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BJJ Instructional Videos
John Danaher Leglocks
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Get On Board With The Top Lock Featuring John Danaher

Get On Board With The Top Lock Featuring John Danaher


Catching a solid arm bar from the guard has never been a strength for me. If you’re like me, your first experiences learning the arm bar went kind of like this; We secured the arm and maybe the collar as well. We’d place out foot in the hip and begin to turn our body to a perpendicular angle. Once we arrive, it’s now time to pass our leg over the head and begin working toward a finish. Sound familiar? You may have gotten some mileage out of this particular armbar early on in your training but as we progress, and as our training partners progress too, these basic methods of attacking the limb becomes more difficult. 

Why? Once our training partners being to understand just how important posture is, when stuck inside of a closed guard, things begin to change. In order to secure an arm bar, we must have a significant level of control over the spine and our opponent’s posture. When someone know this, they can begin to make it extremely difficult for us just by observing this principal. The fact is that if we hope to keep the arm bar as a part of our closed guard arsenal, we must modify and insulate it with better mechanics. Particularly, something that John Danaher refers to as the top lock. 

In this video, Danaher has some ideas for you on this exact theme. Should you throw away your basic arm bar? Of course not. There is still value in the traditional application of the submission and the basic arm bar teaches us a lot about movement and functionality in jiu-jitsu. But, if you hope to be successful as the levels get higher and the competition gets stiffer, you’ll want to consider adding this very important variation of the arm bar that includes the top lock for added security. You’re going to want to see this! Have a look! 



We first get a look at Danaher’s example of a basic armbar and how posture can very quickly dismantle your efforts. As we discussed earlier, posture can very easily make trouble for us if we don’t keep it under control. 

Enter the top lock…

Taking a cross grip on his partner’s sleeve and another in the collar, Danaher demonstrates a very simple way to get to get to the top lock position. Opening his guard and making a simple shift of the hips, Danaher gets on to his right side and transitions his partner’s elbow to the inside of his hip. He then squares back up and simply places his left leg over his partner’s shoulder and to cement the position, he crosses his feet. He’s now secured a solid top lock. At this point, there is little the passer can do to remove himself from this incredibly constricting position. 

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This next piece of information is quite possibly one the single most important concepts you’ll ever learn when trying to perform an arm bar. We’ve all been there; We secure an arm, turn our hips, begin to attack, and our training partner locks up a figure four, grabbing their bicep. After a short stint and a bit of back and forth, your partner is able to stay safe long enough to shake their arm free or thwart your attempts to finish the lock. How do we avoid this?

Here, to make sure his partner does not get the opportunity to lock a figure four, Danaher secures a wrist to wrist pin on his partner. This is so incredibly important and yes, his partner still may be able to make a play at locking his hands together to defend, but the option of a figure four has been taken off the table and that puts us in a better position to finish. Brilliant. 

Transferring his right leg to his partners neck area, Danaher now begins the process of transitioning his left leg over the head. He makes a small movement here, shaving the side of his partners head as his leg passes over. From this position, Danaher simply begins to lift his hip and apply breaking pressure to the arm, commanding the tap. 

While Danaher doesn’t completely dismiss the idea of crossing the feet here, he does suggest that we try to keep the feet at a sharp angle toward the head and bite down with our heels, keeping our knees higher than our feet. As Danaher explains, with all of these critical details at play, you can pressure test your arm bar by taking your hands out of the mix and asking your partner to try and pull out. If you can keep them tightly secured with no hands, you’ve covered all your bases. 

This idea of controlling the shoulder when trying to attack the arm bar will serve you at every stage of your jiu-jitsu journey. With superior control over our opponent’s posture and arm that the top lock offers, we can begin to improve our arm bar success rate immediately! Good luck!

Closed Guard: BJJ Fundamentals - Go Further Faster by John Danaher
John Danaher continues to revolutionize Jiu-Jitsu. Danaher refines the details like no other, and you can see his influence throughout Jiu-Jitsu. Get ready to Go Further Faster With John Danaher’s latest installment dedicated to the Closed Guard!



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