Brazilian Jiu Jitru

The Classic Headlock Position

The side Headlock doesn't get any more real than in a situation like this...

The side Headlock doesn’t get any more real than in a situation like this…

Now almost everyone has seen this position before whether it was in the school yard with a bully or in the backyard with some friends. An extremely common form of “attack” that untrained individuals find themselves using is this standing headlock. This hold can be daunting to someone who does not know how to escape from it but so easy to escape for one who does.

The Initial Contact

Because this is considering real attack situation, the attacker is not putting you in this headlock to give you a noogie. When there is malice intent it is always very important to protect your vulnerable areas as well as you can. From this position your face is the part that is most accessible to your opponent and most likely to be attacked.

Let us assume that the attacker grabs a hold of you with his left arm. To start to neutralize his striking your first priority is to protect your face with your own left arm. A first instinct is to use this arm to remove the attacker’s arm and free yourself but this is not all that likely to be effective and it will  take a lot of strength to break the opponent’s hold.

More importantly, your other hand can be used to take control of the attacker’s striking hand. This is done by reaching it around the back of the opponent and grasping his wrist and pinning it to his hip.  This is not only crucial to stopping the opponent’s strikes but also for performing the escape.

The Simplest Escape Ever

For as seemingly popular it is for one to automatically put an adversary in this headlock, the escape for it is very simple indeed. It requires only good body position and know how, there is really no strength factor in performing this escape. For as simple as this escape is, the famous Gracie BJJ family can teach you so much more about it.


First and foremost you must get your body into the right position to effectively escape the headlock. Your grip on the opponent’s wrist is very important and should already be in place. Your other hand cups the inside of the thigh near the knee. Remember to keep your neck bulled as well to avoid this headlock from breaking your body positioning and compromising your strength.

During this whole process it is also very important to keep low and maintain a wide base so that the attacker cannot manhandle you easily. Now for the final positioning you need to be behind the attacker. Specifically the instep of your right foot should be placed right at the heel of the opponent.

Crumble to Escape

The next step and last step of this technique is to essentially crumble to the ground in such a way that releases you from the attacker’s grip. To do this you drop your own left knee to the ground and use your body weight to lower the opponent. Then you drag your opponent down with you as you fall off to your right side. As you roll on top of your opponent his grip is loosened and you can use your hand to free yourself from his grip.



Things You Need to Know

This guy doesnt look like he will escape the triangle choke

This guy doesnt look like he will escape the triangle choke

The triangle choke, its quick, effective, simple, versatile, its everything you don’t want a submission being performed on you. This choke is a basic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique that is extremely effective in the mixed martial arts arena and seen very often. This means that a fighter needs to know how to escape one of these submissions rather well if he plans on lasting  at all during grappling.

Triangle Basics

Of course, first and foremost, the best way to defend against this submission is to not fall into it at all during the scramble or a sneaky set-up. The triangle choke is notorious for catching people when their limbs are flailing about when they are on top of an opponent and feeling confident. ALWAYS keep your arms close to your body to avoid getting quickly falling into this choke.

There are some great triangle set-ups that are extremely hard to defend, there are also so many variations that knowing how to defend them all can get very complicated. For example check out this ridiculous spinning triangle choke set up. However in this post defending the triangle choke in the classic full guard position will be covered.

Basic Stack and Turn Escape

After getting his legs around your neck, your opponent needs push his hips up and lock his legs down to complete the choke. Your first priority is to stop him from extending his body and raising his hips. To do this you grasp your hands together and put pressure on your opponents thigh.  Next you stack your opponent, which is driving your shoulders and chest into the opponents body. This stops the choke and limits the opponents motion on bottom as well.

After the choke is momentarily neutralized, escaping the legs is the next priorityt. You want to rotate around your opponent  to the side of opponent with the knee up. As you walk around you want to be in essentially a very low squat position and step your front side leg over the head of the opponent. This should release the opponent’s legs from around you and free you from the submission.

More Creative Escapes

The sit and pry escape works on almost the reverse principle as the stack and turn. As you stack your opponent you bring you legs up close to the hips of the opponent. You then sit your hips down and use your back strength to sit back and break the opponent’s legs from behind your back. This also puts you in a good position if you are good at foot and leg locks

The knee pry escape is another escape that relies on some strength to escape the submission. Instead of stacking your opponent straight on, you roll to the knee up side. From here you pin his leg to your shoulder, using your hands against his knee and quad. Then you drive forward at almost a 45 degree angle to the body of your opponent which breaks his leg lock from behind you.

