Lesson Plan for 2014-02-12: Armbar Fundamentals Part 2

AttacksNow that we know what goes into an armbar, it’s time to show a few more variations of the armbar to expand the scenarios you see an armbar.  There’s also one more very important detail that I touched on in the last class, but I want to expand on that in this class.  We are also going to go over some armbar triggers.  These will be the things that an upper level guy is going to be looking for instinctively, and when you trip these triggers, an automatic sequence unfolds. 

The detail that I want to expand on is the relationship of your hips to the persons shoulder.  Many armbars are lost because this aspect is not taken seriously enough.  This detail is also the reason a lot of triangles and omoplatas fail.  What is it?  Nothing more than not getting your hips as close as possible to the shoulder.  A lazy armbar may work, but the elbow is at risk of slipping out.  No matter what the orientation of the submission attempt is, one of your big goals should be to get your hips as close as possible to the shoulder.

Our list now looks something like this:

  • Control wrist, preferably with your elbow, and keep it connected to your body.
  • Squeeze knees.
  • Apply pressure on head as necessary if an escape is attempted.
  • Apply pressure to the elbow with hip pressure (or any appropriate pressure if a different kind of armbar is being applied.
  • Bury hips on shoulder.

This is only 5 things, and there’s usually a dozen small details to a good submission, so clearly I’m leaving some stuff in reserve.  The good news is these 5 things are the most important ones, and they will get you a lot of armbars.  The other details tend to be more scenario dependent.

Once again, I don’t know if I can cover everything I want to cover.  We still have to go over armbar defense and escapes.  I think at some point I’ll make an armbar video that covers everything I know, but I’m not sure anyone wants to digest such a beast.


Sweet, sweet armbars.

Post Class Update

Hip Position

When executing an armbar, it’s easy to forget to elevate your hips, especially if you are used to keeping the person broken down and retaining full control of the arm.  Working this angle during class is straight forward, and is certainly an ideal scenario.  I do a very similar motion when I do an overhook style pendulum sweep.

When it comes to sparring, especially with someone who is strong and has good posture, you are going to encounter a situation where you attempt the armbar you learned in class and everything falls apart.  Despite all your efforts to control the arm, keep their back broken down with your leg, and get your leg locked into place on their head, you have people powering up out of your armbar attempt, and you suddenly find yourself defending against a guard pass to side control.

If you accept that this will happen, you can compensate for a breakdown in ideal technique by ensuring your hips are as close as possible to your opponent’s armpit.  This may result in the only part of your body touching the mat being your shoulders or head, but you will get the submission.  This comes as a big surprise to the guys who are used to powering out of an armbar.  More than once I’ve had a competitor or sparring partner thank me for not smashing their elbow when they realized they couldn’t power out of my armbar finish.

Posturing up out of an armbar attempt is always a bad idea, and you should be ready to apply negative reinforcement to opponents who make this mistake.  By elevating your hips and keeping them glued to the shoulder, you dramatically increase your ability to make people pay for the mistake of posturing up.

Mounted Armbar Clarification

I had some questions about why I do my mounted armbar the way I do.  It’s common to leave out at least one of the steps I perform.  The primary reason I do my armbar the way I do it is I am compensating for a skilled opponent.  An unskilled opponent in a self defense scenario is not going to react the same, and it is completely acceptable to skip some of the steps that I perform.

I progressively set my trap and I have answers to whatever the person does at each stage of my attack.  If they do nothing, I get a conventional mounted armbar, albeit with more steps than absolutely necessary.  However, if at any point of my attack my opponent makes intelligent defense decisions, I will use those decisions against him and continue to press my advantage.

Each step is a simple maneuver and each step depends on one thing going the way I plan.  I don’t like complicated moves that depend on several things going just right all at once, or that require you to force the issue along a predetermined path.  I want to make a move, evaluate the decision tree, then continue along the correct path that my opponent has chosen.  With practice, this becomes a near instantaneous decision.

I’ve been told I need to get better at forcing my will on people as I head towards brown belt.  It’s a good skill, but it’s not the way I naturally think.  I will therefor likely work on reducing my opponents choices to force them into the direction I want.  In the meantime, I’ll teach technique that I feel maximizes the chances for success as well as provides as many options as possible for when things go wrong.

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