This is one of the most iconic and recognizable submissions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In this submission, the attacker is attempting to hyperextend the elbow joint of the defender. This submission can be accomplished in a wide variety of positions, but the most common is with the opponent being flat on their back and the attacker using their legs to pin the body and head of the opponent to the mat. This effectively isolates the arm that is closest to the attacker, leaving the attacker free to use both of their arms and upper body to attack it.
Key Armbar Details
Important details for the attacker (Person in blue gi)
- Squeeze the knees! Pinch your knees together onto the defender’s arm tightly for three important reasons. One, it removes space and makes escape much more difficult. Two, it forces the opponent’s arm to shift a little towards the ceiling, which creates more distance the attacker can use to affect the elbow joint. This can make a big difference when rolling with a very flexible opponent. Third (and maybe most importantly), this will prevent the opponent’s arm from causing [significant] discomfort or injury to some very sensitive areas of the human [male] body.
- Look Ma’, no hands! Don’t grab the opponent’s arm with both of your hands. Instead, hug the opponent’s arm tightly to your chest with your own forearm/elbow. You can grab their wrist with one hand if you need some extra control, but your armbar will be much tighter if you use the other hand to hug the arm close to your body. By hugging the arm tightly as you lean back, you are able to stress the elbow joint in both a bending and a pulling energy, which when compounded result in a much higher success rate.
- Hips up! You’ll have a higher success rate if you focus on elevating your hips rather than pulling on the arm. Driving your heels down into the mat will not only help pin the opponent in place, it will also serve to raise your hips towards the ceiling, putting extra pressure on the elbow joint
Important details for the defender (Person in white gi)
Armbars can happen very fast, so focus on building your sensitivity to the various setups and be ready to take action immediately. The following three points should all be executed as quickly as possible to avoid the submission.
- Bend your arm! Priority one is to not let your arm be straightened out in the first place. Lock your hands together or grab your own gi to buy yourself some time to set up an escape.
- Free your head! Push the leg that is covering your face off of your head to prevent them from pinning your head to the mat. If your head isn’t pinned to the mat, you will be able to sit up, pulling yourself into your opponent’s guard. This isn’t an ideal position, but it is much better than being armbarred!
- Elbow to the mat! Try to get the elbow of the arm that is being attacked away from the opponent and onto the mat. This submission relies on the attacker having your elbow hang somewhere above their hips so that they have a good lever to pull on. If you can pull your elbow outside and below this zone, the armbar is no longer an option.