The neck crank defense is not exceptionally technical but it is exceptionally mean. All you need to do is take your hands and grab the back of the opponent’s head. Next you pull his head up and towards you, putting extreme pressure on the neck and bringing the hurt to your opponent.


Armbar From Behind

When engaged with an opponent, the back mount position will always provide security and dominance in the fight. the opponent has not real offensive options and can only try to avoid submissions and strikes or try to slip through your grasp. This armbar setup can be good during either one of these situations. It is a quick and powerful submission that can surprise the opponent from the back mount.

This armbar set-up was seen in the Palhares Vs. Salaverry fight where Palhares caught his opponent in this submission with, what apeared to be, flawless technique. He makes it look easy in the video below but this is a more advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu move that takes much practice to use in a real match. With that said HERE is a link to a page with some information of the back mount position in general.

Setting Up the Armbar

Of course to start this submission you must first choose an arm to attack, for clarity’s sake lets say you decide to attack the opponent’s left arm. From a good back mount your left arm should be under the opponent’s left and your right arm should be over his right shoulder locking the opponent in position.

Now the right arm is removed and put on the left side of the opponent’s head and takes control of the opponent’s left wrist. Your left arm now reaches up from underneath the opponent’s arm, grabbing your wrist. This completes a Kimura grip, giving you control of the opponent’s arm.

To complete the submission your body needs to shift to the side of the arm that is being attacked so that the whole body can put force on it. To do this your legs need to shift first. The leg on the side of the arm that is being attacked is passed across the opponent’s waist. The other leg is swung behind the opponent, over his head, and placed across his chest to secure him.

The Finish

Finishing this submission is a piece of cake once you get the opponent on his back, it is getting him there successfully that is the challenge. To complete this submission there is a lot of shitting of position happening. Experience in BJJ and the back mount position help with that exponentially because of the sly and speedy change of position needed to avoid a counter.

The time where you shift from his back to the final armbar position is when your opponent is most likely to weasel his way out of the submission attempt. To avoid this speed can make the opponent not realize what happening until its too late if he is not very experienced. Also The leg that is placed across his chest needs to be placed there and stamped down with force to secure the opponent. By using this leg to pin the opponent to the ground it eliminates the possibility of him rolling into you to avoid the submission.

From here  the legs hold the opponents upper body to the ground while your arms hold his arm to your chest/upper body. The hips are raised up hyper extending the elbow and causing excruciating pain.

Below is a video explaining the technique from start to finish.

The Great Omoplata

A great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique is the Omoplata. The original is a shoulder lock that uses the legs to rotate the arm and put pressure on the shoulder. This version is slightly different though. Instead of completing the shoulder lock, it is stopped halfway through and the submission’s finish is switched to a wrist lock.

The omoplata is a relatively advanced BJJ technique. It requires good technique and quickness to successfully finish in a mixed martial arts fight or BJJ match. However this move is a very useful technique for a smaller fighter who finds himself on the bottom against a  larger fighter.

Using an omoplata in a fight requires a lot of quickness and mobility. These are the attributes where a smaller fighter generally has an advantage over a larger fighter. This submission also has the advantage of removing your body from under the opponent which nullifies his advantage over you on the ground. CLICK HERE for more information on the small man’s technique in BJJ.

Omoplata modified

This omoplata is a very simple modification to the classic one. It attacks the wrist joint of the opponent instead of the shoulder, which is smaller, weaker, and easier to put pressure on. This technique was used by Royce Gracie against a Sumo Wrestler, Akembo. This fight is probably the ultimate example of how the Omoplata, specifically this version, can be extremely useful against a larger opponent.

Setting up the Wristlock

This setup requires you to start from the full guard position. The first thing you need to do is break your feet from behind your opponent and slide your hips out from underneath your opponent, lets say to your right side. Then your left foot is placed firmly in the front of your opponent’s left hip to hold him back for your next move.

Your right foot is then Swung around the opponent’s back and your foot is placed underneath the opponent’s head against his neck. This positioning gives you very good control over the opponent. Your legs and lower body have a huge power advantage over the shoulder of your opponent which gives you this control.

