If you have been training Jiu Jitsu for even just a few weeks, its pretty likely that you have tapped to an armbar or at least seen more experienced students using it all the time. Even if you haven’t trained at all, you’ve probably seen the armbar in UFC fights or movies like John Wick.
The armbar is one of the oldest submissions in our sport. It tends to be one of the earliest submissions people learn or at least want to learn.
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The armbar, fortunately, does not have a significant learning curve like other submissions such as the omoplata or triangle choke. This is why it’s one of the most common submissions white belts can finish in competition.
An important facet of the armbar that makes it so popular and usable is its versatility. The armbar can be attacked from so many different positions that it is possible to learn all of the armbar attacks.
Escaping the armbar can be difficult, but it’s very possible. Even though the armbar is effective and quite painful, it takes a lot of effort to actually break the arm. Two great examples of this are Garry Tonon’s notorious armbar defense against Kron Gracie and Gordon Ryan’s armbar escape against Craig Jones.
Theres a lot of things consider when escaping the armbar. Contrary to popular belief, the high the elbow is toward the attacker’s chest, the lower the risk of the arm actually breaking. When the elbow is positioned directly over the hips, the hips become a fulcrum so it takes little movement to get the tap.
A common reaction new students have to being stuck in an armbar is bridging. Unfortunately, bridging does little to alleviate the armbar since it actually has no bearing on the positioning of the armbar. Furthermore, bridging does not even help the defender get up, so it’s a complete waste of time.
Rather than bridging, and this is something Garry and Gordon both used to escape the armbar, is turning away and lifting the shoulder up. This allows much greater flexibility in the arm and gives you a lot more time to escape.
Follow this by either getting under the legs somehow and getting on tap, or, my personal favorite, finishing with a hitchhiker escape by “running away” from your opponent.
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