One of the most fascinating aspects of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the part where you start learning submissions. Knowing how to apply submission holds safely and effectively is a trait of a good grappler. You must know the best conditions on when to use a specific submission, and from there, efficiently apply the technique.
Joint locks are an excellent submission option for beginners because they teach how to exploit leverage on an isolated body part. Today we’ll discuss the four essential joint locks for BJJ white belts.
Joint Locks Defined
A joint lock is a type of submission where you manipulate a joint with the intent to hyperextend beyond the natural range of motion. For example, forcing an arm to go beyond the elbow joint’s movements will cause the elbow’s bones and ligaments to break.
A simple rule in applying joint locks is to isolate the arm and not let the head and body follow the direction of the joint. The more a limb is separated from the body, the weaker it becomes. This is why when you go for an armbar (one of the most popular joint locks in BJJ), your goal is to first pin the opponent’s head using your leg, then extend the arm to finish the submission.
There are different types of joint locks available in BJJ. Two of the most common types are the straight and bent variants. Both are highly effective and can be used in grappling, MMA, and self-defense situations.
Benefits Of Using Joint Locks
Joint locks are great because they can be used in any grappling situation. They are not dependent on any gi-based grip, meaning you can use a joint lock in both gi and no-gi. All you need to do is look for an opening, and you can go for the submission instantly.
There are those who say that some variants of the joint lock are “big guy moves,” meaning that it requires strength to finish the submissions. Perhaps the most common example of this is the kimura. While it is valid to some extent, it does not mean they are not helpful for smaller grapplers. You can use the kimura to open up other attacking options, such as the hip bump sweep.
You can also finish larger training partners with the kimura, provided that you have the proper angle and use it in combination with other moves that throw your opponents off-balance (kuzushi).
If you are new to joint locks, here are our top recommendations to help you in your journey:
1) Americana From Mount
The americana is a very good starting point to learning joint locks. It is a submission where you bend the arm to form an L shape. You then force the break by limiting the movement of the elbow as you crank the arm to the opposite side.
This is our top recommendation because you typically execute the americana from pins like the mount and side control. Being on top as you work on a submission is always beneficial because you have gravity on your side while performing the technique.
In this video, BJJ World Champion Teco Shinzato from the Evolve Fight Team demonstrates the americana from the mount position. Most people cross their arms once they get mounted, however that the perfect chance to attack the top arm when this happens.
Grab the opponent’s arm using both hands and pin it to the mat, straighten your arms and allow gravity to do the work for you. Once the arm is pinned, block the face with your tricep and grab the wrist. Shoot your other arm near the elbow and hold your wrist that’s controlling theirs. You should end up in a figure-4 like configuration.
Next, you drag the elbow near the opponent’s body to limit movement as you raise the elbow for the submission. Note that you must always pin the hand as you do this to keep everything as tight as can be.
2) Kimura From Guard
The kimura is one of the most versatile joint locks you can attempt. It is similar to the americana in that you force the opponent’s arm to form an L shape, but this time the wrist should be near the hip instead of the head. The kimura can be applied from the guard and top positions.
In this video, BJJ black belt Nick Albin shows the kimura from the closed guard. Your opponent’s hands should be posted on the mat for you to do a kimura. Chewy shows tips on how to do that. Perhaps the easiest way is to bridge up and swipe the arms outside to force them to post.
Next is, you grab a wrist and extend your arm straight. Shift your hips at an angle as you open your guard and go up to your elbow. Loop your outside arm and grab the arm that’s holding the opponent’s wrist. From here, you finish the submission by going back down, shifting to your right hip as you block their hips with your leg.
3) Armbar From Guard
The armbar is one of the premier attacking options in BJJ. It is a submission where you use your whole body against a limb to force a tap. The armbar from the closed guard is a fantastic starting point to learning armbars.
Watch the video demonstration by BJJ World Champion Teco Shinzato from the Evolve Fight Team on how to perform the armbar from the guard.
A good alternative is to just slightly grip an arm as you underhook the far hip. This gives you enough control over the arms as you swing your leg for the lock. Remember that you need to raise your hip as you swing your legs so that you can get a good grip on the head using the crook of your knee.
4) Mir Lock from Guard
The Mir lock is a variant of the americana, made famous by former UFC Champion Frank Mir. This is a nasty submission from the guard. It is also relatively safe to do as you won’t be placed in a compromising position if the technique does not work.
The MMA legend shows how he used the Mir lock in UFC 36 against Pete Williams. The technique starts from the closed guard. Overhook an arm and slightly shift to a side to get leverage. Once you get the overhook, scoot again and place your knee near the hip as you bend the arm by twisting near the elbow.
You can generate a lot of power by using your whole body as you rotate the arm for the submission. A big thank you to Stuart Tomlinson’s Youtube Channel for hosting the video.
These are just the tip of the iceberg as far as joint locks are concerned. Learning joint locks is a good investment and will surely help improve your game. Don’t forget to drill these techniques on both sides and focus on proper technique at all times.
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