The armbar from guard is a very important submission, but also easy to have trouble with. This class covers both the offense and defense, and gives some targets to shoot for for positioning.
Armbar From Guard
This submission starts from closed guard. The initial control of the arm has some variations, but for gi, a same side grip on the end of the sleeve and a cross grip on the collar is the method we will use. With this control, break the posture of your opponent, and try to pull their arm across your body.
Next, step up your leg that is on the same side as the arm you are attacking, and place your foot in the hip. Your knee should be tight against their body, and this is a common place for people to be imprecise, leading to a sloppy attack. Your other leg can now kick up and over their back. You are trying to introduce a twist with your legs so that you end up at a 90 degree angle to your opponent. A drill I teach for this is to lay on your back, put one foot on the floor, then kick your other leg and push with the foot on the floor to turn yourself 90 degrees and place your kicking foot on the other knee. This simulates both an armbar and triangle attack.
When you kick your leg over, you are shifting your opponents compromised base away from you and further forward for them. By slamming your leg into their armpit, you can get their hips all the way off the floor, then you can use your leg over their shoulders to hold them in place. Your other leg will help keep them from simply pulling their attacked arm free. You should be treating your knees like a vice, compressing their shoulder into their ribcage. They should have their hips in the air and their shoulders at your hips. This greatly reduces their ability to posture up and sets up the next phase.
Now that they are in an ideal finishing position and your leg is across their back and holding them down, you can release the collar grip and use that hand to push their head away, making it easier for your leg on the attacked side to slide up and over the head. It is very important that you continue to pull on the arm the whole time to keep them from getting their elbow past your hips.
All that is left is the finish. Hug the arm, pinch your knees together, drive your heels to the floor, and elevate your hips.
Armbar From Guard Defense
This is by far my favorite defense against an armbar from guard. Every time I know I’m in danger of an armbar, I preemptively setup this defense, which sometimes discourages my opponent from even attempting the armbar.
Once you are broken down and you are sure you can’t avoid the attempt, start fighting to get the hand of your attacked arm over to the opposite biceps. It’s like you are locking in a rear naked choke, but the goal here is to lock your hand in place, making it difficult to finish the armbar. As you lock your hand in place, bring your free hand up to your face with your palm facing out. This prepares your positioning to catch the leg when it is placed over your head.
As your opponent brings their leg around your head and you catch their leg, immediately make them eat their knees. There are a number of facets to the positioning that are all important.
- Most importantly, make sure your opponents knees are near their cheeks, and that you have their knees centered on their head. If you allow both knees to go to one side or the other of the head, you are risking having your opponent transition to an alternate finishing position.
- The knee that is closest to their head should be tight against your opponents body. Some people will try to hook this leg for additional leverage.
- Your other leg should step up and be tight against your opponents butt. You want to lock their hips in the air and help reinforce the stack.
These elements give you the temporary safety you need to begin to extract your arm. Even if you have performed the defense perfectly up until now, the next step is a very common place to screw up your submission escape.
Do not, and I mean under penalty of all kinds of elbow problems, do not posture up for any reason. Keep your opponents knees near their face, and repeatedly tug your endangered elbow up until it is past their hips and safely braced on their leg. This requires more of a twisting motion than a pulling motion in order to avoid posturing up as you pull your arm out.
Once your elbow is free, all that is left is to twist your body and establish side control for your guard pass.