The triangle choke might be something that is easier to visually associate with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but the armbar is definitely the submission to learn first. Some say it is the most reliable submission there is in grappling. I wouldn’t know about the percentages, but I do know it can work. Actually, if you’re looking to do an armbar from a top position, you can pretty much bet it’ll get a tap if you set things up correctly. 

The Principles Of The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Armbar

How exactly does a BJJ armbar work? It is based on the principle of applying opposite forces to the elbow joint while looking to force it to bend in the direction it does not naturally bend in. To achieve this, you obviously need to acquire a position that will allow you to project such forces on to the arm. So, that’s where we’ll begin. 

In order to get a position for an armbar, you need to understand how the submission works. In that sense, for an armbar to work you need to control the two neighboring joints, above and below the one you are attacking. In terms of the straight armbar, those would be the shoulder and wrist. If you analyze the armbar finishing positions in BJJ, you’ll notice that they all share this principle, whether they’re top or bottom. 

Still thinking along the lines of principles, finishing from the top is better than from the bottom. Why? Well, you’ll have gravity working for you, instead of against, you, and much better control over those two joints. 

What it all boils down to si t control the shoulder with your legs (just squeeze the knees together) and the wrist with your arms (elbow grips or wrist grips, doesn’t matter). Keeping them stuck will get you into a great position to project your hips into the elbow joint, getting breaking pressure and a quick tap. 

Armbar Setups From The Top

Armbars done from top positions are much more reliable than those down from the bottom. Why? Well, if you lose an armbar you’re attacking from the top, you still have the chance to retain top position. If you lose an armbar when on the bottom, the opponent will most likely pass your guard. That is a big gamble. 

However, there’s a catch. While armbars from top positions are better in terms of mechanical dominance, they’re also harder to set up because you don’t really have a position to finish from most high control positions, like the mount or side control. that, however, does not mean you don’t have options to set armbars up.

Here are a couple of examples of how you can get side control and mount armbars: 

  • Side Control

You’ve got side control. Arms are coming at you. Why not take one of them o home?  All you’ve got to do is recognize your chance to take them. Because the person on the bottom is looking to retain guard, at some point they’ll probably post behind and post on your shoulder. if not, then your goal is to bait them to move ina way that will expose an arm. 

Any time you’re in side control you’ll have the option of taking either the far side or the near side arm. In both cases, you’ll need to attach yourself to the arm and then move into position. We’ve recently published a video article on Demian Maia’s armbar from the top. He attacks the far side arm, for example. That means that we can look at the near side arm today. 

The near side arm is just as exposed. For a near side armbar, you will be looking to control the shoulder first, usually by getting an overhook. The moment you get it, you can look to shift towards the head, so that you can swing a leg over. Slide your other leg under the armpit to get control over the shoulder joint when you sit down. The overhook already provides wrist control so just put your hips into it and you’re done. 

  • Mount

Your other essential option from the top is attacking the armbar from the mount position. The mount puts a lot of pressure on your opponent. However, it’s just as much psychological pressure as it’s physical. Odds are you’ve done a lot to get there. They’ll be feeling tired and possibly beaten. That’s your chance to take the arm. 

Getting an armbar from mount will require you to get to a different mount variation, called the S-mount. Forget about spinning straight into armbars from the mount if you like to catch someone higher than a white belt with it. Rather, you should think about pressure and making them surrender before you go for the armbar finish. 

From the mount, isolate both elbows over the head of the opponent. A palm to palm grip swill ensures both pressure and a seamless transition into S-mount. Simply slide one leg to the shoulder, straighten your arms and sit up into an S-mount. Posting one of your arms on the opponent’s far hip will only cause more pressure on top of them. 

For a finish, use the free arm to go elbow deep under the arm you’re looking to attack. Then, start circling one leg in front of the head. Don’t jump back, but rather go slowly. Once the calf is in front of their forehead, use it to pull the head back. This is the moment when you’ll be looking to sit back and enjoy an armbar from the top.