underhooking hand, securing the position.

This is now a very strong guard. That's because your foot is firmly attached to them, meaning they can't shove it to the side for the usual pass. If you foot was not wrapped in the gi, they would have a number of options to go over, around and under the leg. Wrapping it with the gi removes all of those routes to a pass: they have to disentangle themselves first.

From this position, you can go for both sweeps and submissions. For the triangle set up, you're going to move into a sort of spider guard hybrid. Your free foot goes either onto their biceps or their shoulder. As per Neil Owen's advice, I prefer the shoulder because it is harder for them to circle their arm free. Shove up into the arm/shoulder, while your free arm grabs their opposite collar and pulls down.

This should twist their posture. Generate the tension, then kick up over their arm/shoulder and pull them down, dropping them in between your legs. Cross your ankle, and you're ready to go into your triangle. Mario, who taught the class at Heidelberg, has a video on the triangle from overwrap over at his @mariodrills channel:

At this point, you can progress through the usual triangle, same as you would from wherever else you set it up. You've achieved the 'diamond position' with your ankles crossed, so all you need to do now is make sure they can neither get their head nor their arm free.

There are many alternative set-ups to the lapel over wrap, mostly from closed guard. For the first stage (entry), the simplest option is probably to grab both their wrists (or you could try their forearms) with your same side hands. Push their arm into their stomach, while clamping the other to your chest. You can then bring your hips up in order to fling your leg (on the same side as the arm you've pushed back) over their shoulder, locking your feet by the top of their back. Your thigh presses into their neck. The important thing is to clear that hand and arm you've shoved into their stomach, so that you're ready to move into the triangle.

If you can drive your knee into the inside of the arm you want to clear, that can work too: in Gracie Combatives, Rener pushes into their bicep/crook of their elbow with his knee, grabs the wrist, then kicks over to get into position. Alternatively, he also shows how you can circle your leg around the arm to get your leg past. There are many other entries and not just from guard: the triangle is possible from pretty much every other position in BJJ too, whether that's the back, mount or side control.

Once you've got their head and arm trapped between your legs, it's also helpful to move their arm across your body, though not essential. You can still choke them without that arm across, it just tends to be more difficult. Triangle expert Ryan Hall repeatedly states that it isn't necessary, because you're choking them by pressing their shoulder into their neck, not the lower part of their arm (remember, to choke you are pressing into both carotid arteries on either side of the neck. With the triangle, on one side their shoulder blocks the artery, the other is blocked by your leg).

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 triangle method. The point Hall makes is that you should never prioritise pulling the arm across rather than controlling the head.

That's because controlling the head is absolutely key. Ideally, you want to pull their head into your belly button rather than your chest, to really break down their posture. If they are able to lift their head up, they can regain an upright posture. So, be sure you have some kind of control over their posture before you attempt the triangle. If they are sat fully upright with strong posture, you're going to struggle to get a triangle from there: a different technique would be advisable.

Once you have their posture broken down and their head and arm between your legs, you want to lock that in place. When locking your legs in this second stage (locking), you can sometimes move straight into a locked triangle. If not, especially if you have shorter legs like me, stick with a secure 'diamond' leg formation rather than a sloppy half-locked triangle. From there, pull on your shin to bring your ankle behind your knee, swivelling off at an angle if necessary. Be sure you don't lock over your toes: it must be your ankle. If your leg is locked on your toes, they have a chance to knock your leg off them. More importantly, if you press down while locked over you toes, you're in danger of injuring your ankle.

You might well find you need to adjust to get your legs locked. Opening your guard to do that is easier, which will enable you to push off their hip with your locking leg foot. However, be careful that you don't give them space to escape when you open. You can maintain control by grabbing the leg you have over the back of their head, meaning that you are replacing the control your leg provided with equivalent control from your arm. Ryan Hall doesn't like to unlock his legs at all, but then he has long legs.

You also need to have your neck leg right across the back of their neck, rather than angling down their back. If it is part way down their back, you are no longer pressing into their neck: their body will get in the way of your choke. Similarly, your locking leg does not want to be obstructed by their shoulder. You therefore don't want to see their shoulder once the triangle is locked in: try and get your leg past it, or simply push their trapped shoulder back a little, in order to get your legs more tightly on their carotid arteries. 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.

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Having locked the triangle, you now have two main options for the third stage (finishing). The traditional way to complete the choke is to squeeze your abductors (i.e., the muscles of your inner thighs) into their neck. At this point, you might also want to raise your hips and/or pull down on their head for some extra pressure. Other little details that can help are pulling your toes back to tense your calves, meaning more pressure on their carotid arteries. Angling your locking leg outwards can also help increase that pressure, a nifty tip from Mike Fowler.

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 he says this uses larger muscle groups than the abductors, which tend to be comparatively weak. 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).

Perpendicular angles are good for smaller people too, as it makes it harder for the opponent to stack you (I'll talk more about stacking in a moment) because you aren't straight on. The easiest way to get a perpendicular 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.

You can also grab right under their body and link your hands, though it is unlikely you'll be able to get to that extreme position. Hooking under their leg is another option, but normally you won't have the space to do that. However, it is important to remember the leg grabbing option. That is the best way to stop yourself from being slammed when triangling, so should you want to use a triangle in a situation where slamming might take place, it would be very advisable to hook a leg.

You may find you keep getting stacked, particularly if you are square on. However, as Renzo Gracie teaches, even with that style of triangle you can submit a larger opponent. The key is preventing them from driving into you and curling your body. Renzo's method is to brace his arms against his knee and shin, something I was first shown by my old training partner, Howard. Should they continue to drive forward, all they are doing is extending themselves, which makes it easier for you to choke them.

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.

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Finally, keep in mind that the triangle combines very well with the armbar. You will often find that when somebody is defending an armbar, they focus so much on freeing their arm that they when they yank it free, they forget their other arm is still inside your legs. That's the perfect time to swing your leg to the other side of their head and lock up a triangle. Even better, you can still attack the elbow joint from within the triangle, applying choking pressure while also going for the armlock.

Another variation comes from Joey Carta, who taught an excellent lesson on this at the 2017 BJJ Globetrotter's Camp in Leuven. He relies on his leg over the back of their head for postural control. He then reach across to grab the trapped arm tricep with his other hand. If they try to rise up, he pushes with his foot on their hip. If they rise up with the other leg, he releases the tricep and instead hooks by their ankle, 'waving' to then roll them over. Handy variation I'd like to keep in mind for the future, so I must make sure I don't forget it next time around. :)


Teaching Notes: It is tricky to teach this without people already understanding the triangle, but not impossible. There were a couple of fairly new beginners in class, who did a fairly good job of both the lapel overwrap and the triangle. The main issue, as ever, is people try and rush the triangle, without getting the proper angle.

So as usual, emphasise getting the leg straight across the back of their neck, avoiding a diagonal angle. I tend to highlight this by pointing to the amount of person left in the triangle if you don't get the angle, plus you'll also frequently find people trying to force their triangle shut by locking over their foot. That leaves a big gap I can stick my arm through. It needs to be shin behind the knee, NOT foot with a leg tenuously over the top.

On a similar note, always grab the shin, not the foot, to avoid ankle injuries. The swivel is what gets you in position, so although I always emphasise that, I will keep emphasising it. ;D

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