Many techniques that you learn in your first few Jiu Jitsu classes will form the foundation of the rest of your Jiu Jitsu career. Some of the basics transform into advanced techniques that can challenge any opponent.
However, some techniques are universally left behind in the basic classes, perhaps because they are thought to be ineffective in high-level training and competition. Although the Americana submission has found success in Jiu Jitsu and MMA, it is the less versatile and less commonly seen shoulder lock compared to its cousin the Kimura.
The Americana has the potential to be a powerful technique that advances with the rest of your Jiu Jitsu journey. Here are a few key tips to make this arm lock unstoppable.
What Is The Americana Lock?
The Americana submission, or “paintbrush” as it’s sometimes called, is a shoulder lock akin to a Kimura. In the simplest terms: if the Kimura points your opponent’s fist downward, the Americana points it upward.
The submission can be achieved from many positions but is most effective and accessible from top side control or full mount. But, how do you actually do the Americana submission?
Without explaining the Americana in seminar length verbiage, the key element to performing the submission is the isolation and control of one of your opponent’s arms with both of yours.
Whether you are in full mount or top side control, be sure to force your opponent’s arm against the mat so it forms a 90-degree angle. Both of your arms work together with the pressure from your body weight to pin the arm down.
While one of your hands continues to pin the arm down at their wrist, your other hand slides under your opponent’s tricep and grabs your own wrist. This will form a closed loop around the arm, optimizing control.
Concerning the actual hold and submission, there isn’t a huge difference between performing the Americana submission from full mount and doing it from side control. However, the Americana from mount allows you to weigh down your opponent’s hips to stifle escape attempts. You can also easily switch to the other arm quickly if your initial Americana is not working.
From side control, the Americana is still powerful; if your opponent shifts their arm, you can follow it into a straight arm lock or Kimura.
To finish the American, tighten the joint up first by sliding your opponent’s arm down the mat. Now, begin to raise the elbow off the mat as you slide their knuckles under their elbow. The tighter you brace the arm, the quicker the finish will be achieved.
What Makes The Braulio Estima Americana Better Than The Rest
In terms of technique variations, the Americana submission has a fairly limited range of unique setups or finishes. However, there is virtually no technique that hasn’t been transformed by some determined grappler.
In this case, we see Braulio Estima, a world-class blackbelt, teaching a small but important detail that will vastly increase your Americana’s finishing rate.
Estima echoes the sentiment of the Americana becoming less effective at higher levels of grappling. But, the small changes that he demonstrates help to increase your control while decreasing your opponent’s mobility, thus bringing the finish quicker.
This particular Americana setup seems to only be accessible from top side control. Estima points out that in this position, your opponent can capitalize on their hip mobility, raising them to lessen the pressure on their shoulder. This counter highlights the need to increase tension in your opponent’s shoulder, which is the crux of Estima’s Americana variant.
Fortunately, there isn’t much motion required to enter into the new position. Insteads of grabbing your own wrist, you will instead slide up your own arm to latch onto your bicep, essentially using a rear naked choke grip.
To enter this position more organically, Estima demonstrates the transition from a standard top side position, with one arm under the head and an underhook on your opponent’s far arm, gripping their shoulder. Estima maintains the underhook shoulder grip while he drives his hips under the close arm, removing his opponent’s frame.
In a more secure side control, Estima uses his free hand to pin his opponent’s wrist to the mat which begins to form the Americana’s 90 degree angle.
Now, Estima is in a better position to switch his hand from his opponent’s shoulder to his own bicep. The tension in the shoulder is tighter, and your own control over your opponent is more complete, earning you a tap much faster.
How To introduce The New Americana to Your Game
While this Americana variation is effective, it’s maximum potential likely comes from the angle that side control provides, as opposed to full mount. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot achieve this variation in other positions.
As Estima pointed out, the main tenets of the submission are decreasing your opponent’s shoulder mobility by using a rear naked choke grip on the arm. You can also do this from mount and half guard.
Like Estima, you should make your movements as minimal as possible to decrease your opponent’s countering potential. Whether you are in mount or half guard, prime yourself to take the arm by under hooking an arm on the same side and clamping onto the shoulder.
When you pin the wrist down, your hand should be able to slip from the shoulder to your bicep seamlessly.
The Americana is among the first techniques you will learn as you start your Jiu Jitsu journey. For that reason, it may be forgotten as you progress into higher levels. This shoulder lock may not be as popular or versatile as the Kimura, but it has an important role in forming the basis of your first attacks.
There are still ways to make the basics applicable as you advance. Braulio Estima demonstrated a small change to the Americana that increases its control and finish rate. It is a subtle difference that any level practitioner can apply to their game.
Jeremy is brown belt and has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, but he also enjoys creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, where he began his 11 years of Jiu Jitsu training.