Counter The Kimura With These 3 Techniques

The kimura is what many consider to be a big man move in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Although commonly used by heavier grapplers, the kimura can be just as effective when applied correctly, even by lighter grapplers. That said, getting caught in one can be devastating, especially when the opponent applies it recklessly. Worry not; this article will show you three techniques to counter the kimura.


The Mechanics Of The Kimura

Before we start, it is best to discuss kimura’s mechanics first. The kimura is considered one of the essential submissions in grappling. The bending configuration of the kimura puts pressure on the opponent’s elbow and shoulder joint by grabbing your wrist in a figure-four grip while grabbing the opponent’s wrist. Forcing their arm behind their back creates even stronger pressure on their shoulder joint, which leaves them the option to either tap or accept the consequence of getting their arm broken when it’s too far behind. Understanding this, here highlights how painful and dangerous this submission can be.


How To Counter The Kimura

As a general rule in BJJ, it is critical not to let the opponent isolate any part of your body, especially in this case, the arm. Remember that with the kimura, the opponent’s objective is to separate your arm and your elbow away from your lats. The farther your elbows are from your body, the weaker your arms get, thus the saying always “keep your elbows tucked.”

Given that the goal of the kimura is to flare the elbow and get the arm bent far behind the back to cause pressure on the shoulder joint, keep in mind not to mindlessly place your hand or spread your arm on the mat, as this can always be an opening for the kimura.

Like any submission, the best defense is not getting caught in one. Although this may seem impossible, as BJJ is a lifelong quest for discovery and improvement, counter-attacking is one feature that makes training BJJ fun. Below are several techniques you can perform to counter the Kimura.


1) Armbar

Assuming that you are passing the opponent’s half-guard and before you pin them on the mat, they manage to face you and apply a kimura on your right arm. First, you must cover your right arm with your thigh by placing it inside, just beside your right leg. The moment the opponent tries to pull your arm up and out, use the momentum to step your right foot over their head (behind their neck). Once you step over, spin to the opposite side. Fall back as you grab their wrist to finish the armbar.


2) Modified Reverse Kimura

Another creative way to counter the kimura from half guard is to submit the opponent with your bodyweight by applying pressure on their shoulder while keeping their kimura locked tight. Assuming you’re passing on the left side, and the opponent applies the kimura on your left arm, hold the inside of your left leg, like in the armbar defense counter earlier. Use your right hand to post on top of their left hip and posture to keep your trapped arm extended as much as possible.

Posting your right hand on the opponent’s hip also prevents them from sweeping you if they decide to go on their knees and sweep you back. Keep blocking the opponent’s hip with your right hand and come down to your side as you drive your shoulder in to pin the opponent’s left shoulder on the mat. Free your left arm from holding on to your inside leg and lift their hand to finish the submission.


3) Back Take

From the closed guard, if the opponent applies the kimura grip on your right arm, a common reaction for them is to move out and begin the attack. Their goal from this position is to lie back, take your hand behind your back, and finish the submission. To slow the opponent down and begin to defend, use your free hand (left hand) to control the opponent’s far arm (in this case – the left arm – the side where they don’t have your arm trapped below their armpit) by grabbing their left forearm.

Whenever the opponent comes up and tries to come back and pull you down on the mat with the kimura, there will always be space on their far arm as they use it to post on the mat. Back away a bit and place your head behind their near shoulder (right shoulder). The reason for doing this is if the opponent can bring their shoulder back over your shoulder and fall back to put their shoulder on the mat, they can create the angle they needed to finish the kimura.

Placing your head on the opponent’s right rear shoulder allows you to control their far arm with both hands, keeping it pinned on the floor. Take your toes off the mat and lift your hips to raise your legs. Weave your leg over the opponent’s right leg and your left leg over theirs. You can slide back behind the opponent from here and finish the back take.


Kimura Counters In Mixed Martial Arts

Keeping a stiff arm to prevent the opponent from bending your arm 90 degrees can work and can buy you time as you work on your escape or advance to a better position. In Oumar “Reug Reug” Kane’s match against Jasur Mirzamukhamedov, Reug Reug exhibited incredible strength by lifting his opponent and slamming him on the mat, even when caught with the kimura.

Admittedly, trying this technique may not be ideal, but this clip proves it can work if you’re as powerful as Reug Reug.

Another impressive feat of flexibility and pain tolerance is shown by Hiroba Minowa in his match against Lito Adiwang. Adiwang caught Minowa with a nasty kimura that bent his arm back, but Minowa managed to defend and escape the deep submission attempt.



As the saying goes, it is better to have the skill and not need it than to need the skill and not have it. Positional drilling will always be beneficial in building your skills in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Always train smart, and remember that the training room is a safe place to grow your skills. Tap when caught in a deep submission to prevent the irreversible effects of an injury caused by nasty submissions like the kimura.


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