How To Troubleshoot The Guillotine Choke In Jiu Jitsu


Today, we’re going to learn about an important concept about guillotine choke – safe side and choke side.

Defining Safe Side And Choke Side

You need to know safe side and choke side. Because, sometimes, when you lock up the guillotine choke, they get past your legs and depending on how they do it you can still choke them.

Principle One: Choke Doesn’t Work in Safe Side

Let’s say, Justin is in my guard and I get the guillotine with my right arm, I snatch his head down, I’m excited, I’m feeling great now because I want to choke Justin. But something goes wrong. He passes to the side opposite the choke. My choke is over here, Justin is over there. Opposite the choke is the Safe Side. What I mean is that he’s in my guard, I snatch his head down, I am all excited, he gets past my feet- opposite the choke, which is the safe side. Why do we call this safe side? Because, my choke won’t work right now. That’s what we call the Safe Side. Again, safe side is opposite the choke.

safe side
Choke doesn’t work in safe side.

Principle Two: Choke If He’s In Choke Side

Don’t let your opponent to go to the safe side. But here is one little secret. Same scenario, let’s turn around, I am gonna choke him with the same right arm again. We’re here again, I’m all excited. Justin thinks he’s getting out, but he passes to the same side as the choke. What happens? I choked him. So, the thing is, if he is on the same side as the guillotine choke, go ahead and crank him. You can still choke him from the choke side. If he hops over to the opposite, it won’t work. Choke side, same side as the choke, it works. You can choke him.

guillotine jiu jitsu
Choke works in choke side

Let’s test it out here. You’re facing me, I do a guillotine choke with my right arm. Which one is the safe side? Which direction would you want to go? You should go to the opposite side which is the Safe Side. So, if you’ve got someone to the guillotine and he passes to the safe side, should you start cranking? No. It won’t work and you’ll just get tired.

Principle Three: Re-guard

So, what do you do when your opponent passes to the safe side? If I get Justin like this, I don’t want him pass my legs. Let’s say, I’ve got this choke, Justin is smart and he starts to pass to the safe side. This should be like warning police siren in your head right now. I don’t want him just coming all the way down. The longer I wait, the worse it gets for me. So, you’ve got to stop this early. Here is what I want you to do. Number one, simplest move – Justin passes to the safe side, I don’t wait too long, I keep my guillotine grip and re-guard. Get your guard back. That’s trick number one. Get you guard back if passes to the safe side.

jiu jitsu techniques

Principle Four: Re-guillotine

Let’s say, Justin passes to the safe side, he thinks he is safe, I do re-guillotine (I change my arm) and what happens? He’s now to the wrong side, the choke side and now I can choke him. He passes to the safe side again and I follow the re-guillotine process again and he’s again to the choke side, the wrong side.


Summary: Things We Learned

To summarize, you can troubleshoot the guillotine in Jiu Jitsu. It requires the following steps:

  1. Re-guard.
  2. Re-Guillotine.

So, practice these moves. Plus, follow all the instructions above. Make sure you do everything as accurately as possible.

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Father of eight, Dr. Scott Sullivan is the chief instructor at Bam Bam Martial Arts in Houston, TX. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas and is a seasoned martial arts instructor with over 30 years of experience. A firm believer that martial arts really does help people become more fit, safe, and happy, he remains vigilant about helping people improve their lives through martial arts.