Is the Americana Effective Against Experienced Grapplers?
Is This Class Submission Useful At A High Level?
Some Jiu Jitsu submissions are more effective than others, I think that is something we can all admit to. Although some unorthodox submissions are made popularly successful by only a subset of players, it would be difficult to claim that such submissions are generally important to learn. The main Jiu Jitsu curriculum involves submissions that are taught universally such as the armbar, kimura, and rear naked choke. This is because they have been proven in both MMA and grappling competition to be effective against all ranks. One submission that is taught in the standard curriculum is the Americana, aka Key Lock. Although this submission is simple and painful it has failed to prove successful against experienced opponents.
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Professor John Danaher posted about this topic on his Instagram recently. He calls the Americana a “great under performer among the submission holds of Jiu Jitsu.” He goes onto explain the only time he has witnessed this submission being used at a high level was when Jon Jones used it to finish Vitor Belfort but discounts this moment because Vitor was both exhausted and beaten.
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Danaher concludes his post about the failure of the Americana by explaining why he thinks it has not proven as successful as some of the other basic submissions. The problem with the Americana, he describes, is not because it lacks the ability to cause pain or break the shoulder. The Americana is actually very painful and the rotational angle necessary to break the shoulder is actually smaller than the omoplata or kimura. The problem, he says, is with either the set ups or countering defenses.
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Should we continue to train the Americana? I believe we should all be aware of it because it is still a safe submission to use in a self-defense situation and it is also a good move to teach beginner because it involves all the elements that make Jiu Jitsu what it is: leverage, wedges, mechanical pressure, etc. I hope John’s insight into the Americana allows him to rediscover this submission in ways that will improve its effectiveness and versatility.