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How to Counter a Kimura in BJJ (and Vice Versa)

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

What an amazing, interesting sequence of attacks and counters from a simple position.

What an amazing, interesting sequence of attacks and counters from a simple position.

Taking the Spinning Armbar Further

The spinning armbar from top is an extremely common counter, but it's also very nuanced, largely because of the counters available (and because of your opponent's likely understanding of the technique themselves). If you haven't already done so, please check out my previous tutorial on countering the spinning armbar when you have the Kimura grip. That lesson lays the foundation for this one, and it'll help a lot if you already understand the material therein. Once you get these concepts, you'll have a much deeper understanding than most people, and you'll be able to better finish from both positions.

More Advanced Reversal

Recall the previously shown Kimura roll from the bottom as a counter to the armbar setup. This still works extremely well—so well, in fact, that you can often hitch a ride with the person as they start to tilt over. That's exactly what we're doing here.

As your opponent's base starts to shift to the side while you're extending your Kimura grip to elevate their hips, and as they're about to shift their weight to the side to sit down to finish the position, just follow up and over with your hips, using their momentum to lift you up and over into side control on the far side. Timing is key here, and the "ride" to side control is just a bonus (if you just hit the roll as before, you're still doing your job), but sometimes this is how it's going to go for you.

Anticipating the Reversal and Finishing Anyway

You're really playing "jiu-jitsu chess" when you are anticipating what your partner is going to do, taking it fully into account, and finishing them anyway with what you originally intended to do. To the untrained eye, this might look exactly the same as BJJ checkers, but there's a lot more going on here.

When you're on top and passing the guard, and your partner has grabbed the Kimura grip, you can always go for the re-Kimura. However, the spinning armbar is extremely appealing, because the name of the game is to drag your partner's elbow across your stomach. In order to do this, after you get your legs free and start to head to north/south, take extra care to make sure that your weight is shifted down toward your partner's hips and feet. This will cause them to reach in the wrong direction, pulling their elbow across your stomach and isolating it for the armbar finish.

Even Flashier (But It Happens!)

Back to the bottom now: Recall that hitting the turtle position is one of the strongest ways to use the Kimura grip from the bottom. As your partner starts to spin around into the armbar, perhaps being privy to your rolling escapes and thus ready to drag your arm across as described above, extend your hands into their hips so that you can get to your knees. In this particular case, you note that your partner's weight is over on their far shoulder, making a roll virtually impossible. Instead, hop up and over to the opposite side, forcing them to collapse into side control bottom. Once again, there's a right and a wrong time to do this, but when it's right, it's a beautiful move to hit live.


What an amazing, interesting sequence of attacks and counters from a simple position—grabbing the Kimura from the bottom. From the most basic sequence of finishing with the shoulder lock to climbing around and over for the belly-down armbar and taking the back, to rolling the person from the bottom of turtle and beyond, there are numerous options here to finish and reverse the position successfully, and there are just as many options from the bottom to counter the position as well.

Playing jiu-jitsu chess, you'll be able to explore your own options and improve upon the existing techniques, making them your own! As always, let me know how these techniques are working for you.

© 2016 Andrew Smith