Babu’s BJJ Arm Triangle from Side Control

To give credit where credit is due, I gleaned the details of this article from the “Babu Mastermind Series” of BJJ DVDs. As one of the most popular BJJ DVD releases of all time – it’s influenced a LOT of practitioners, myself included – check out some other highlight footage and technique clips at Babu’s BJJ DVD site here.

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The arm triangle was a technique that I always thought was for Meat-Heads.

As a 128-pound grappler, my priority was to take the back and finish arm bars, never trying a “strong-man” choke like an arm triangle. As I matured in my BJJ game, I can to use arm triangles frequently – even in competition.

Watching the “Babu Mastermind Series” over last weekend (not the whole thing, but the parts about top-game submissions), I found some arm triangle details that I felt would be worth sharing with everyone here. 

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Head to head, Sergio “Babu” secured the orientation to choke with the arm triangle.

The first detail is the setup. The setup for this technique is so very “forced” in most white and blue belt matches that it’s seen from a mile away, and is done with power not finesse. You can’t just grab someone’s elbow and slam it into their ear, people know that’s dangerous, and they’ll never extend their arm to allow you to do that in an actual match. The better technique is to “be like water.”

One of Babu’s setups involves allowing the opponent’s defensive “push” from bottom side control to facilitate the arm triangle position. How? When he’s on top and the opponent is using their forearm on Babu’s neck, he lets them extend the arm a little, then slaps the elbow up towards the head – going with the energy of the opponent.

In this way, he ends up creating a pretty powerful bit of trickery by making the bottom man’s defensive push into a point of vulnerability. What happens next is that he immediately pins his head to the mat next to the opponent’s head so that the arm is unable to escape.

This is where the finishing details come into place. The detail I wanted to focus on is head positioning because it’s the kind of little stuff that most people forget. When finishing the arm triangle, your head needs to be lot and tight, snug enough to make sure that the arm can’t escape and the pressure of his shoulder getting shoved into his neck is enough to cut off the blood. There shouldn’t be any LIFTING to finish the choke, as Babu’s style involves a settling and “sinking” into the choke that allows your bicep to move downward as though you wanted to to land flush to your forearm, eliminating all space.

All the best and grapple smart!

-Daniel