Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Posture in the triangle
You've worked hard to set up the triangle choke, and your opponent has elected to use his or her first line of defense: the dreaded posture inside the triangle. This is going to be all too common for you to deal with whenever you use an open guard triangle set up that doesn't control your partner's head. From here, you have a few very good options to break your partner's posture down, but the task can seem daunting. Here are some concise, simple options to use in order to get that finish. For more technical options to escape the triangle (to be used in conjunction with the posture escape), check out how to escape the triangle choke.
Option 1: dropping below the shoulder
Here's a really simple option when your opponent has postured tall in the triangle position. You're probably already trying to pull them down with the head and arm control, but the problem is that their neck and back are straight, and their head is really far away, so it's tough to pull them down. Try jumping your "triangle" below their shoulder. When you apply off-balancing pressure forward, their back being straight and tall actually aids in breaking their posture, similar to a closed guard posture break. Once their posture is broken and they start to rock toward you, you can access their head, and then adjust to finish the triangle choke.
Option 2: armbar grip
In this second option, your opponent once again has incredibly tall posture inside the triangle position. Here, start by gripping their arm (the one that's trapped in the triangle), just as you would for a basic armlock from closed guard, with your cross hand going over their tricep for optimum control. From this grip, you can often drag their arm across, taking away their leverage to posture. If you simultaneously pull them forward while you do this, your opponent's posture will be compromised just enough to set up the triangle armbar. Note: you can also switch to the triangle, but the armbar is often considerably higher percentage in this case.
Option 2B (and details)
One thing that you really don't want to allow a postured opponent to do inside your traingle is to grab your collar with their free hand (the one that isn't trapped inside the triangle. If this does happen, don't despair - just check out our tutorial on how to deal with the hand in the collar - but having said that, your life is considerably easier if you avoid this happening in the first place.
If your opponent elects to reach behind your head (as opposed to grabbing inside the collar), you can slap on a quick reverse armlock. However, a savvy opponent is likely to leverage the grip on the collar. As mentioned, your best bet is to anticipate and stop this from happening. One simple way to prevent this is to simply walk your hips away from the grabbing arm as you are gripping the arm for the drag. Once you've safely positioned your body away from the grabbing hand (and the "turning the corner" pass that goes along with it), you can set up your straight armbar from the triangle.
Posture is certainly not the only defense to the triangle, but it is probably the most common one you're going to have to deal with, from white to black belt. Besides simply setting up the triangle in a way that negates any attempts at posture, these tips will help you be able to control a bigger, stronger opponent at least some of the time. If you're more interested in a preemptive approach, check out our overhook triangle setups. As always, don't be afraid to experiment with these at the gym, opening up yourself and giving your opponents multiple opportunities to escape your triangle and pass your guard, because that's how you're going to get better in the long run. Let us know what you think, too!
About the author
Andrew Smith teaches gi and no-gi seminars across the country. Check out his schedule of upcoming seminars and bio here. If you're interested in booking Andrew for a seminar, email him here.