Counter Armbar

I know I wouldnt want to be caught in a Carlos Newton armbar

I know I wouldnt want to be caught in a Carlos Newton armbar

The arm bar is an extremely versatile submission in general. There are variations of it that can  be performed from a host of different positions. In general the arm bar gains its notoriety from really just how simple it is. In a fight, especially mixed martial arts, you are constantly using your arms to try and attack your opponent. This means that there is a lot of time when a fighter is focused on using his arms to attack and not deffending them, the perfect time to sneak in for an arm bar. 

This particular arm bar setup was used by Carlos Newton in a  fight against Kazuhiro Kusayanagi. He finds himself on top in a side control position and is immediately being hit with a Kimura attempt. Instead of letting the opponent finish what he started Newton, looking completely calm and under control, quickly made his opponent pay for this.

The Setup

The setup for this specific arm bar is very unique and pointed towards a specific situation. First though is that you are in side control position on your opponent. Once in this side control we are going to assume that the opponent is a Kimura lover and goes in for his submission attempt.

The Kimura is a shoulder lock submission that can be equally as quick as an arm bar if you get sloppy with your appendages. From the side control position your opponent will need to bring your arm up and over your back though which is not always very easy to do. This small gap of time in between when he isolates your arm and when he completes the submission is your time to strike, don’t be late though.

The Counter

The beginning is the do or die situation in the technique. submit or be submitted. To reverse this kimura and bring the hurt to your opponent is technically not very hard but practically not nearly as easy to finish as Carlos Newton makes it look.

First DO NOT let yourself get submitted. Next, your free hand is planted on the opponent’s hip and used as a pivot point as well as a means to separate yourself from your opponent’s body. From here speed and precision of movement are key to switching your position successfully for the finish.

To complete the arm bar you need to be on the other side of your opponent. To do this you walk your hips around on the head side of your opponent. The center of your hips should end up right behind the shoulder of the opponent. One leg is placed over the opponent’s head/neck to keep in pinned down against the mat. The other leg is left bent with the foot/shin pressing into the opponent’s side and up under his armpit.

From here all that is left to do is hold the arm to the body and raise the hips up to finish the submission.

Intangible Factor

There is certainly an intangibility factor to completing this submission. You could look at it and drill it until the cows come home. During a real match anything is possible and this move has a lot of variables and moving around. Also this is a counter move so by nature there is risk involved, for example if you mess up and the opponent simply finished  his submission. If you are going to attempt this move it needs to be done quickly, powerfully, precisely, and with confidence to finish successfully.

Here is a video with a technical explanation of this techique



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.

A Choke from Top Sprawl

The Top Sprawl Position is great for a quick attack of the opponent. There are a lot of options that you can consider when you get into a sprawl with your opponent. In mixed martial arts there is always the option of striking with knees or fists to the face. Or there are submissions like a quick guillotine choke or anaconda choke.

Hatt Hughes submitting Almeida at UFC 117

For something a little different and more of a wrestling move, since you see a lot of jiu-jitsu based submissions, this front headlock choke should be added to your arsenal. Matt Hughes used this choke in a showdown against a jiu-jitsu user Ricardo Almeida to win UFC 117.  It can be quickly applied from the top sprawl position and the grip is very simple to learn.

Setting up from the Sprawl

The sprawl position should be well known to a mixed martial arts fighter because it is so easily fallen into after you avoid a takedown attempt. Or as explained in the video at the bottom of the page, after As your opponent atempts to grab your legs for a takedown you shoot your legs back and drop your hips to the ground to take your legs out of reach. At the same time Your arms are wrapped around the opponent’s chest, one arm over the shoulder and the other under the arm.

This arm position is exactly where you need it to be to complete this front headlock choke. The arm that is above the shoulder is slid through so that the inside of the elbow is tight to the side of the opponent’s neck. Then a palm to palm grip is used and you pull your arms in towards your chest to secure the opponent.

This grip needs to be kept tight to hold the opponent in position because at this point the opponent will know a submission is coming  In this position if you should keep your center of gravity low, base wide, and your chest over the opponent to maintain control over him.  In addition the arm needs to maintain pressure against the opponent’s neck throughout to get the most effective submission.

Knocking Him Out

First the elbow of the non choking arm is clinched into the body. This seriously tightens up the whole choke and pushes your arm into once side of his neck while simultaneously pressing his shoulder into the other side. This cuts off the circulation to the opponent’s head which results in a fast blood choke once sunk in deeply.

To Finish this front headlock choke your head is dropped towards the ground on the non choking arm side. This gives further compression to the whole setup. Then you walk your lower body to that same side that you dropped your head and squeeze the bicep around the opponent’s neck at the same time to get the tightest squeeze on the opponent. From here it wont be long before the opponent starts to see nothing but black.

Here is a video of this technique from start to finish.



Twist Your Opponent into Submission

The Twister is a Devastating

The Twister is not a basic submission that you see all the time. However it can be an extremely effective way to finish off your opponent from the back mount.  What tickles my fancy about this move as well is how mean this move looks when you lock it in. You get the opponents whole body twisting in ways that it certainly is not made to stretch in.

For some evidence on how rare, and mean, this move is: Here is Jung Chan-Sung’s submission of Leonard Garcia with the first and only twister in UFC history.

Why to Choose the Twister Submission

The twister submission is performed from the back mount. The go to, classic, age old submission form the back mount is the rear naked choke. Because of this, everybody is ready to defend against it so it can be a lot more difficult to sink in than you would expect. This makes also helps make the twister, a relatively unseen move, more likely to surprise the opponent.

Again, the twister is just mean. It involves twisting the whole torso and neck. The lower body is pulled in one direction by a leg triangle, and the upper body is pulled in the other direction via neck crank. The whole submission tends to focus this pressure on the cervical vertebrae in the neck making it extremely painful and possibly dangerous if followed through with.

The Set Up

First and foremost you need to take the opponent’s back with a good seatbelt and good hooks. To get in position to perform the twister you need to then get you and your opponent on your sides. This is where you will pin your opponent to torque his whole body for the submission.

To pin your opponent to the ground you use your legs to control lower body position. The technique to do this is a leg triangle. From your leg hooks in back control, you slide your lower hook through your opponent’s legs and take your top leg out and lock in the leg triangle. Your top foot is placed over your bottom leg and under your opponent’s trapped foot similar to a the lockdown in the half guard.

Your upper body positioning is also essential to completing the submission. You need to get his top side arm behind you and slide your bottom side arm around the back of your opponent’s neck.  Your opponent will still be looking to defend his head and neck from strikes and submissions so separating his arm from his body, and getting between it and your opponent, is not always easy.

The Finish

Setting up this move against a comparable opponent is hard, finishing it is easy. The hands are locked around the bottom of the head/neck of the opponent. The grip used for this is referred to as an “S-grip”. This consists of bending the top digits of the fingers down essentially into a hook and then interlocking those two hooks together.

The hips are then pushed forward into the opponent to rotate the bottom half of his body into the ground and away from you. The S-grip is used to pull the opponent’s neck up and towards you. These two contact points forcing the body in opposite directions is what causes so much torque on the opponent’s spine and neck, forcing the tap.

Here is a video explaining the move in depth

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.