Although Jiu Jitsu is often referred to as “the gentle art” the Kimura is a reminder of how brutal a BJJ submission can be.
Utilized in Jiu Jitsu, MMA, and catch wrestling, the Kimura lock is a versatile technique that has been a fundamental tool for submission and control for years.
While you might learn the Kimura fairly early in your Jiu Jitsu training, do not to dismiss it as basic or discard it from your moveset. Ahead, we’ll discuss the history of the Kimura and what makes the technique both unique and important.
What is a Kimura?
Put simply, the Kimura is a shoulder lock submission that utilizes a figure-four grip. But, considering the Americana and Omoplata are also shoulder lock submissions, you might wonder what makes it unique.
The submission’s namesake derives from legendary Judoka, Masahiko Kimura. While Judo is a martial art that typically emphasizes throws, it does utilize a small array of submissions, such as arm locks and chokes, to earn victory.
In fact, Kimura demonstrated his grappling prowess when he defeated Helio Gracie using his namesake submission.
Admittedly, the match between Kimura and Helio lends the submission much of its mystique. However, the Kimura’s enduring success in the highest level of competition and its mechanical efficiency demand constant reexamining of its principles.
Details of the Kimura lock for Jiu Jitsu
This particular shoulder lock is perhaps the most devastating upper body submission due, in part, to the use of your entire body to isolate and attack a singular point in your opponent’s shoulder. Here we will examine a few key techniques and principles to achieve and finish the Kimura.
It is important to note that although some setups may change, the fundamental components of the Kimura will remain virtually the same, no matter what position you try it from.
Perhaps most fundamental to the Kimura is the implementation of the figure-four lock around your opponent’s arm. The figure-four grip allows you to create a powerful, closed loop around a joint or limb for the purpose of isolation and submission.
To achieve the figure-four grip, you must first gain control of your opponent’s wrist (with your same side hand), which will serve as the starting point for your loop. In the case of the Kimura, your cross arm should overhook your opponent’s arm, to then loop behind and under. This will give you the ability to latch onto your own wrist, creating the figure-four grip.
Your figure-four lock around your opponent’s arm requires a strong closed loop to implement the Kimura. To maintain this lock, you will need to establish grips that will stand up to resistance.
In this instance, we find ourselves with two options: the “monkey grip” and the “C grip”. The former forgoes the use of the thumb to emphasize the push in one direction. The latter grip forms a closed loop around the wrist that connects your thumb to your pointer finger.
Personally, I find that both grips work well for particular portions of the move. For example, the C grip works well at the start when you want to establish control. Since your opponent is not fully controlled yet, the thumb helps to keep the wrist in place.
However, when you’ve achieved the arm angle try switching to the monkey grip. This will both emphasize the push of the Kimura in that direction, and subsequently rest your grip since you don’t have to focus on squeezing.
What is so beneficial about the Kimura, is that once the position for the actual submission is achieved, the margin for escape is minimal, even compared to other classic submissions such as the arm bar or triangle choke.
That said, there is no need to rush the submission once you are in position. Your training partners will thank you. However, a strong and stubborn opponent can still manage an escape if you get complacent.
Once your grips are established, you will notice that you have forced your opponent to create a 90 degree bend in their arm. Be sure to maintain this angle throughout the submission to keep their arm in its weakest position. Next, you have to create an angle (see angle details below) that is optimal for leveraging your entire body to wrench the arm into the Kimura finish.
Oftentimes, two arms versus one will win out. However, a strong, stubborn opponent gripping their leg or gi material will eventually tire your arms out. For that reason, your legs, hips, arms, and even your opponent’s body will be essential tools for strengthening the Kimura.
Optimal shoulder attack conditions will rely heavily on the angle of your opponent’s arm. Be sure the arm remains at the 90 degree angle. You can actually make the angle more acute, essentially scraping the arm up your opponent’s back for added leverage. However, if the angle widens, your opponent can straighten their arm and begin breaking down the submission.
Once at the proper angle, maintain consistent pressure, pushing the arm toward the head, like you are trying to make your opponent touch the back of their head.
The Kimura is a great tool to make your opponent feel trapped. However, if you focus too heavily on just the submission, you run the risk of allowing your opponent to escape by rolling forward and out of the position.
A secondary focus must be the pressure you use to keep your opponent immobilized as you finish the Kimura.
You can implement two methods to keep your opponent trapped. First, place your leg that is opposite of the submission on your opponent’s hip. This helps you push into a deeper angle if you need to and also keeps your opponent’s hips pinned to the mat.
Second, as you angle, bring your other leg up your opponent’s back as high as you are able. This maneuver will keep their posture broken.
In order to increase the effectiveness of the Kimura, you have to create an angle that will allow you to completely isolate an arm on one side. Generally, to achieve this kind of angle, you will need to open your guard. Don’t worry about having your guard passed; your immobilization techniques will aid your angle and also prevent the pass.
I generally use elementary math to explain the desired angle to my students. When someone is in your guard, they are essentially parallel to your body. We think of this as your two bodies forming an “equals sign”.
However, to finish the Kimura you’ll want to be perpendicular to your opponent, forming a “plus sign” with your bodies. The deeper the angle, the more range you will have to attack the arm.
The Kimura Trap System
The Kimura trap system is perhaps what makes this submission so unique, especially among other shoulder locks. The system was developed by wrestler and mixed martial artist, David Avellan
The Kimura trap system is a series of techniques that highlights the versatility of the figure-four lock for positional advancements and submission opportunities. While the system does not demand every exchange end in a Kimura finish, it does encourage the use of its tenets for effective counters, immobilization techniques, and transitions.
Does an opponent have you in a standing single leg? Establish a figure-four lock on the far arm, sit back and kick for a sacrifice throw that leads right into a Kimura.
Did your opponent pass your guard while you were attempting a basic Kimura from the bottom? Maintain the figure-four and use it as a leverage point to either re-guard or sweep your opponent with the control that the Kimura provides.
While it may appear to be just another shoulder lock submission, the Kimura is a technique with a legendary history and proven track record.
Its versatility and success is reflected in the popular Kimura trap system created by fighter David Avellan.
The Kimura is a brutal submission that can cause great damage to an opponent if implemented with the right mechanics. Use the details we’ve provided here to enhance your Kimura’s effectiveness.