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How to Do Closed-Guard Arm Drags in BJJ

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.


About Arm Drag

Working from the closed guard can be challenging if you stick to classic sequences. On the one hand, you have the extra added security of having your opponent in your closed guard, so before your partner begins to pass, they're going to have to open up your legs. On the other hand, closed-guard base and posture are ingrained into any decent BJJ student right from the beginning, and these concepts are reinforced throughout your entire jiu-jitsu career. This means that conventional attacks are often easily shut down. Enter the cross-grip series.

What follows is a high-percentage sequence to use against a knowledgeable opponent that has been extremely successful in high-level BJJ competition, leading to a superior position and eventual submission.

Pendulum Sweep

This technical series involves not only making a classic cross sleeve grip, but also creating a "shelf grip." The cross grip is simple enough. Start with your right hand cross-gripping your partner's right sleeve, using a classic "J hook" (curling your fingers over the sleeve in a sport-legal super-strong grip). Next, use your left palm as a "shelf" behind your partner's elbow and triceps area. This hand will act as a buffer against your partner resisting the arm drag that is about to follow, and can also work to fold your partner's arm down, guiding the hand exactly where you want it to end up.

Next up, your left hand wraps around your partner's back, reaching for the far armpit. It's important here that you keep your left elbow pinched down and in, so as not to allow your partner to retract his left arm. Your chest should be more or less flush with your partner's right triceps/shoulder area now. Next, hip out to your left, staying tight as you do this (you can also push off of your partner's hip with your thigh as opposed to putting the foot on the floor as I demonstrate in the video for tighter control). From here, it's up to your partner as to how they will respond. In one possible scenario, they will drive into you, feeling the danger inherent in the back take option. Once their weight is coming forward, just use a pendulum motion with your legs in order to sweep your partner to your left. You should end up in an extremely dominant mount position, already past your partner's potential defensive frames and well on your way to a submission.

Back Take/Over-the-Top Sweep

A second scenario that's roughly equally likely to happen arises when your partner is very wary of the pendulum sweep option. As you've got your chest blocking your partner's right shoulder/triceps and keeping them from squaring up to you, your partner either simply sits there and does nothing, or else tries to pull away from the direction of the sweep. Turn over your hips by pulling yourself up on top of your partner, making sure that your right knee moves to the ground. Keep your right foot across your partner's hip, though; this is your insurance policy in case you lose the armpit/arm drag grip! As you climb on top, you can release the sleeve grip so that you can post on the ground. This should facilitate the completion of the back take/sweep.

Once you're on top, you can either stay right there on your partner's back and get hooks in, or, as shown in the video, complete the sweep to full mount/technical mount (my personal preference is definitely technical mount). The sweep to mount is best finished by getting perpendicular with your partner and taking away the rest of your partner's base with your left hand blocking their far triceps as shown in the video. The result: technical mount and an armbar submission!

Closing Thoughts

The beautiful thing about this sequence is that you just need to be patient and stay tight, and your partner will end up digging a hole for themselves, one way or the other. Both the back take and the pendulum-sweep options are extremely high percentage, and they can be used in either order, with either being the primary attack (and the other as a follow-up for an unstoppable combination). Both lead to an extremely dominant position and a very good chance for a finish. As always, let me know how this sequence works for you! It has served me well for a long time now.

© 2016 Andrew Smith