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Why You Want To Have a Good Arm Bar

Why You Want To Have a Good Arm Bar


We all probably know what the arm bar is.  The arm bar is an extremely powerful submission that many people will learn in their first few weeks of bjj.  Mainstream MMA fans are also familiar with the arm bar from the countless fights that end by arm bar in the UFC.   The arm bar was not created by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but it was definitely evolved by bjj.

So why is it so important to have a good arm bar that you can keep in your back pocket?  Well, the arm bar is one of the best submissions that you can learn because of the efficiency, versatility, and effectiveness. The arm bar is a submission that can be utilized from various positions and it can be one of the most effective moves.  We have seen UFC championship matches end by way of arm bar, we have also seen Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt matches end by way of arm bar.

We know the arm bar works because it is one of the oldest submissions.   We are going to look a little deeper into why this position is so dominant and why it has been effective for so many years.  Let’s take a look below.

Arm Bar Efficiency

Efficiency as defined by the dictionary is “Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.”  In the case of bjj, we always want to be as efficient as possible.  We want our movements to be effortless and we want to be able to capitalize on our opponent’s mistakes.  As Rickson Gracie says, a good Jiu Jitsu player is efficient. 

This efficiency stems from setting up traps so that when a good bjj practitioner does a sweep or submission it is easy.  They don’t have too work for it and exert crazy amounts of strength.  For the case of the arm lock, you can do this position from so many places and make it efficient.  There are many opportunities to take your opponent’s arm.

For example, whether it is MMA, self-defense, or Jiu Jitsu, when you are in a situation, the arm bar is one of the submissions that will present itself most often.  This is because when people are in a position that they don’t want to be they will extend their arms in order to alleviate pressure or to push you away.  This is a natural human instinct.  People do not have a preconceived notion of how to grapple or escape bad positions, their instincts are to push and frame and when this occurs you can get an arm bar. Take a look at how to do the arm lock from side control with UFC title contender, Demien Maia.

Arm Bar Effectiveness

The arm bar has long been one of the most effective submissions.  This is because people have spent years evolving the position and there are so many high percentage ways to finish the arm bar.  Some people believe that the arm bar does not work on stronger people or that it is not effective, this is simply not true.  If we look at fight and bjj match statistics, the arm bar is one of the most finished submissions.  6x Black Belt World Champion, Rafael Menedes finished the majority of his career matches by way of arm bar, he was even able to finish 5x Black Belt World Champ, Rubens “Cobrihna” Charles by arm bar.

We know it works, the difficulty in the arm bar is in the set up.  It is wise to set up your arm bars efficiently and capitalize on your opponent’s extensions.  This is not only because it is easy to get but it makes it easy to finish.  You want to attack arm bars where your opponent cannot grip.  When you have to break grips it is true that with someone much stronger it can be very difficult.  Let’s take a look at the beautiful arm lock finish that Rafael Mendes had on Cobrihna below.

Versatility of the Arm Bar

The versatility of the arm bar may perhaps be the best feature of the position.  You can do the arm bar in gi, no gi, MMA, and self-defense.  You can also attack the arm bar from bottom or top. 

The arm bar is taught traditionally from mount and from the closed guard.  This is the arm bar that many people are exposed to first.  The thing with the arm bar is that you want to learn the mechanics of the finish because once you are able to complete an arm bar well, you can now use it from many places.  For example, let’s look at where we can implement the arm bar from bottom. 

You can use the arm bar from De La Riva guard, Reverse De La Riva, Spider Guard, X Guard, Lasso Guard, Closed Guard, and pretty much any guard.  Let’s assume you have an amazing arm bar, now if you just look for that from all of these guards than you have an amazing weapon in your arsenal. 

The arm bar is also a powerful weapon from side control, mount, back control, knee on belly and in transition.  You will find that as you pass the guard many people will expose their arms to frame on you and in this moment, you will be able to attack the arm bar.  Check out this video below with Black Belt World Champion Silver Medalist and Marcelo Garcia Black Belt, Marcos Tinoco.  The video is from when Marcos was a brown belt.

If you want to take your arm bar to the next level get your hands on our DVD “Old School Efficient BJJ” by Chris Haueter.  Chris is one of the most old school black belts and he is a beast at the arm bar.  He has a very traditional and simple arm bar that is very effective to this day.  He got his black belt in 1996 and was one of the first American Black Belts.

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