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The Armbar: When To Cross Your Feet

The Armbar: When To Cross Your Feet


When should you be crossing your feet and when should you not?

It seems there are so many conflicting thoughts on this, enough in fact that Professor John Danaher has dedicated his time to create a short video to review the facts of when it might be a good idea, and when it might be a bad idea.  

Professor Danaher is widely known as one of the most sought after Jiu Jitsu coaches in the world, and could be considered the subject matter expert when it comes to the idea way to apply  a submission. Professor Danaher’s approach to coaching is highly detailed, and never without explanation as to why a specific part of the technique is being done the way it is. If you are not familiar with Professor Danaher, well, for starters, you’ve been living under a rock, a rock with WiFi if you’re reading this.  

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Professor Danaher has created the ultra popular video instructional series titled “Enter the System” for all of the techniques he feels are important to know at a highly detailed level, such as Triangles, Leg Locks, Kimura and many others.  As you will see from our video breakdown today he leaves nothing to question, and always seems to have at least a few things that you can take away, implement, and immediately make your game better. 

Let’s take a look at Professor Danaher’s thoughts on when to cross our feet, when not to cross our feet and why. 

As an easy answer, there are times when it is a good idea to cross your feet, and there are times when it is a good idea not to cross your feet.  At a high level, a world class competitor level there has been proven success and power (up to and including opponent’s arms being broken) with both scenarios, making it realistic to think that either option is fine.  Of course, Professor Danaher dives into this a little deep to define the when and why for each. 

As a general rule of thumb, Professor Danaher prefers “open feet” (unlocked feet) when in bottom position and states that he does see some value in crossing your feet when you are in the top position, however it does require you to change your body movement slightly in order to keep control.  Let’s dive in and look at his thoughts on how to most effectively use each of these leg positions.

Professor Danaher prefers to use asymmetrical legs when working to control the opponent, whereas when looking to finish the arm bar he prefers to be in a more symmetrical position.   When executing asymmetrical control you have the option of pointing your knees and leaning towards your opponent’s head, or the opposite, pointing your knees and leaning towards your opponent’s legs.  As a default, Professor Danaher states he will typically lean towards the opponent’s legs in most situations. In either situation, it is extremely important to keep your knees pinched while doing this to ensure we don’t lose control.  

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If the opponent is more interested in trying to walk away rather than turn into you, it may be a good time to switch to a symmetrical position and lock your feet.  Doing this will give you control over not just the shoulder closest to you, but the opponent’s other shoulder as well. To do this effectively we simply lock our feet and leg curl our legs into the opponent pulling them tight into us.  Once again, while this gives us the added advantage of having better control over the shoulders, we do sacrifice our control over the opponent’s head. This is not the end of the world, but worth noting so that you can pay attention to this, if the opponent starts to come up towards you or turn into you, it may be a good idea to uncross your feet and return to an asymmetrical control until they calm down again.  I’d like to note where Professor Danaher’s feet are locked. If you look closely you will notice the lock is actually under the opponent’s shoulder. Having this lock under the shoulder makes this a very controlling position, failing to get your lock under the shoulder and simply locking your feet against their tricep or the back or their arm is not effective and likely will not give you any additional control, especially against a skilled opponent.   See the image below for visual reference. 

Let’s flip the situation, when we are on our back, and the opponent is in the top position Professor Danaher is not a fan of locking the feet here.  The reason he feels this way is because typically in this position we must control the head more so because the opponent is on top and free to move, unlike when their head is on the mat and they have limited mobility.  Generally speaking, locking the feet will sacrifice head control, therefore Professor Danaher prefers to stick to open feet here.  

Professor Danaher closes saying these are only his preferences and reasons why he feels the way he does about these positions.  He goes on to say he is not a believer that it is always or never a good idea to cross the feet, rather prefers to evaluate each situation and decide for himself what is right.  Like anything in Jiu Jitsu, the best way to find out is to practice, drill drill drill and more drilling, along with a ton of rolling with these concepts in mind. 

This was just a short excerpt from Professor Danaher’s “Arm Locks: Enter the System” series that is packed with details and explanations over 8 volumes covering arm locks from every possible position.  There is no doubt that the world having access to the same secrets that Professor Danaher teaches his students that have lead them to the top of the sport will push your game to the next level.  Because of the availability of this type of high level instruction, the game is changing, and will continue to change, be the first one at your academy to pick up any of the “Enter the System” series to give you the edge. 

Join John Danaher with the latest installment of his systematic approach to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Check Out "Enter The System: Arm Bar" and get to work on improving your armbar game! BJJ Fanatics has it here!



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