Everyone agrees that when you first start training learning the fundamentals is the first, and only priority.
Many of the best instructors in Jiu Jitsu have gone as far as to say that your entire time as a white belt, and most of your time as a blue belt should be spent learning and perfecting the fundamentals. Where it can get confusing is that there isn’t necessarily a Jiu Jitsu bible per say that tells us exactly what the fundamentals are. Professor John Danaher has made the statement that when we look at the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu we must not look at the technique itself, but we must look at the body movement that allows that technique to happen. Let’s face it, shrimping isn’t easy, it takes time to develop the ability to do it well, among many other body movements.
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There is always a focus on the fundamentals early in your Jiu Jitsu career, however it seems to fade as we progress through the ranks. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say something like “that move just doesn’t work for me” and chalk it up as a failure in either the technique, or the capabilities of the grappler himself. In most cases, it’s neither of the above mentioned problems. More often than not it is as simple as digging in to the technique and working to better understand the mechanics of the technique.
Chances are, if the technique is not working, there is a detail or two missing somewhere along the way. When you find that detail or two that’s missing and implement it into your execution of the technique, you will likely notice a very different result than you had in the past. Many of these techniques have been around for centuries… the techniques work, you just have to take the time to learn the technique properly.
One of the techniques that seems to die after the white belt and or blue belt rank is the arm bar from guard. Why is it that this technique seems to get abandoned as soon as the intense focus on the learning the fundamentals is lifted? Could it be that this is the point that a lot of grapplers start to work on their “own game” which seems to almost never include a closed guard situation for very long at all?
Could it be that people struggle with the execution of the arm bar from guard and therefore chalk it up as a technique that doesn’t work for them and move on? It’s likely a combination of both in my opinion. This arm bar is often one of the first that is learned, and requires very technical movement in order to be done properly.
To make sure we get every detail we are going to break down this technique from Professor John Danaher’s video “BJJ Moves: ArmBar From Guard”. If you don’t know this already, Professor Danaher is responsible for training some of the best grapplers of our time. His systematic approach to learning, and teaching Jiu Jitsu has quickly made him one of the most sought after instructors in the world. Let’s take a look at his breakdown of the arm bar from guard.
We are starting out in the closed guard. Professor Danaher shows the standard way in which the arm bar from closed guard is shown. Gripping the opponent’s arm with a two on one grip using his same side arm to grab the opponent’s wrist and his opposite side arm to over hook the triceps, just above the elbow. He goes on to explain that while this method will likely work at an entry level, it is highly unlikely it will work against any grappler that has any level of experience because this position lacks control of the opponent’s head, and therefore, lacks control of the opponents posture.
If this is not the ideal way to execute the arm bar from guard, what is? How do we improve this technique to make it more ideal and therefore more likely to be effective in a live training environment.
In order to best execute this technique, we need to have control of two parts of our opponent’s body. First, we must control the opponent’s elbow of the arm we plan to attack, and secondly, we must control the opponent’s head and neck. What we are looking to achieve is cupping and pushing the opponent’s elbow at least to the inside of our hip, but ideally we are able to push it beyond the centerline of our body, while continuing to control the head and pull the opponent’s body towards us to keep the posture broken down.
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Once we are able to achieve the position we are looking for with the opponent’s elbow inside our hips and their posture broken down while we continue to control the head it’s time to advance to the next step. Next we want to secure our “top lock” this is shown at 3:45 mark in the video, but can easily be described as something similar to shooting a triangle, the difference being both arms are inside the legs, however our leg is over the shoulder of the arm that we are attacking and our feet our locked just as they would be in a high closed guard.
One thing to note that I always find interesting is which foot is on the bottom when you get to a position like this. I can not say I am certain that it always matters, but it most certainly matters some of the time. That being said, in this position Professor Danaher has the leg that is over the opponent’s shoulder on the bottom of this lock with his feet locked at the ankles.
When we have the top lock position, we should have the elbow of the arm we are attacking well inside of our hip. We are now ready to get into the final position to finish the submission. From here, we need to pivot to at least 90 degrees on the opponent.
This will be done through a combination of lifting your hips by putting more pressure downward on your opponent’s shoulders and upper back, and also reaching with your hand (on the side that you are looking to pivot to) and getting an under hook under the opponent’s leg, which you can also use to help pull you into position. As we start to make this transition to being at least 90 degrees from our opponent we must unlock our ankles and point our legs in the same direction. From here we must maintain pressure on the opponent’s head using the top of our thigh until the point where we are ready to switch that leg to the other side of the opponent’s head.
Now that we are at least at a 90 degree angle from our opponent, with their elbow well inside our hips, we are ready to finish the arm bar. This can be done by simply lifting our hips and pushing away with our legs at the same time, or we can use our legs and our under hook under the opponent’s leg to leg press and lift them over, essentially sweeping them and giving us enough momentum to come up with them and finish the arm bar from the top position. Either option should produce a rather quick tap from your opponent.
Now that we have been able to take a deep dive into the details of this technique, I hope that regardless of your rank you revisit this fundamental move and give it the time it deserves. As mentioned earlier, Professor Danaher’s detailed, systematic approach makes it extremely easy to understand any technique. If you want to continue to perfect your arm bar game, check out Professor Danaher’s video instructional “Arm Bars: Enter The System”. This 8 volume series is sure to have you operating on an elite level with the same tips and secrets Professor Danaher teaches to the best grapplers in the world.
Join John Danaher with the latest installment of his systematic approach to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Check Out “Enter The System: Arm Bar” and get to work on improving your armbar game! BJJ Fanatics has it here!