While the triangle choke may be the most iconic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu submission, the armbar is where most people find their early successes. This powerful submission can be thrown from nearly anywhere and is a competition workhorse from white belt all the way through black! This article will explore the key principles of the armbar and look at two high percentage finishes from top positions.
The Principles Of The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Armbar
The armbar is mechanically a very simple submission. The elbow hinges in one direction and the arm can only straighten so far; the armbar forces the arm to extend beyond this normal range of motion, breaking the arm.
In order to attack a joint (any joint, not just the elbow) you must have control of the joints above and below it. Thus for an armbar to work you need to control the shoulder and wrist. If you analyze armbar finishing positions in BJJ, you’ll notice that they all share these elements of control, regardless of whether you’re finishing from the top or the bottom.
Typically, this boils down to controlling the shoulder with your legs and controlling the wrist with your arms. Once these joints are controlled, you’ll be able to use your hips as a fulcrum around which you force their elbow to hyper-extend.
While the armbar can be done from both top and bottom positions, finishing from the top is better than from the bottom. Why? Well, you’ll have gravity working for you instead of against you, giving your more finishing power.
Additionally, there is less risk when attacking armbars from the top. If you fail at an armbar attempt from the guard you may find your guard immediately being passed! Failed attempts from the top may result in you losing the top position, but if this happens you’ll generally find yourself in the guard, rather than on the bottom of side control.
Nearside Armbar From Side Control
Any time you’re in side control you’ll have the option of attacking either the far side or the near side arm. We’ve previously covered Demian Maia’s far side armbar, so today we’ll be focusing on attacking the near side arm.
This particular armbar comes when your opponent has positioned their inside arm in low orientation – either because they’re looking for a particular escape, or because they’ve made a mistake and have allowed you to trap their arm here.
To begin you may want to engage in a bit of misdirection, suggesting to your opponent that you’re looking to attack the far arm. In actuality you are looking to isolate their inside arm with your legs, trapping their wrist beneath your armpit.
Simultaneously you’ll need to pass your other leg over their head, allowing you to pin their shoulders to the mat. Without this control they’ll be able to come up as you apply torque to the shoulder, eliminating the pressure on their elbow.
This finish is extremely powerful as their wrist is trapped underneath your armpit. As a result, your fulcrum is functionally much higher, meaning a smaller motion is required to get the submission.
Armbar from S-Mount
The armbar from s-mount is a devastating submission. The position puts a lot of pressure on your opponent, both physically and mentally. Once you’ve mounted your opponent like this they’ll likely be feeling tired and possibly beaten. This is a perfect opportunity to mount an attack!
Admittedly, the spinning armbar from mount is a flashier finish than the s-mount armbar. However, while the spinning armbar looks great, it requires a tremendous degree of timing and presents your opponent with an opportunity to create a scramble. The s-mount armbar instead relies on pressure and control, ensuring a tight finish even against determined foes.
In order to transition to s-mount from the mount you’ll want to trap one or both of your opponent’s elbows over their head. Often you can force this position simply by attacking chokes or americanas. As they move their arms up to defend the attacks, place a palm on their triceps and drive their arm up and across their body. Ideally you’ll want to replace your hand with your chest, freeing both of your hands for the transition to s-mount.
Once their arm has been trapped you’ll slide your knee on the same side high up the mat, ultimately ending right behind their head. Your other leg will switch orientation, settling into a position that looks much like the pigeon pose from yoga. Ideally this second leg will be underneath their far arm, effectively pinning them in place.
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. This does not have to be done quickly as you should have a strong control position. Instead, move slowly and deliberately so that you don’t create any unnecessary space. Once your calf has passed over your opponent’s forehead, clamp it down tightly. This head control is essential to your finish.
From here the finish is all but guaranteed. You’ll need to position their arm at a slight angle across your hip bone. If you attempt to finish straight up the middle your own anatomy will get in the way of your finish!
To finish the armbar, control the wrist and direct your force against the pinky-side of their arm. As long as you’re pulling in the same plane as their pinky you’re correctly hyper-extending the elbow.
The armbar is a staple of BJJ submissions and is an essential part of any well-rounded strategy. These two armbars from the top offer reliable finishes without exposing yourself to undue risk. Try adding one or both to your game and watch your top-game finishing rate soar!