The Beautiful Simplicity of Roger Gracie’s Closed Guard Armbar

Last updated on 22.04.2021 by

Brevity is hard, and this fact is evident from the number of 10+ minute long videos detailing a technique as simple as the armbar from the closed guard. Roger Gracie is widely regarded as the greatest BJJ competitor in the gi, and this short video on the armbar demonstrates that his prowess includes teaching too.

Keep reading to see the video and get our breakdown of it!

The closed guard is an essential position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is probably something you went over on your first day. It gives you plenty of opportunities to control, submit, and sweep your opponent.

The key to success from the closed guard is being in control. If you launch attacks without control you’ll find yourself in a race that you may or may not win. But if you first establish dominant grips and then attack, your opponent will not be in a position to defend themselves.

This is why Roger Gracie was so successful at the highest levels of competition even while using fundamentally simple BJJ. People knew what he was planning on doing, but they would only realize this after he had secured insurmountable control positions. 

The armbar itself is a submission hold where you control your opponent’s shoulder with your legs and place pressure on their elbow. This technique is viable in both gi and nogi, although the variant that Roger demonstrates is dependent on gi grips for its dominant control.

Breaking Down the Roger Gracie Closed Guard Armbar

Winning the grip battle is key to this submission. The armbar is common enough that even relatively fresh white belts will sense danger when you begin doubling up on their arm. Roger mitigates this by establishing a cross-grip on their sleeve and creating tension on their arm. He does this by performing a high rowing action while angling himself onto his side.

As he establishes control over the arm his other arm reaches for a cross-collar grip. Once he establishes both of his grips he reinforces control over their arm by bringing his collar-grip arm’s elbow down to his hip. This traps their arm in place and provides him with the correct leverage point for a submission.

From here Roger steps on his opponent’s hips, allowing him to climb his legs to a high guard. His goal is to lock his legs over the shoulder of the arm that he is attacking. This provides an incredibly strong control position, making the finish almost inevitable.

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