Helio Gracie Guillotine Choke Details

I love reading on flights and train journeys and Gracie jiujitsu literature is my favourite choice. Recently, I've been indulging in my friend Martyn's copy of "Gracie Jiujitsu" by the founder grand master Helio Gracie himself. I've come to love the simplicity of Helio's vision of what Gracie jiujitsu should be: multiple problems - few useful solutions executed with attention to detail and perfect timing. You can read my article about large padlocks and small keys here.

On a recent journey, I happened upon this picture of Helio guillotine choking his eldest son grand master Rorion Gracie. The technique is executed as a defence against a rush attack aimed to tackle the jiujitsu expert. Much like anything you will learn from Helio, Rorion or indeed Rener or Ryron, the nature of the technique itself is very fundamental and basic: Sprawl. Wrap the neck. Squeeze. Job done. No fancy sweeps and hardly any grips or grip-changes necessary.

What you do get, however, is exact details of how and when to sprawl, wrap the neck and squeeze. In fact, "how" and "when" are huge understatements. Look at the picture and read the caption below it:

Do you see anything different to the usual instruction to the guillotine choke?

"Helio pulls the blade of the forearm horizontally into the attacker's throat..."

There's a ton information stored in these 12 words and it has taken me 9+ years of jiujitsu learning, studying, training, teaching & writing to figure out how to read it:

"Helio pulls the blade of the forearm"
That phrase tells you how deep (or rather shallow!) to wrap the arms around the neck and that you need to rotate your forearm in such a way to line the blade of the forearm to the throat.

"Horizontally into the attacker's throat"
Horizontally. Think about that adverb for a second. I honestly thought I'd found a typo. "Don't they mean vertically? If I am standing and the neck is in my guillotine, wouldn't I be pulling my hands to my chin in a vertical direction?" I re-examined the photo of Helio choking Rorion with the guillotine for a few minutes and then it hit me...

Look at the hump in Rorion's upper back. His back is definitely not straight. His cervical spine is definitely compressed. Helio must be pressing the back of Rorion's head down so hard with his lats through his armpit that he caused his spine to curve like that.  What that tells me is that he's engaged the muscles in his armpit so strongly that when he stars squeezing the choke, he's actually pulling horizontally and not vertically. Boom (or as Rener would say: "Daaaang")

That difference is major. That element of tightness where needed (depressing the head) and looseness where needed (thin part of wrist/forearm and not the deep, meaty part against the throat) means less effort to keep and finish the choke, at an angle that's convenient for you and inconvenient for your opponent.

Check this guillotine (at 9:58), and many other self defense techniques by the grand master Helio Gracie on the video below:

"In the fight, only one person can be comfortable. Your job is to transfer the comfortable from your opponent to you" Rickson Gracie.



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