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Home Grappling BJJ 7 Ways to Escape the Americana


Americana is a lateral key lock in which the practitioner isolates the arm of the opponent and drives it to the floor, placing his elbow besides his ear in a figure-four configuration and cause flexion to the shoulder, elbow, and to a lesser extent of the wrist by sliding it down to his hips while cranking the elbow upward.

The leverage-based submission move is generally applied from several different positions including the mount and side mount. With minimal effort, the torque of the hold can create tremendous amount of pressure to your opponent’s shoulder, making it a highly effective technique to secure a tap.

Alternate terms which represents approximations of the same key lock includes Ude Garami in Judo, Top Wrist Lock in classic Catch Wrestling, Reverse Figure-four Lock in Pancrase, and V Arm Lock in Combat Submission Wrestling.

Are the Americana and Kimura the same thing? No. Although the Americana and Kimura fall in the same category of arm lock, they are applied from different directions depending on the position of the opponent. The Americana has the hand positioned above the shoulders toward the head, while Kimura has the hand positioned below the shoulders toward the hips.

Once you’ve found yourself trapped in the Americana, things can get pretty difficult. One wrong turn of your arm can easily lead to a tap. Understanding your options and the do’s and don’ts when the opponent tries to apply the lock is essential. To learn how to defend against the vicious lock properly, let’s take a look at seven ways to escape the americana.

1. Americana Turn Over

This is a good and effective Americana escape from mount position. Once your opponent seized with an Americana, start turning over and grip on the attacked wrist as quickly as you can. Pull that arm towards your body pointed to the ceiling to alleviate the pressure. From there, you can start thrusting your hips as flip him over to the side and take the top position.

2. Extend and Take Control

Here’s an escape that I often use when the opponent attacks for the americana. Begin by spreading your feet shoulder width apart and extending the locked arm as far out as you can. From there, rotate your body as if you were going to turn onto your stomach. Lift your hips and pull your other arm out from across your body. By this time you have nullified as much of the Americana as you can minus actually reclaiming your arm. For the final step, simply pull your arm away from your opponent’s grip and maneuver to his back. If the defense is done correctly, you should end up in a side mount or back mount position.

3. Sweep Counter

The most common mistake with this technique is probably a poor body position. The technique starts off by turning your body into the attacked arm and linking it with your hands over his head. Slide and hook your leg closest to his body to the back of his calf. Explode upwards thrusting your opponent off you as you pull his head downward with your hands.

You need to establish a good base and use the power of your whole body in thrusting your opponent. If you use your body inefficiently, then your ability to generate power is limited, and the counter takes longer to apply, or may not even work at all. If you apply it with enough power, you can land in a better position and secure a side mount.

4. Biceps Cutter

This next technique is a pain compliance counter preferably used just before your opponent has fully glued his forearm to the mat. The technique starts off by slipping your hand in between the chest to grab your opponent’s wrist and pull it on top of your chest. Pull it down as much as you can to jam his wrist. Make sure that you’ve fully flatten your back to the ground to increase the pressure on his biceps. Once executed properly, your opponent will receive tremendous amount of pressure to his biceps leaving him with no choice but to open up his arm.

5. Knee Block Technique

As your opponent secures an Americana, you can simply insert one of your knees to stop his hands from applying pressure to your arm. You can create enough space to insert your knee by moving the attacked arm upwards or by moving your body away from him. Make sure that you can recover and establish your guard fast as this defensive technique exposes your back.

6. Bump and Pry

This bump and pry escape can only be used before the Americana is fully locked in. First, establish a good base by stretching your legs out and planting your foot firmly onto the ground. Bride your body to a 45 degree angle and use your free hand to pushing underneath his shoulder all the way to the side as you pull the attacked hand out of his grip.

7. Bridging

Bridging is a pretty simple escape that can potentially be a good reversal if done correctly. Start by framing your free hand just below his shoulder to prevent him from flattening out. Bridge your hips up really hard and push his shoulder towards his head you walk your feet around. Since all his body weight is shifted to one direction when performing an Americana, you can easily turn him over and take control of his side.

You should always understand how your opponent is manipulating your arm. If your opponent has your arm pinned palm down, lateral movements such as pulling your arm backwards would only increase the tension. An important, yet overlooked detail, is the position of your arms. If he still manages to secure the lock, attempt to maneuver your elbow and arm into your opponent’s bicep. This can easily nullify the torque and reduce the locking motion of the submission move as you buy some precious time to come up with a better escape.

Don’t act too swiftly; moving your arm towards your knee will only worsen the situation. Instead, you can move your arm back towards your head to undo the tension and free your arm. Incorrect body position, lack of control over the opponent’s arms, and insufficient knowledge on counters are the main reasons why anyone would get caught in the Americana lock.

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