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Countering Armbar Defenses

Countering Armbar Defenses


Most grapplers develop a decent enough armbar to submit white belts and even blue belts with relative ease. Against the not-so-experienced, the armbar is a pretty easy submission that can be attacked from a million different positions. Unfortunately, as you advance through the ranks and start going up against better grapplers, the armbar becomes much more difficult to finish, almost frustratingly so. In fact, I don’t think I have ever been able to finish the armbar against either of my instructors.

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Getting to a good armbar finishing position is hard enough on its own, but trying to deal with a ton of different defensive strategies while maintaining the position and finishing the submission can be excruciating against a high level opponent. What is interesting about armbar defense is that it can be done in many ways, including certain techniques that are faster or slower, and can also be done in different directions.

One of the best armbar defenses many grapplers use is the hitchhiker escape. This mildly technical, yet very explosive and surprising armbar can be detrimental if one does not know how to deal with it appropriately. The first thing you need to focus on when in an armbar position is being patient. The hitchhiker escape can be explosive, and you need to slow down the position before trying to get the finish. As long as you have the arm hugged well, you should be in control.

The next part in countering the hitchhiker escape requires you to understand the mechanics needed to execute the escape. In the hitchhiker escape, the defender needs to curl their arm, giving them the famous hitchhiker look. This means that in order to stop this, we have to prevent this curl from happening.

In the following video, Australian black belt and Absolute MMA instructor Lachlan Giles shows how to stop the hitchhiker escape:

There will be points where the defender will be able to curl their arm, though, and you also need to learn the late counter. It’s actually pretty easy. As long as you always think of the armbar as pushing through the pinky, you should be able to stop rotation. Pushing through the pinky, regardless of what direction, will always extend the arm and make movement for the defender difficult.

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