Now Your left foot can also be released. By rotating the hips the opponent’s shoulder can be pinned to the ground. This immobilizes the opponent and this gives you the opportunity to finish the submission.

Finishing this Omoplata

This setup can be finished in many different ways. Many of which focus on attacking the shoulder joint. However, as any BJJ practitioner could probably tell you, it is not always easy to finish the traditional omoplata against every opponent. This can be because the opponent is simply too big to move, ask Royce Gracie, your technique isn’t perfect, or the opponent knows a good counter.

However this modified finish can be much quicker because it does not require the additional position changed of the traditional version. To finish the Omoplata wrist lock the hand is bent forwards, such that his palm is forced towards the underside of his forearm. Both of your arms are used to do this, making it impossible to fight against the lock with the comparitively small muscles of the forearm.

Below is a video of this move from start to finish

The Famous Kimura Lock

The Kimura lock is a well known shoulder lock submission. It has its roots in judo where it is referred to as  ude-garami or “reverse arm entanglement”. It came to be known as a kimura lock during a famous match where judo practitioner  Masahiko Kimura faced off against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu great  Hélio Gracie with this technique. CLICK HERE for a quick overview of this technique from   Rener Gracie.

It is a very powerful submission technique that generally places pressure on the shoulder joint. However, depending on how it is executed the pressure from the lock can be focused on the elbow joint or even upper arm bone. This move should be practiced with caution because of the threat it poses to the arm if pushed too far accidentally.

This kimura lock gains its power from being able to rotate the arm behind the back and push on the arm gaining a mechanical advantage from leverage. The rotation of the arm behind the back and up is what puts pressure on the shoulder. The pressure on the elbow and upper arm bone come more from pushing and putting force through the arm using your own arm as a kind of fulcrum. And here is a video showing the Kimura’s potential

The Simple Set-up from Side Control

The Side control Position

This lock is performed from the side control position. In a good side control position you  are at an ninety degree angle to your opponent with your hips low  one arm secured behind the opponent’s head and the other underneath his far side arm. This gives you good control of the opponent and puts you in a relatively safe position.

To start the set up for the kimura you need to get control of the far side arm. You need to release the arm securing the head and  hook it over the shoulder and underneath the far side arm. This arm is used to take control of the opponent’s elbow and push the opponent’s arm into his body.

Your other arm takes control of your opponent’s wrist to give you control of the arm. Then the arm you have hooking underneath is used to grab your own wrist. This completes the kimura grip and gives you great control over your opponent’s arm. Your head side leg can be extended out and planted, while keeping your other leg bent and against your opponent. This can provides a more secure base while focusing on securing the opponent’s arm and in completing the submission.

To complete this kimura lock the arm needs to be separated from the body to gain leverage over it. If the grip is secure your opponent will probably know what is coming next and quickly try not to let you do this. By forcefully lifting his arm upwards then away from his body and to the mat you can break the strength of his arm holding itself down easier.

 Finishing “Gracie Style”

Once you separate your opponent’s arm from his body you switch your grip on his arm. Your hand hooking under and grabbing your wrist switches to your opponent’s wrist and your other hand us used to push on the opponents wrist and apply more pressure.

To finish this kimura lock you sit back, rolling your opponent into you and exposing his back. Then the arm is forced towards the opponent’s back while one arm pulls and one arm pushes, rotating the arm and pushing it backwards.

The video below is a video demonstration of this style of kimura from side control. It also shows a sweet setup for this submission from a standing position, i think some serious training is needed before just anyone could use that in a fight though.

The Shoulder Lock

BJJ shoulder lock in action

The full guard position is a very versatile position to be in when you are in the bottom during a mixed martial arts fight. You can either sweeps and submissions are always options and which ones to use vary depending on which position your opponent is in and what he is doing. Therefor adding more submissions to your full guard arsenal can always help.

This shoulder lock from the full guard is fast, simple and effective, a dangerous combination in a mixed martial arts submission. This submission quickly isolates one of your opponent’s arms and lock it in place with your legs. Then pressure is applied to the shoulder by using the wrist as a lever and your whole body to apply force.

