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Countering the Spinning Armbar From the Bottom With a Kimura (a BJJ Tutorial)

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

A generation of jiu-jitsu students has become wary of utilizing the Kimura from the bottom.

A generation of jiu-jitsu students has become wary of utilizing the Kimura from the bottom.

Spinning Armbar, a Credible Threat

Everyone who's been a fan of MMA for more than a decade no doubt remembers Georges St-Pierre's first fight against Matt Hughes when Hughes beautifully countered GSP's Kimura from the bottom with a spinning armbar for the finish. As a result, a generation of jiu-jitsu students has become wary of utilizing the Kimura from the bottom, and rightfully so: the armbar threat is omnipresent. We're going to take a look at two different ways to counter this threat so that the bottom Kimura can return to your repertoire, and look at a couple of likely reactions from your partner based on what they perceive as a threat from you.

First Things First

Before we counter the spinning armbar, we've got to take a quick look at the mechanics of the position itself. In order to execute this technique, as soon as your partner has locked in a Kimura as you're passing the guard, you've got to first hide your arm in between your legs or by grabbing your inside thigh, so that your partner will be unable to simply finish the shoulder lock from the bottom.

Now, sliding away from your partner so that they follow you onto their side, just spin around behind them as per usual (a typical spinning armbar, like from knee on stomach). It helps a great deal to post with your far arm (left, as shown in the video) so that you can get much closer to your partner's hips. Because they're locked into their own Kimura grip, their armbar defense is going to be virtually nonexistent here.

Option 1: The Roll

The first basic option from the bottom is to use your partner's energy and momentum against them. As your partner goes to hide their arm inside their near thigh, push their hands into their thigh even more. As they go to spin around for the finish, they're going to find themselves elevated and off-balanced, and ultimately unable to settle their weight down for the finish.

As they complete the spin, you can follow them to the top position, ending in what is essentially an El Gato finish position. One crucial detail here: when the person is going for the spinning armbar here, they really want your left elbow to end up across their chest in order to isolate the arm for the finish. If you keep your elbow outside of their hip instead and really focus on never allowing them to bring the arm across, you're going to make the finish considerably more difficult, and, as a bonus, make the roll that much easier.

Option 2: Hitting the Turtle Position

A second common scenario here comes up when your partner is aware of the roll defense. As a result, when they're going around to spin for the finish, they'll typically stop somewhere in between traditional side control and north/south, shifting their weight over their thigh, and completely preventing the roll. No matter; your second defense is facilitated by this reaction.

Simply push on the thigh as before, but use this pushing energy to help get you to your knees (turtling). From here, you're going to have two excellent opportunities to reverse your opponent right off the bat. First, just try a maki komi style barrel roll, pushing your left shoulder and left hip into your partner. Once they roll over, finish the straight armlock. Second, turn back in to your partner as they're resisting the first "throw" attempt and sit underneath them, effectively doing a sumi gaeshi from the knees. You can reverse your partner here, ending up on top, and ultimately finishing the submission once you've passed their guard.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that all of the Kimura tutorials work together. Make sure that you're familiar with the entire system whenever a confusing situation arises; the answer is usually contained herein. If not, feel free to give me a shout, and I can likely help you out! I've been there plenty of times.

© 2016 Andrew Smith