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Arm Bar Versatility

Arm Bar Versatility


The arm bar is one of the most versatile submissions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  The arm bar is also one of the first submissions that you will ever learn and one of the last that you will master (if you ever do).  This is an excellent submission because it is available from a wide variety of positions, and it works extremely well in gi, nogi, and MMA.

The arm bar is one of the oldest submissions there is and has roots that date back hundreds of years.  It is one of the fundamental submissions of bjj and one of the best.  Why is the arm bar so versatile in bjj?  You can use it from a number of guards, you can use it in transition while passing, and you can use it from several positions once you’ve passed your opponents guard.  

The Arm Bar from Guard

The arm bar is one of the best submissions that you can learn from guard.  This is because you can utilize it from several different guards.  Almost every guard has excellent arm bar set ups.  You can use the arm bar from closed guard, De La riva, spider guard, lasso guard, reverse De La Riva, half guard, and butterfly.  Knowing the arm bar is extremely important, but learning arm bar escapes is also important, check out our article on arm bar escapes here.

If you perfect the mechanics of finishing the arm bar it will make you extremely dangerous.  Getting your opponent into the arm bar is the hard part; once you get there the finish is not very difficult.  The arm bar has proven its effectiveness time and time again against the best in the world.  Bernardo Faria infamously submitted Leandro Lo with an arm bar and Rafa Mendes submitted Cobrihna with an arm bar. You just have to learn the entries and set up form different guards and you will become extremely dangerous. Check out this video of Bernardo submitting 5x Black Belt World Champion Leandro Lo with an arm bar.

The Arm Bar in Transition while Passing

The arm bar is an excellent submission while passing your opponents guard.  Many times when passing the guard, people will extend their arms before you can solidify the pass, this gives you the opportunity to arm bar them.  Rafa Mendes famously arm barred Cobrihna in transition.

The arm bar can be an excellent surprise attack to your opponent.  Before you establish a pass, there is a three second window where many people will flail and extend their arms to stop the pass.  While these micro transitions are occurring you can surprise your opponent by falling to an arm bar. Check out this video of the submission from Rafa Mendes against Cobrihna.

The Arm Bar when Passed

Once you’ve passed your opponents guard, you will have the opportunity to set up many different arm bars.  You can set up arm bars from mount, side control, knee on belly, north south, and from the back.  There is not one position you can’t set and arm bar up from.  My old coach once told me you could teach an entire martial art on just the arm bar. 

The arm bar can be used from so many positions, it is virtually impossible to learn every different arm bar set up, but be aware that once you’ve passed your opponents guard, the arm bar is everywhere. Check out this arm bar set up from Marcelo Garcia instructor and black belt, Paul Schreiner below.

If you want to add and refine your arm bar finish and entries, check out 5x Black Belt World Champion, Bernardo Faria’s DVD set “High Percentage Submissions.”  He goes into great detail on the arm bar and many other submissions. If you want to make your game more complete, check out our article “a Complete BJJ Game.”


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