Armbar Fixes With John Danaher – BJJ Fanatics

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I always found it interesting that it seemed the fundamental techniques I first learned, I’m talking the very basics, the ones I had to know to get my first stripe, seemed to only work on the new students and would continually see them get shut down by the people who had been training longer

Take the arm bar from guard for example, one of the first handfuls of techniques likely taught universally to student who are new to training Jiu Jitsu. 

 It’s interesting that it seems every time I go for it, they either pull out, or stack me up and end up passing my guard.  Why is that? Is it that these moves are only to help students learn the body movements, but the technique is not actually effective?  Nope, not at all. Like everything it’s in the details, having the right information, the right details to guide you each step of the way will completely change how you feel about launching these fundamental attacks on the toughest students in class. 

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Jiu Jitsu is a problem solving activity.  Your ability to identify the problem and solve the problem at a faster speed than your competition is ultimately what will make you successful.  In this excerpt from Professor John Danaher’s video instructional titled “Arm Bars: Enter the System” we are going to look at the major problems from the three positions in which you can achieve an arm lock submission, the bottom, the top and the back.  

Professor Danaher starts out in this video breakdown in the position that he feels is the most problematic.  Looking at the problems from the bottom first. Starting with the most problematic, the posture problem. Next is the pull away issue, which is often linked to the posture problem fairly closely, but is in fact its own unique problem. Finally the last issue we have to deal with from the bottom is the opponent staking us up. 

First we need to look at the posture.  Before we can talk about what the issues are, we need to know what good looks like.  Utilizing a straight collar tie, or an outside collar tie from the closed guard to keep your opponent’s posture broken in conjunction with using your legs in a locked guard high on the opponent’s back, or even better, locking the guard around the opponent’s head with the arms on the inside of your legs we should be able to easily keep the opponent at the ideal angle of 45 degrees. 

When the opponent is starting on their knees, the above mentioned process will work to keep them on their knees, and at the ideal angle, however, if the opponent stands before we are able to get our collar ties or our high guard lock position we need to revisit the plan.  If the opponent is able to get to “vertical posture” (standing straight up) there is no way to attack the arm lock from here without first bringing them back down to their hips. This can be done by looking at sweeps such as the hook sweep or double ankle sweep as examples. 

There is arguably nothing worse than getting stacked when you are trying to deploy a submission.  Now that we all agree on that, we can probably also agree that it happens often when launching your arm lock attempt from bottom position.  The best thing to do in this situation according to Professor Danaher is to look to sweep your opponent. To do this, we must change our angle, where our feet are pointed is the direction we have the most power.  In turning to a perpendicular position to the opponent you can use a leg press motion from the arm lock attacking positions, while also lifting one of the legs that is being used as a base at the same time. Shown in the picture below is a mid sweep screenshot to visual describe exactly what is happening. 

Sometimes there may be a situation where the opponent beats you to it so to speak.  Maybe they are able to get into a really good stack position where they can apply a lot of pressure preventing you from executing the sweep detailed above.  Now what do we do? Tap, it’s the only option …

Just kidding, obviously.  

Once again, Professor Danaher to the rescue with a detailed breakdown of how we can manage this situation.  Let’s see what his thoughts are. 

In order for your opponent to successfully stack you up to a position where you are unable to sweep them they will need to be driving your legs to your head, knees to face so to speak.  While this can be uncomfortable, because of the amount of pressure they are required to dedicate to this, it enables us to quickly and easily “go out the back door”.   

To go out the back door we simply allow the pressure to move us slightly and use the opponent as a push off point pushing with your legs, curling your back so move as easily as possible, and allow yourself to spin head first under the opponent with your head moving just in front of their knees as you spin under and out the other side.  Doing this completely eliminates any pressure they were applying and leaves them somewhat turtled on top of your legs. Needless to say, in a much better position for us. There is no danger of being stacked from this position. Once we are out the back door we can scoop the legs and sit up to a traditional arm lock position. 

It is always frustrating when you start to execute the submission and the opponent simply pulls away, as if you were doing nothing to keep them there.  This can be mitigated by managing the transition of your legs around the opponent keeping this threat in mind while doing it.

Starting from closed guard assuming we have the arm across and we are ready to attack it.  We need to control the head focusing on the knee pivot, rather than simply taking the leg off and swinging it to the other side of the opponent’s head.  In order to do this we need to have our legs locked in a high guard, close to, if not over the opponent’s shoulders at which point we can unlock the legs, and putting our weight on the opponent, pivot to be more perpendicular to them.  While doing this the knee of the leg that is coming over the head stays just under the opponent’s as the lower half of the leg turns to point away, as shown in the screenshot below. 

In this position because we are pinching the head with our legs, it is highly unlikely that the opponent can pull out from here. We will next discuss what to do if you are going against an opponent with super strength, but first let’s finish discussing how to control this transition with the average grappler.  Our focus is to manage the transition of our knee from the shoulder it is currently on, to the opposite shoulder. This can be accomplished by pressing down with your right leg (from the exact position shown above) and simply sliding your knee to the opposite side of the head at the same time, biting down on the head immediately upon getting your leg to the other side.  Once again, with both legs on the same side of the opponent, we can easily leg press and sit up into a dominant, finishing position.  

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In the situation where the opponent is insanely strong and you are not able to keep control of that arm.  It may be time to abandon the arm lock and attack the legs. According to Professor Danaher, this is exactly what he would coach his students to do.  As soon as they start to pull the arm out we simply drop our foot that was closest to the opponent to their far hip, and bring what we will call the “outside foot” down and pressing against the opponent’s hip that is closest to you.  (the back of your ankle should be on their hip). Using both hands to cup around the knee and pull it you can force the opponent to put their hands on the mat, at which point you can go to X Guard, or Reverse X, depending on your preference. 

As you can see here, there is no shortage of detailed break down when it comes to the “Enter the System” Series.  Professor Danaher is one of the most sought after instructors’ on earth right now, and I think after this breakdown it’s easy to understand why.  He has a very systematic approach to problem solving and has the ability and knowledge to teach us to think like a professional athlete as we slap hands and start trying to solve our own series of problems each day on the mats  As Professor Danaher stated, there is a lot more detail around transitioning from the pull away arm lock defense transitioning into leg attacks in the “Arm Bars: Enter the System” series.  

There is no question this series will take not only your arm bar submission success rate through the roof, but also your overall ability to control the opponent as you transition from one technique to the next.  Check out the entire “Enter the System” series only at BJJ Fanatics.

As always, remember simply buying the video instructional is merely the first step, once you have access to the knowledge is when the work begins, training, studying, drilling and repeatedly trying it in live training will be when the noticeable progress is made. 

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!

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