Isolating an Arm

While in the full guard you need to isolate one of your opponent’s arms to attack. This is usually the arm which wonders away from a safe position close to your opponent’s body. The leg on that arm’s side is then thrown over the opponents back and the opposite leg is pulled out from its position in the full guard. The arm is held close to your body and turned backwards toward the opponent’s legs while you rotate your body towards the isolated arm side.

This part of the set up is very similar to a triangle choke. However in a triangle choke you then rotate your body towards the side of the opponent’s free arm and in this shoulder lock you rotate towards the opposite side. This means that if you quickly isolate this arm, say perhaps in a scramble  when you throw your leg over the opponent and rotate, you can use your momentum to make the finish powerful and quick.

As you throw the leg over your opponent’s back you put your foot in front of his face and use your other leg to pinch the arm. Rolling into the opponent to force his face into the ground can help hold him down securely.  Because the weight of your whole body is being forced through the shoulder of the opponent it is very difficult for him to lift himself up. This applies even if the opponent is much larger than you, making this move a good option for smaller fighters.

Torquing the Shoulder

The finish for this shoulder lock involves putting pressure on the shoulder by using the arm as a lever. As you pinch the arm between your legs you grab onto your opponent’s hand and break their wrist towards the sky. While keeping their arm tight to your body you use the power of your abdominal muscles and arms to twist, rotating the opponent’s arm at the shoulder causing the tap.

Here is a video of the full setup and execution

Other Options

The setup for this move does not have to end in this specific shoulder lock. A more exotic version of this submission that involves using the legs to rotate the arm instead of your arms and torso is referred to as an Omoplata Shoulder Lock. Also this setup could even be used as a sweep to get to your opponent’s back or some other more advantageous position than simply full guard.

How Not to Throw in the Towel

In mixed martial arts a fighter needs to worry about getting submitted just as much as they have to worry about getting knocked out. This is why such a diverse skill set is required to compete in MMA style tournaments.

If you take the fight to the ground in an attempt to either submit or ground and pound an opponent, you must be ready for them to attempt to submit you in the process. Once you start to get caught in a submission attempt, submission defenses can start to get very technical. However, submission defense can be simple if you take precautions and keep yourself well grounded and keep your limbs about you; which is easier said than done when you also have to try and submit or knock your opponent out as well.

Keeping Your Head on Your Shoulders

Knowing how to defend against the guillotine in MMA is really an essential aspect to your game plan. Guillotines can come quickly in a scramble or slowly be set up and executed. Although there are specifics to defending this from different positions, some concepts are consistent throughout.

Your head position can save you from getting guillotined quickly. First and foremost you should try to not let your head slip to one side. A guillotine relies on breaking the head forward to crush the neck against your hand.  Although its almost counter intuitive bulling your neck like a linebacker making a form tackle can stop this as well as increase the likelihood of getting your head out.

Body position is also extremely important. The guillotine choke tries to throw you to one side so that you do not have your center of gravity over the attacker and therefor less control over him. To avoid this an the basic rule is to keep your head and body on opposite sides when rolling with the opponent.

Here is a video with an in depth look at these defenses from various different positions.

The Armbar Defense

The best and easiest way to defend against an armbar is really to avoid letting your arms get away from your body. This really comes in handy when you find yourself in a scramble because a smart opponent will quickly take advantage of appendages flopping in the breeze.

This also needs to be taken into account when attempting to strike an opponent on the ground. Ground and pound seems like an easy way to end a fight.  But a quick submission artist who can take a punch only needs a split second to grab an arm and start to work his triangle hold quickly.

HERE is a link to a site with some more information and a video on defending against the armbar after you have gotten your arm taken.

Getting Out of the Triangle

A slam can be a very effective defense versus the triangle choke if you can do it

The triangle choke can be a difficult submission to escape from. Keeping your arms in tight during scrambles, like defending against an armbar, keeps the opponent from isolating one arm and locking in his legs into position. Also when trapped in the basic triangle setup position, full guard, the sign the triangle is coming is when the opponent  starts trying to trap one leg back to get his leg over.

Once the legs are locked in good behind your back it becomes a countdown until your opponent finagles the choke in tight. Of course you could go Rampage Jackson and full on pick up and then slam the opponent to the ground. But there are also some techniques that you can use to buy time and then quickly get out of the choke. However because of the nature of the submission getting out of this choke is no easy task.