BJJ is often called “human chess” because it works the body and mind simultaneously. This fact is highlighted as you become more experienced and start facing better opponents, and you start seeing more of the “chess” part of BJJ. The ability to think and move ahead of the opponent is critical in Jiu-Jitsu. According to John Danaher, problems in Jiu-Jitsu are dynamic. As soon you start solving the problem, the opponent proposes another.
This is especially true when a grappler shoots for a takedown. Oftentimes, when a grappler shoots a sloppy takedown, they end up getting sprawled at or get caught in a guillotine. Not only is getting trapped in a guillotine a terrible position, but it may also end the match quickly. Thanks to Jason Von Flue, we can now respond with a move and counter the opponent’s guillotine with a choke. Let’s talk about this technique – the Von Flue choke.
What Is The Von Flue Choke?
Admittedly, one weak point of BJJ is its takedowns. Typically, Jiu-Jitsu practitioners study takedowns from other stand-up heavy grappling martial arts like Wrestling and Judo and incorporate them into their game. While it takes time to get good at, some of the most commonly used takedowns are the single and double leg variants. Though it often happens, getting caught in a guillotine is one of the dangers of a takedown attempt in Jiu-Jitsu. Worry not, as the Von Flue choke is an excellent technique against opponents who like to stick with the guillotine.
The Von Flue choke is a submission named after Jason Von Flue, a former UFC fighter. It is a technique used as a counter to choke opponents when they land on their backs while attempting a guillotine choke. It is done by locking your hands together while driving your shoulder on the opponent’s neck when the opponent applies a guillotine. Doing so puts pressure on the opponent’s neck, which causes significant discomfort on the neck and can also put someone out.
Normally, if you sprawl down on the mat with a tightly applied Von Flue choke, it will leave the opponent no other way to tap than verbally or by stomping their foot. It is because both the opponent’s arms will be trapped, with one wrapped around your neck and the other between your body. This is why it’s common to hear coaches telling their fighters to let go of the guillotine if the top player starts moving to side control while trapped in a guillotine.
How To Perform The Von Flue Choke
The Von Flue can be more effective against lankier opponents as they tend to have longer necks. Starting from the closed guard, if the opponent sits up and grabs you by the neck with their left arm to wrap a guillotine, use your left arm to grab over their back. This is to stop the opponent from using the high elbow guillotine, which can put you in a risky position. When the opponent opens their guard, stay light on your feet, do a cartwheel over their right leg, and land on side control.
It is a good idea to jump on the opposite side where the guillotine traps your head because jumping on the same side will make the choke much tighter. Once you’re in side control, grip your hands together using a gable grip with your left-hand palm down and right-hand palm up. You must squeeze your right shoulder (far shoulder) to your ear so the opponent can’t get their hand down and unwrap the guillotine.
Tripod your feet up, put all your weight through your left shoulder (near shoulder), and squeeze to put pressure on the neck. A solid shoulder pressure should be more than enough to inflict pressure on the opponent’s neck and jaw area.
If you are a bigger grappler with big shoulders, you may find it a little tricky to finish your opponent with the choke as bigger shoulders may not be able to directly apply pressure on the soft part of the neck. We suggest that you transition to other submissions in this case. As soon as the opponent realizes that you’re setting up the Von Flue and feel that they are letting go of the guillotine, move your near arm (your shoulder-choking arm) over their head.
Put your far arm on the mat and drive forward to extend their guillotine arm out. You can catch it with your far hand and apply submissions like the Americana, kimura, or straight armlock. This can work well, especially if you are a bigger grappler, as these arm locks are known as “big man moves.” Remember that if you can’t submit the opponent with the Von Flue, you can transition to other submissions or maintain side control if they let go of the guillotine or move to the mount.
A Key Detail To The Von Flue Choke
If the opponent catches you with the guillotine from open guard (and you try moving to their side to secure side control without proper weight distribution), they can easily flip you over. A successful sweep by the opponent with a guillotine from open guard can directly put them in mount. To prevent this, sprawl, drop your near hip on the mat, and face the opponent’s hip. This spreads your weight evenly on the mat and far away from the opponent to flip you over as you slowly move to side control. When applying the choke, a key detail to remember is to drive your weight down on the mat to direct the pressure to the carotid artery.
“Prevention is better than cure” is a quote that can drastically improve your survival rate in Jiu-Jitsu. It is critical to always maintain good posture in all positions. Submissions like the guillotine choke are opportunistic techniques that typically prey on practitioners with bad posture. While being mindful of your posture is always the best approach to safety, techniques like the Von Flue choke can also save you from those pesky guillotine chokes.
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