The straight arm-bar (juji-gatame) from the guard or mount is one of the most commonly used submissions in jiu-jitsu, judo, and submission wrestling. It is a high-percentage technique for both beginners and advanced students. These three basic mistakes account for most of the failed armbar attempts. Fix these problems and your success rate will skyrocket.
If you hold the opponent’s arm with your hands and pull, you place yourself in a weak finishing position. This type of grip utilizes the power of your biceps rather than your entire body. Instead, hook the opponent’s elbow with one arm and hug it tightly to your chest. If you are wearing a gi, grip high on your lapel with that arm to secure the grip. The other hand controls the wrist to prevent the opponent from twisting his arm to the left or right. As you lean back to finish you will be pulling with your hips and back – the strongest parts of your body.
If you attempt the armbar without pinching your knees and inner thighs together, the opponent will be able to easily pull his elbow out and escape. Regardless of whether you are attacking from the top or the bottom, keep your knees pinched tightly. This becomes even more important when grappling without a gi, especially when there is sweat involved. The reduced friction makes it much easier for the opponent to slip out.
Sitting Back Before Blocking the Head
This tip is specifically for the armbar from the mount. Often the attacker will get ahead of himself and sit back for the armbar before placing his leg over the opponent’s head. This mistake will allow the opponent to either slip his elbow out because there is no knee pressure (see tip #2) or to roll up into the attackers guard. In the latter case the attacker has given up dominant position for a failed attack – the worst of both worlds. Always take the time to put the top leg across the head before sitting back into the armbar.
Brian Jones, PhD