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Home Grappling BJJ 6 Ways to Escape the Armbar


An armbar is a highly effective submission move designed to cause the opponent to submit by hyperextending the elbow joint in a cross-body position. It can easily cause damage in the ligament by using the body as a leverage to secure the lock and putting concentrated pressure to the elbow. This submission lock can be applied in a number of positions, including from the guard if your triangle choke fails or if your opponent tries to stack you. Armbar is typically taught in grappling arts such as Jiu jitsu, Judo, and Sambo, although it can be applied to any other art where ground work is needed.

To help with the general understanding of the concept and technique, here’s how to set up an armbar. First, start from the guard position. Pull one of your opponent’s arms until it’s extended and tight against your chest, and then unlock your legs from around his waist. Next, insert your hand along the inside of his thighs and hook his leg. Swing your body until its perpendicular to his. Move the leg that’s opposite the arm you’re attacking up his back and use it to push against his body as you turn. Swing your other leg over his face and lift with your hips to apply pressure on his elbow. You can further increase the pressure on the elbow joint by arching his hips against his elbow.

This arm lock is extremely dangerous and difficult to escape. So, if you find yourself getting locked up, here are the top six ways to escape the armbar.

1. The Telephone

By arranging your arms in a figure-4 orientation, your opponent will have a hard time extending your limbs. Start stacking your opening by lifting him so his weight is above his head. If his arms are still lock, augment the discomfort by putting your own weight on the opponent. Yank your arm free once your opponent relaxes. From there on, you can pass his legs and gain side control position. One of your legs should be partially extended to prevent him from knocking you off-balance.

2. Hitchhiker Escape

When your opponent is at the point of finishing the armbar, tuck your chin in and turn your face towards his ankle. Sit up and lift his leg up with your chin. Grab his ankle with your free hand. Start rolling out by maneuvering to the side where your head is. Throw your leg up over his stomach as your pry your arms out of his grip and come up to reverse mount.

3. Hook and Spin

You can also use this when confronted with a nearly completed armbar. Lock your hands together to buy some time. Plant your elbows to the inner thighs as you straighten one of your legs to the ground to unhook his legs. You can use your other arm to push the opponent’s leg over your head. Turn to your opponent until you end up in his guard.

4. Lion Kill Defense

First, take the arm that is being attacked and put it in the biceps of your free hand. As he brings his leg over, grip behind his leg. Use your opponent’s momentum to come up. Put your knee beside his head and post the other foot behind his butt. Drive down as you star wiggling your elbow free. Drive the elbow past the leg to pass the guard.

5. Rocking Chair Escape

This armbar escape works if your opponent planted one of his knees into your belly. Make sure that you got a tight grip around your arms as if you’re doing a rear naked choke. Swing your legs and use your opponent’s momentum as you throw your hips up on top of his knees, thus neutralizing both of his limbs. Maintain the bridging position as you turn to the top position and apply an armbar of your own.

6. Ninja Star Defense

This technique starts off by linking your fingers together to buy some time. Sink his weight down slightly towards the ground. This makes it harder for him to exert more pressure on your elbows. Snap your arm straight and hit him in the chest with your thumb. This is not a comfortable position for you, but this orientation will stop him from locking your elbows as he hyperextend your arms. Entangle your legs on the back of your opponent’s head. Pull your arm out and pass the guard.

The easiest way to prevent your opponent from doing an armbar from his guard is to avoid having your elbow across the centerline of his body. Never overlook on stacking. Stacking is a profound technique and over stacking creates an opening for your opponent to spin out. That involves letting him somersault under you and winding up in a more prone position, from which he can still armbar you even though he’s facedown. Turning your fingers outward and corkscrewing your elbow inward toward your ribs keeps your weight back on your base and prevents your opponent from gaining leverage of your limb.

Body mechanics, strength and coordination are needed to execute most of the techniques and maneuver into the positions encountered in ground grappling. If you find yourself in a vulnerable position in which you’re about to be submitted, the most efficient way out is to effect an escape so your opponent no longer has you in a position of inferiority or jeopardy. Armbar can be extremely dangerous and cause serious injury. You better have some good answers for it or else we’ll be tapping out all the time.

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