15 Minutes with John Danaher Will Fix Your Arm Bar
Having a little trouble with your armbar?
I have always struggled with the arm bar, particularly from guard, but I’ve continuously lacked key elements to acquiring it and finishing it successfully from all positions.
John Danaher has returned once again with the last installment of his Enter the System series. You guessed it, it’s all about the arm bar. Being that every series he has released to date has been nothing short of amazing, I have no doubt that this one will live up to its hype as well.
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Like the other topics of the system, the arm bar is again a classic fundamental submission of BJJ, with its own set of unique characteristics and positional properties. We learn the arm bar early, as it is an essential part of any basic curriculum, but on what level do we understand the submission? We always talk about how to implement a submission, but many times its not taught from the perspective of the problems we may encounter.
Danaher has detailed the problems that plague many practitioners while trying to apply an arm lock. He’s broken them down into sections, dealing with specific problems in each particular stage of the submission. You can attack your opponent from three different positions using the arm bar; the top, the front, and from the back. As Danaher explains, there are different struggles we will face that are characteristic of each different position, and must be dealt with accordingly.
Approaching the arm bar by first analyzing each particular set of problems that you’ll face when trying to execute it, can yield amazing results. If you have all your bases covered, your percentage of finishing will undoubtedly rise.
Let’s get to the instruction. In this video, Danaher lays out for us, the three different arm lock scenarios, and the difficulties associated with each of them. Take a look.
Danaher begins with what he feels is the most problematic reaction to our hopes of securing an arm bar from the bottom. He feels there are three distinct problems with executing the arm bar from the bottom position.
Touted by Danaher as the main problem in the successful acquisition of an arm bar, posture can have immediate disastrous effects on your efforts to attack an arm. The first scenario Danaher addresses is when his partner is on his knees. Danaher prefers that his partner’s body be at a 45-degree angle to attack the arm bar. If his partner has a very straight spine, it puts the arms too far out of reach. Being in a chest to chest scenario also makes the elbows much more inaccessible, as well as creating difficulty when Danaher tries to begin moving his hips.
Danaher recommends employing collar ties as tools to keep your opponent’s in place. Using straight collar ties, or outside collar ties, Danaher creates a situation where he can begin to climb his partners body and start to establish a top lock. The collar tie serves as more of a preliminary control, that eventually allows us to secure a much more dominant position with the top lock.
As Danaher also explains, a lower position of the legs will have you operating at the end of the lever of your partner’s body. This allows your partner to achieve any level of posture they’d like. This is why it’s essential to secure the 45-degree angle and begin to climb to the top lock position so we can establish ourselves at the end of the lever. When this type of position is achieved, it shuts down his partners ability to maintain and create posture.
What is the top lock?
As Danaher demonstrates, the top lock is the securing of the guard in a very high configuration of the legs. The leg on the same side of the arm being attacked covers his partners shoulder, and is then reinforced by the opposite leg. Again, this damns the efforts to achieve posture, and also constricts the arms, making them more easily attacked. Coming forward also becomes an arduous task, and can result in the loss of balance.
With all of these ideas in place, there is very little movement left to attacking the arm. Creating an angle, and pommeling the leg over the head now make the arm bar quite accessible.
Dealing with vertical posture
Your partner can create a nightmare of a scenario by standing up inside your guard. With gravity on his side, we’ll need methods of keeping control to continue pursuing the arm bar, before they become too difficult to control. If your partner is able to stand all the way up, this puts his arms nowhere near available to us, and we’ll need an alternative method to bring them back in range of attack.
Danaher has the perfect answer to this problem. BY under hooking his partners leg, and lifting his hips off of the floor, he’s able to create an off-balancing effect and reverse his partner. At this juncture Danaher enters into the arm bar position, and through a series of rolls and positional changes, secures an armbar from the top.
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The stacking problem
Danaher breaks this particular problem down in to a few different stages, based on what type of pressure he’s feeling. IN the first stage of the stacking sequence, the pressure is at its lightest point. Danaher is still able to be quite mobile here He takes advantage of this, by rotating his body so that his feet face away from his partners points of base. As he achieves this angle, he’s able to sweep his partner and create a more favorable scenario to continue attacking.
The heavy stack
With the arm bar secured, Danaher encounters heavy stacking pressure from his partner. Using an anchor on his partner’s far leg, Danaher is able to again rotate his body and escape out the back door. He now bundles his partners legs, and turns through, once again ending up in the top position and ready to continue attacking.
I’m intrigued by this technique. I’ve seen variations of it before, but I’m already seeing Danaher is adding some details here that look to be very important, that I have not seen in my experience. I'll be excited to see this technique broke down in greater detail.
The pull-away problem
Danaher uses a systemized chain of events here to make sure that his partner cannot pull the arm out of his grasp at anytime during the course of the attack. The arm bar can’t be attacked by simply throwing the leg over the head and hoping for the best.
The first step is the shoulder pivot. Danaher rotates a bit on his back bringing his direction foot directly over his partner’s head, and his opposite knee pinches tightly against his partners shoulder.
Next Danaher must manage the transition of his leg traveling over the top. Danaher applies heavy downward pressure to his partners head with eh direction foot, this keeps his partner’s posture under control, and kills the ability to pull his arm free, as he transitions his leg over the top using a very small movement. From here he can once again put his partner to his back and continue attacking.
Danaher ends this segment with a great transition. Despite your best efforts, a scenario may develop where you are just simply not able to keep your partner from pulling their arm free. As this occurs, Danaher makes an extraordinary transition to the legs. He drops the instep of his right foot to the front side of his partner’s hip. His other leg rides over top of his partners near leg, creating a scissoring effect. He then hooks his partners leg with a grip at the knee and an additional one at the ankle. He uses all of these points of contact together to force his partner forward to their hands.
From this compromising position, Danaher can enter in to the x guard or the reverse x guard and begin entangling the legs. I love seeing him connect his different systems together. The ability to transcend each system and transition accordingly would surely have incredibly desirable effects on our progress.
For me personally, some of the themes of the arm bar have been pretty elusive. I’ve struggled over the years to find solutions to most difficult aspects of securing a successful lock. In the viewing of this short video I’ve already discovered some ways to clean up my attempts at the arm bar. These are preliminary ideas that Danaher is sharing, and there’s much more to be learned. I’m excited to see more.
Danaher has a way of shedding light on aspects of jiu-jitsu that are so often overlooked. His approach is unique, and highly systematized. Many times, leaving us wondering, “Why didn’t I do this before?” And this is one of the best parts about learning jiu-jitsu. Hope this helps!
Join John Danaher with the latest installment of his systematic approach to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Check Out "Enter The System: Arm Bar" and get to work on improving your armbar game! BJJ Fanatics has it here!