A Timeline of a Triangle


Last week in class we drilled a triangle escape and it got me thinking about triangles. I know, I know. You are probably thinking how did she make that leap, right?

Dammit, I’m a sarcastic bitch sometimes. Or all the times.

From the get-go I developed a love/hate relationship with the triangle choke. I love it because it’s classic BJJ and, come on, you are choking someone with your legs. What’s not to love about that? I hate it because I have short, thick legs and sometimes this makes triangles feel impossible with certain big-shouldered *coughMikecough* partners. If my partner has boulder shoulders, I think a triangle hurts me more than it hurts them.

Drilling the escape made me think about the progress I’ve made with going for triangles in live rolling and how long it’s taken me to get where I am. Jiu-jitsu is no-joke, legit hard and this timeline of triangle experiences can prove that.

*Keep in mind, this is kind of a rough timeline. I can’t vouch with 100% certainty that my time frames and details are completely accurate. I tried to lay it all out as best as I remember.

• Month #1

One of my first classes involved triangle chokes. We learned all the details and I remember being absolutely floored by just how much detail goes into this one technique to get it right. As a long-time MMA fan I’ve watched people do triangles with ease and make it look like a walk in the park. I quickly discovered that they are a lot harder than the professionals make it look. I accepted that triangles were probably not going to be my first go-to.

• Months #1-6

I spend the bulk all of my jiu-jitsu life during this time surviving and trying to defend. I can probably count on one hand the times I actually got to be on the offensive and attacking someone else and when that actually did happen it was almost always a fluke and rarely lasted long. In that time we drilled triangles several times, but I never actually came close to a point of going for one in rolling. I felt super uncomfortable and lost with playing any kind of guard so I basically avoided my back as much as possible. Those first few months of jiu-jitsu were rough. I was in my head so much and my progress was super, super slow.

• Months #6-9

Somewhere in this time frame I really started to notice a difference in my mental strength. I wasn’t in my head near as much, I wasn’t as nervous, and I was getting a little better at putting myself out there more and trying new things. Even though I was improving, I don’t believe I ever even had a chance to attempt a triangle. Survival was still the name of my game, fo sho.

• Months #9-12

I start to see a lot improvement in my guard passing and I was starting to become more and more comfortable with my top game. I knew that I really needed to start putting myself on my back more, but I was afraid too. I was afraid of getting smashed and just avoided it as much as I could. If I ever did end up with someone in my guard I would grab their collar and then basically freeze in fear. I would hesitate to go for any submission and especially a triangle. I maybe, maybe went for one, possibly two triangles. Each attempt was sloppy, slow, and in that moment I would hesitate and struggle with remembering the details. Each time my partner quickly escaped and passed.

• Months #12-15

I start putting myself on my back and hunting for submissions instead of freezing up. I try to start working on getting one of my partners arms back and getting my legs locked up. I find very little success. Very, very little success. Anytime I go to lock it up, they escape and pass almost immediately. I find myself getting frustrated that I can’t lock it up and keep them there so I start evaluating what happens when I’m stuck in a triangle and what keeps me from being able to escape.

• Months #15-18

I start playing around with spider guard a lot. It was kind of a fluke that I started trying it, but I found that I liked the distance it gave me and how it was teaching me to move my hips around more. I find that it can be a great set up for a triangle and I start going for them a little more. The best I can get is getting the arm back and getting my legs locked up and keeping them there. I also start drilling triangles at home with my grappling dummy, Phil, which feels similar to drilling with a drunk, half passed-out person. Not saying that I have personal experience with that. I just find myself sometimes looking at my crumpled and limp partner with disgust and wanting to shout “Get your shit together, Phil!” every time I try to drill with him. I really shouldn’t think such mean things of him. He’s really helped me a lot over the last few months.

• Months #18-present

I am getting better with spider guard and understanding how to use it to set up triangles. Triangles have become the submission I now hunt for. I try to put myself on my back almost every roll. I have gotten to the point were I attempt a triangle in every roll I can. I am getting better and better at getting the arm out and my legs locked up. The next step to conquer is getting the arm across and I struggled for a bit with that. I felt like I was trying to use my strength against a man’s strength with little luck. Thankfully, someone shows me how to get the arm across and I start having success with it, but still can’t seem to get the next step, grabbing my leg, putting the foot in the hip, and cutting the angle.

• Last night

Last night I attempted several triangles. More than I can even count. I made a ton of mistakes, but I found that I was starting to search for different opportunities to lock one up. I used spider guard a few times to help set it up, but my favorite was going for an armbar from mount and when they went for the escape, immediately pulling them into a triangle. I got the closest I’ve ever gotten to getting the submission, but being the dumbass white belt that I am, I messed it up. The 30 sec. timer went off and I was afraid I was going to run out of time and got a little excited and rushed the details. I didn’t quite get a good enough angle and I should have shoulder walked out a little. I’m pretty sure I would have gotten the tap if I hadn’t missed those steps. It was a weird mix of feelings afterwards. I was so happy that I had at least gotten that far with a triangle, but so frustrated that I messed it up.

So, to sum it all up, here I am almost two years later and I still haven’t gotten a single triangle submission. I went from sucky-white-belt-who-doesn’t-know-shit to sucks-a-little-less-white-belt-who-still-doesn’t-know-shit-but-kind-of-knows-some-shit. Maybe a more positive angle would be from not even close to almost.

Jiu-jitsu is so freakin’ hard.

This is one submission. One out of how many? A bajillion? One submission that I learned at almost day one and here we are and I still can’t get a submission in live rolling with it. Now, granted, I have been a bit of a casual triangle user. I told myself early on that I wouldn’t probably be big on triangles anyway because of my short, thick legs. Maybe if I had been relentlessly pursuing triangles and made that my ultimate submission goal, I would have gotten one by now. But, the deal is, we all have our favorite submissions and different ones we pursue and attempt at different times in our jiu-jitsu lives. And, I’ve spent so much time just trying to simply survive that even getting to a position of attempting a triangle didn’t come into play for a really long time.

One thing I can see now after writing out this post and detailing my path to getting a triangle submission is that I don’t ever want to say I can’t do something or put any kind of limits on my jiu-jitsu. Sure some submissions are going to be easier and some are going to be harder depending on my strengths and weaknesses and shortcomings. Some will just click and others with take lots and lots of work and time.

But, I’m discovering that I shouldn’t let the word impossible or never make it’s way into my head. If I’ve learned anything with this timeline, it’s that with a lot of effort, hard work, and persistence, it’s pretty amazing the things you can accomplish. I love that jiu-jitsu continually shows me that.

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