One of the oldest, and most controversial questions of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu history is whether crossing the feet in the arm bar is a good idea or a bad idea. What I can tell you right off the bat is that it is much more complicated than yes or no.
This question is kind of like asking whether a single leg takedown or double leg is better than the other. Each one has its time and place and depending on the specific circumstance, one might be better than the other.
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Since we cross our feet frequently when grappling because of the control it provides such as in the guard or triangle chokes, it would seem obvious that crossing the legs is a must when trying to finish an arm bar, but it’s not that easy.
Before trying to answer the question, we have to accept that the arm bar from mount and the arm bar from guard are different and that the rules that apply in one may not necessarily apply in the other.
Fortunately, one of the greatest minds in Jiu Jitsu has offered an answer to this question that plagues every academy. In the following video, the legendary John Danaher gives us the answer with a full technical explanation. See below:
First, let’s get the arm bar from the guard out of the way. Professor Danaher emphatically claims that you should not lock your legs here. It makes sense since the number one defense to the arm bar from the guard is to stack, and the defender can’t stack if their head is being pushed towards the ground. Simple and easy.
It’s the mounted arm bar, or top arm bar as Professor Danaher likes to call it, that is more complicated. Just like the question about the takedowns I discussed above, whether you should lock your legs or not is dependent on the situation.
As John says, if the defender tries to scoot away from you or attempts a hitchhiker escape, you can lock your legs as it will slow them down. If the defender tries to sit up and get on top, your legs should remain unlocked so that you can push their head back down with your thigh.
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!