Black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in traditional gis demonstrate the Americana Submission

Also known as the Double Wrist Lock or Figure-Four Wrist Lock, this submission is actually a submission in the shoulder joint–not the wrist as the alternative names would imply. Because the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with freedom to rotate in many different directions, there are a number of ways to isolate this joint and achieve a submission. The Americana is considered a “branch up” submission, which means the arm is rotated up towards the opponent’s head to lock the shoulder and finish this submission. This is in contrast to the “branch down” variant of shoulder submission that we call the Kimura, which rotates the arm upwards towards the hips of the defender. The Americana is most often achieved from Side Mount and Full Mount positions.

Key Americana Details

Important details for the attacker (Person in blue gi):
  1. Heads down! If the defenders head is resting on top of your arm, the submission will be harder to finish. If the defender’s head is on your arm, open up your elbow, swim it over their head, and drop the elbow back to the mat. You can then pull your elbow in tight to the side of their head and use it to help control their head position.
  2. Bend the arm. This more the defender’s arm is bent at the elbow before you start rotating their shoulder joint, the easier it will be to get the tap. When you first secure your figure-four grip but before you start rotating the shoulder, pull the defender’s wrist towards their own shoulder. Keep pulling their wrist in close to their body as you begin to rotate their shoulder joint.
  3. Twist the wrist. Just like in the Kimura from Bottom Position, you can make this submission tighter by twisting the defender’s wrist in the same way you’d rev a motorcycle throttle
  4. Paint the floor. Once their arm is tightly bent from Detail 2, it is time to start rotating the shoulder. If you imagine the defender’s forearm is a paint brush handle and their hand and wrist are the bristles, then to finish the submission you will act like you are painting the mat to finish the submission. With your bottom arm, you need to raise the handle of the paint brush so it is almost vertical. With the bottom hand, you’ll swipe the bristles of the brush along the mat towards the defender’s lower body. Do this slowly as this submission is very tight and you want to allow the defender time to tap before you injure them.
Important details for the defender (Person in white gi):
  1. Use your head. If you can keep your head on top of the attacker’s arm, it will buy you precious seconds to try to defend this submission.
  2. Push them off of you. If you can move in ways that affect the attacker’s balance, you might be able to use your free hand to push the attacker off of you. If you turn your body away from the attacker while using your free hand to push against their elbow or armpit, you can often slide them off your body and regain a neutral or top position. Timing is critical for this move, so you have to attempt it very early in the submission attempt or directly after bridging or bucking before they’ve had a chance to catch their balance again.
  3. Connect your hands.  The Americana allows the attacker use their two arms against just one of yours. If you can even the odds by bringing your other arm into play, you’ll have much better chances. To connect your hands, bring your heels as close to your butt as you can and bridge up and turn into the attacker. Stretch your body out and bring both hands together above your head and grip hard. Now that your arm has been reinforced, you can begin to use both arms to escape their figure-grip and work to recover to a better position.

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