Omoplata- Where does the name come from?
The Omoplata is a joint lock specifically targeting the shoulder and shoulder blade, which if you remember from high school anatomy is called the scapula. That’s not just a random flex of my retention of High School Academics, it is the literal translation from the English Scapula to the Portuguese Omoplata.
In its ancestral home of Japan, as well as in Judo, the Omoplata is known as Ashi Sankaku Garami (Legs, Triangle, Entanglement). In Catch Wrestling it is known by the less exotic and less explanatory “Coil Lock.”
History of the Omoplata
The Omoplata originated in Judo as plan B for when a throw went wrong, specifically a Tomoe Nage Throw. Briefly, a Tomoe Nage is performed by placing the same side foot on the forward legs hip, falling to the same side shoulder and essentially pulling guard to the throw (similar to a helicopter arm bar without the arm bar). Being that generally, when there is a forward leg and you have a grip on the arm there is also a forward arm, we find the perfect opening for an Omoplata on that forward arm.
While it is noted to date back to the 1930/40’s in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we can assume that it is much older than that in regards to Judo. Unfortunately, it wasn’t seen as an effective submission by BJJ practitioners for much of its time in the Gracie system, even less so as a sweeping position or transition position. It wasn’t until the 90’s that it began coming into prominence in competition through Nino Schembri (a Carlos Gracie Jr Black Belt). In which he used the Omoplata to its potential as a control position and a transitional position.
How to do an Omoplata:
The “All Meat No Filler” setup begins in closed guard with a deep over hook of the target arm (or primary arm). Without isolation the Omoplata is not possible.
Block the secondary arm at the wrist while transitioning to a “side guard” position on the same side as the over hooked primary arm.
Speed is essential, these two movements must happen at the same time for optimal effectiveness.
- Transition from blocking the secondary arm to a “palm to face” arm position to push the face away from you, while bringing your top guard leg over the back until you clear the head and find your leg over the primary arms shoulder blade.
- Abandon your over hook on the primary arm and attach your arm across the lower back of your opponent, gripping the far side hip (or belt in the Gi).
- This hip grip creates a block for the most common escape, which is to forward roll out.
PUT BOTH FEET OUT IN FRONT and SQUEEZE YOUR KNEES TOGETHER to isolate the arm in a “Kimura like position”.
- Parallel with your opponent
- Flat on your butt
- With both feet extended in front of you.
- However, it is very likely your opponent is up on their knees, in an effort to counter this unfortunate change in their circumstances. To combat this, we have some Jiu Jitsu Voodoo, I mean techniques.
Using the hand not presently engaged in blocking the escape.
- Grab the wrist on the primary arm and pull it tight.
- Begin using your legs to circle away from your opponent, until they are belly down and flat on the mat.
While continuing to squeeze your legs together, shift them into a “Figure Four” away from your opponent.
This is where it gets a little tricky, and even trickier to explain via the written word. From here you have two options:
- Keep ahold of the wrist with the help of slow and controlled forward movement of your hips while rolling up to your knees and the lifting the wrist of your opponent on the primary arm, creating a kimura like movement and pressure.
- If you were lucky enough to have your opponent’s primary arm bent, and their forearm across your waist like a seat belt. Then you just simply bend at the waist, isolating the forearm of your opponent even more securely then slow and controlled roll up from your butt to your knees. This creates the backwards rotation necessary for the Kimura like finish.
Baited Guard Pass to the Omoplata
This has been a favorite of mine for the last year. Although it almost always results in a sweep not the submission, it is valuable non the less. Let’s lay out a scenario to better understand when this comes into play.
You find yourself in bottom closed guard, and you get the feeling your opponent will inevitably pass your guard. So, as they stand up to break your guard,
- Open your guard and place both feet on your opponent’s hips
- Get a “two on one” grip on your opponent’s wrist (this becomes the primary arm).
- Bait your opponent to pass opposite of the primary arm.
- You can do this by abandoning the foot to hip connection opposite of the primary arm, but you must keep that leg ready, DO NOT drop it to the mat.
Next you simultaneously:
- Launch your legs up on either side of the arm.
- Pull the primary arm down.
- Shift your body orientation so you are facing the same direction as your opponent as well as parallel with them.
To create the sweep:
- Take the leg that is over the shoulder and pendulum it to the mat.
- This movement is almost identical to the “Basic Setup
Step 3” just minus the “face to palm position.” Instead of just clearing the leg around the head and onto the shoulder, now you are using momentum in the same movement to create the downward momentum of your opponent to force them to forward roll.
As your opponent rolls to avoid the Omoplata, you rock up to your knees and settle yourself down comfortably into side control.
Here is an Omoplata from side control, who better than Gui Mendes to show you his beautiful setups!
Why I Love the Omoplata.
In my five years of Jiu Jitsu Training, there are only a handful of techniques I have drilled and used more than the Omoplata. I am very fortunate to be 6’2” with long legs, so I’ve gravitated to using the Omoplata for sweeps as well as transitions to triangle positions since I was a white belt. I have to be honest in writing this that my bias towards the Omoplata came from watching guys like Keenan Cornelius, Marcelo Garcia, and Richie Martinez and just how smooth and dominant they looked while using it.
I initially wanted to master it for the flashy nature of the technique, but the better I got at it, the more I saw how versatile and powerful the Omoplata could be. Another thing I noticed how beneficial it could be in fatigue situations, and towards the end of open mats. I found myself needing a position that didn’t require multiple bursts of energy, but were also relatively safe with a minimal risk of getting my guard passed.
With those requirements in place I began working my closed guard Omoplata game, which allows relatively slow movements to squeeze and creep your way into a dominant position. As I became more comfortable with the closed guard version, open guard variations became the next logical step to create powerful sweep situations.
Open Guard Omoplatas meant more risk, which meant a greater sense of accomplishment when you pull it off. To this day, nothing makes me feel better on the mats than sweeping a standing opponent with an omoplata and finishing with an arm bar from the top.
Hey, Before You Go.
Omoplata, is it just a pretentious and lazier Kimura that you can perform while mostly lying down until the finish? Well, no… maybe… You can decide. Becoming proficient in this technique will open up sweeps, dominant rest positions, and a victory even if it does mean lying on your back for most of it.
Now that you know some simple setups to perform the same essential technique as a kimura, but with the added power of your legs and core. You can add it as a main staple to your Rubber Guard, Gubber Guard (Gi-Rubber Guard), Lapel Guard, or Marcelo Garcia style systems etc. It can be a submission in its own right or transition into many submissions such as arm bars, triangles, go go platas, marcelo-platas, and the dreaded “friendship ender” wrist locks. This is a must have for any guard player to have in their toolbox.
This article was written by Tyler Olson, Blue Belt with 5 years experience and owner and head coach at a Jiu Jitsu club in North Dakota – The Grappling Garage