The armbar is one of the most iconic grappling submissions. It is unclear where the armbar first appeared, as variations of a straight armbar are present in just about every submission grappling martial art.
In BJJ, armbars are one of the most common finishes in competition. An armbar is available from virtually any Jiu Jitsu position, making it very versatile and easy to get. And yet, people often fall short of finishing the armbar, particularly when the arm is outstretched, and they think the submission is wrapped up. Even worse, this often results in them losing top position!
It doesn’t have to be that way though – mastering the Spider Web position will boost your armbar finishing rate
The Paradox Of The BJJ Armbar
Finishing a traditional armbar is easy (or at least it should be) mostly due to the fact that your entire body is going up against an isolated arm. You are using your strongest joint, your hips, to attack one of the smallest joints in the human body – the elbow.
The problem with the armbar lies in the fact that its mechanics make it very predictable. The simplicity of the attack is what allows smart grapplers to get out of the tightest armbars imaginable.
A Solution To The Problem… And Then Some
There are three things that usually temper with a successful armbar finish: defensive grips (early defense), hitchhiker escapes (late defenses), and stacks. All these happen due to poor positioning, rather than holes in the armbar finishing mechanics. Conversely, all three can be corrected if you use the optimal Jiu Jitsu position for armbar attacks – the Spider Web.
The Spider Web Position
The Spider Web is a position popularized by Eddie Bravo, although I don’t doubt some Gracie claims they were using it for decades before Bravo.
The position is only slightly different from the one you probably already know in terms of finishing armbars from the top. The difference is that the Spider Web is a pinning position. You can hold someone in the Spider Web position for an extended period of time, and block them from escaping both the position and an armbar attack.
There are two key differences in relation to the “traditional” armbar finish from the top. First of all, you’re going to be using the arm that is closer to your opponent’s head to control the arm you’re attacking, rather than the one that is closer to their legs. Second, you SHOULD cross your ankles in order to get better control, contrary to the popular belief that you shouldn’t.
Deep hooks refer to the way you are attaching yourself to your opponent. Instead of holding with your hands, your aim is to use your entire arm, focusing on attaching yourself to your opponent with your elbows. The inside of the elbow of your arms closest to your opponent’s head should be pressing against the inside of their elbow.
To lock this hook in, grab your opposite side hips. That means that if you are placing a deep hook with your right arm, try to grab your left hip.
Your other arm has the task of securing a deep hook on your opponent’s near-side leg. Once again, a deep hook means the inside of your elbow is up against the back of an opponent’s knee.
This grip can attach at a variety of spots. The optimal one is to grab the forearm of the arm you are attacking, but that is not always available against a larger opponent. Other options include grabbing your own leg or any convenient gi grip (lapel or belt) you can get your hand on.
Together, these two grips have the effect of giving you control of half of their body (arm and leg) seen lengthwise.
For an optimal Spider Web, you want to have your knees bent and your ankles crossed.
The ankle of your leg that goes over your opponent’s chest should be the one on top. Why? Because it acts as a wedge, holding the leg going over your opponent’s head in place, even if they try to push up on it. It would be ideal to have the ankles crossed around your opponent’s far shoulder, but this is not a key requirement.
Another important point about leg position in the spider web is that once you have your legs crossed, you should pull your heels towards your butt. This will block your opponent from moving in either direction while giving you time to break grips.
Jiu Jitsu Spider Web Attacks
While armbars are the most obvious and best outcome from a Spider Web, it is far from the only submission you can pursue.
The Douchebag Grip Break
The armbar from the Spider Web Jiu Jitsu position is basically ready to go, once you get past the inevitable defensive grips. Now, this can be a palm-to-palm grip, S-grip, rear-naked choke grip, or a gi grip. It won’t matter as it won’t help them escape nor will it stop your armbars.
In the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system, the “Douchebag” grip break is one of the most common and effective grip breaks.
To be painfully precise (pun intended), you step on their neck with your top leg, placing the side of your foot against their carotid artery. No amount of grip strength will keep their arms together once you apply this type of pressure, meaning you get a free armbar finish. Legal at all levels.
Spider Web Bicep Slicer Grip Break
Another option you can utilize is to place the calf of the leg that is over the chest across your opponent’s arms. Use the other leg to lock a triangle and you’ll get an immediate grip break. A word of caution with this grip break: it works so well because it is actually a biceps slicer, which is illegal until brown belt.
If they open their grip they escape the bicep slicer and give you the armbar!
Spider Web Armbar
When it comes to finishing armbars from the Spider Web position, remember that once you break the grip and the arm is straight, you should definitely keep your legs tightly hooked. If you let go of your deep hooks, all hitchhiker escapes are back in the fold.
Think outside the box, go for the armbar finish by holding the leg, as you extend the arm. Use the power of the Spider Web position all the way to the tap.
You won’t find a better spot to hunt for your favorite armlock finish than the Spider Web. Think of it as the dedicated position to control people from, while you’re looking to patiently and slowly set up a tight and guaranteed armbar finish. It will work even against the most modern and late means of escape, without much effort on your part.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.