Don't Let The Stack Stop Your Armbar!
The longer you train, the harder you have to work to finish a submission.
The reality of it is this, the longer you have been training, typically, the longer your opponent has been training as well. That being said, it is becoming more and more difficult to finish submissions as you progress in your Jiu Jitsu journey because you are training with more tenured practitioners. This is not a bad thing. Sure, it’s more work, but that is where the fun comes in to play.
Jiu Jitsu is often referred to as a game of human chess. I could not agree more with this analogy. It seems those who perform the best have a strategy, whereas the ones who typically are not successful (based on competition results) have less of a strategy and more of a “slap, bump, let’s see what happens” approach. This is a much more reactive approach to Jiu Jitsu and likely will not yield consistently good results, especially in competition.
If having a strategy in Jiu Jitsu is so important, where do I begin, how am I supposed to develop this plan?
Developing this “plan” is the same as building your game, but as you are building your game you want to ensure it is an aggressive, proactive one, that takes calculated risks to advance your position.
It seems that the longer we train, the harder it is to finish a submission, and I feel like this is true because the opponent’s we are training with have also been training for a while and know how to defend the submissions we are presenting. This is where the analogy of human chess comes in to play. Getting a submission at a high level is often times less about brute strength and forcing your will on someone as it is about tricking them into falling for a trap that you created through a series of techniques.
Tom DeBlass is here to show us how to finish an arm bar when the opponent is stacking us up, which, I am certain everyone has experienced a time or two in your Jiu Jitsu career.
Before getting started, DeBlass notes that as the opponent trying to escape an arm lock from guard, simply pulling the arm is not a great plan. While this is a fairly common practice, he feels that because you are extending the arm by choice, you are essentially giving the attacker the opportunity to finish the arm lock more easily. The better option here is to first stack the attacker, and then pull the arm out. Doing it this way will prevent the arm from ever being fully extended therefore reducing the risk of being submitted.
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Now, let’s take a look at how DeBlass finishes the arm lock when he is stacked up in what appears to be a very undesirable position like shown below.
As you can see here, the very first thing DeBlass does when he gets stacked is he takes his outside leg, his left leg in this example, and moves it from the close side of the opponent’s face, where he could push against their face, to the other side of the opponent’s face and locks his feet as you see in the picture above. Doing this will lock the arm in tighter at the shoulder making it harder for the opponent to pull their arm out and continue with their guard pass.
The downside to this simplistic modification is that it is not 100 percent guaranteed because there is still the opportunity for the opponent to pull their arm out, and if successful, they are in a great position to begin passing the guard.
Let’s take a look at a more in depth response to the stack, one that allows us the ability to finish the arm bar and prevent the opponent from removing their arm, or stack passing our guard.
DeBlass’ shows a perfect example of stopping a technique too soon and how that can be detrimental. His ideal finish starts by moving his leg from the close side of his opponent’s face to the opposite side, biting on the opponent’s trap with the back of his knee and locking his feet as mentioned above. While we already know the possible issues from this position, mainly the risk of the opponent pulling their arm out and passing our guard, we can further eliminate that risk by continuing the technique.
The next step in the process is to reach under his opponent using his inside hand on the opponent’s ribs, pulling himself under the opponent and changing the angle. Once he is able to achieve a perpendicular angle, he brings his outside leg back to it’s original position on the side of the opponent’s face closest to him. From here, he is completely under the opponent and rather than try to extend his legs back into the opponent’s stack, you are fighting your legs against the opponent’s entire body. Rather than go back to a bad position, DeBlass likes to let the opponent go where they are trying to go. What he means here is that the opponent is likely pressuring into you, trying to stack you and get past your legs, DeBlass uses that force to extend his legs in the opposite direction as he rolls under the opponent pushing them away slightly and ending in a belly down arm bar position.
He points out that the other option here would be to spin on his back completely under the opponent and come out on the other side. DeBlass says that as a big guy he feels there is risk of not getting all the way to the other side, which would be detrimental to the finish of the arm lock, and our dominate position. Therefore, he prefers to take this approach and go to the belly down arm lock finish. As he notes, worst case scenario he keeps his dominate position even if the arm lock doesn’t work, he is able to get back to a top position more easily from here than he is being stuck on his back under the opponent.
Tom DeBlass is arguably one of the toughest Jiu Jitsu competitors to ever walk the earth. He credits a lot of his physical toughness to his mental toughness that he has developed over the years by focusing on his mindset and how he approaches life mentally. He says often, there are no easy days, and I truly think he has fallen in love with the pain of the constant grind to get batter and do more. That being said, you too can develop your mindset to be a more mentally, and physically tough person, and grappler.
Have Tom DeBlass as your personal guide, through personalized coaching, or start by checking out his newest video instructional titled “The Road to Blackbelt and Beyond” on BJJ Fanatics, where DeBlass breaks down in simple easy to understand actionable steps how you can adjust your mindset and dominate both on and off the mats.