In BJJ Fanatics latest addition, John Danaher delves deep into the marvels of one of the most simple, yet effective submissions in all of grappling history, the arm bar. As you begin exploring the arm bar, or Juji Gatame as John prefers to call it, you will learn not only new techniques, but how to fix the ones you know and troubleshoot some of the problems you’ve been experiencing.
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The closed guard armbar is usually one of the earliest submissions a white belt learns as they begin their practice of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As they proceed through the ranks, they develop a closed guard arm bar competent enough to beat other white belts and also use them effectively in self defense situations. However, it doesn’t progress beyond that.
Because the arm bar is so universal, it’s defense from top closed guard is practiced to the same degree of efficacy. Attacking a closed guard arm bar against a high level blue belt or higher ranked grappler is no easy task, at least not without the right knowledge.
What is most interesting regarding the closed guard arm bar is that its defense is much easier than the attack on a technical level. This means that the defender does a lot less work to defend the arm bar than the person attacking.
There are two kinds of defensive strategies one can use when defending the closed guard arm bar. The first is a stacking defense. In stacking defenses, the defender’s goal is to get their head over the attacker’s head. The stack makes it very difficult for the grappler attacking the arm bar to stretch their hips and hyperextend the arm.
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The other kind of defense is when the top player tries to pull their arm out. In order to do this, the defender must create some amount of posture because it is difficult to pull the arm out while their posture is broken.
In the following video, John Danaher explains these problems we face when attacking the closed guard arm bar. He follows them by explaining how to prevent them or troubleshoot them depending on how far in the defense the top player is. See below:
As John mentions, it’s always important to control the defender’s posture when attacking the arm bar. In fact, it’s important to control their posture anytime we play closed guard. A rule of thumb I like to tell new students is that in order to unlock your closed guard, the top player has to posture. I have not once seen in the years I have been training a closed guard defender open the guard while their posture is broken.
Controlling the posture is initially done with the hands, but it’s best done with the legs. The legs will always be stronger in keeping your opponent’s posture broken than your hands are. After breaking their posture initially with your hands, climb your legs up to the armpits or higher, as John does, to maintain that perfect position to attack from.
One thing John mentions not only in this instructional but in his triangle DVD set as well is the concept of pivoting when attacking these submissions from the guard. This pivot is important because it can prevent the top player from pulling their arm out. It works by essentially placing a wedge behind their should that is difficult to push against. This also helps in the triangle because it ensures the legs are in the perfect position to choke.
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One way I like to improve my arm bar from this guard is by doing a side switch drill. To do this drill, you’ll want to start in an arm bar. Take off the leg on the head and then swing out far and wide. The momentum from the swing will bring your leg to the other side where you will switch your arm bar to. This drill helps reinforce some of the basic mechanics of the arm bar.
What’s most interesting about John’s instructional that differs from many others is that he doesn’t usually take an approach from a position, but from a submission. His four out five instructional are all focused on how to get to a certain submission, for example the triangle, leg locks, and the arm bar now. I think this approach works well because the submission is the ultimate goal.
I hope Professor Danaher’s new instructional improves your arm bar (it should as long as you actually learn it and try it.) Furthermore, what I am excited about when John makes these instructionals is that he is reigniting an interest in the simple submissions like the arm bar because these simple submissions are still some of the most effective and versatile ones that exist.
John Danher is one of the few people to have athletes be successful at the highest levels in both Professional Grappling as well as MMA. He has systemized his approach to teaching,learning,and APPLYING his Jiu-Jitsu. Enter the System with John Danaher!