How to Do a Belly Down Armbar from Guard in BJJ
The armbar from the guard is a classic BJJ move, but one that seems very difficult to finish against a seasoned opponent. Here's a quick look at two different ways to transition to the powerful belly-down armbar finish when starting from the closed guard. Both utilize the high bite position, but only one relies on your partner stacking you in order to set up the finish. The final position is tougher to get good at initially, but once you have it down, it works well against the best of opponents. We'll take a brief look at these options, and follow up in the future with more detailed tutorials on the finishing options.
The set up
Starting from closed guard, take a same-side sleeve grip on your partner's left arm (with your right hand), and create a frame on their shoulder with your left hand, reaching across to their left shoulder. Pull their sleeve across your body to off-balance them forward, and jump over their shoulder with your legs. This is a good time to really establish the "high bite" position, recrossing your feet until you feel 100% comfortable and there is virtually no space for your partner to wiggle their left shoulder back through. One way to help facilitate this is to squeeze your knees together, then clamp back down (each time you do this, you'll tighten the bite just a little). As soon as you establish this position, your partner will likely move to stack you, by stepping up on their left leg, while leaving their right knee on the ground, trying to drive your knee into your nose. It's important for this first move that your partner is stacking you properly, so make sure you're really getting stacked, or else the following spin movement will be all but impossible.
The Stack, and the Spin
Now, your partner is trying to stack you in order to prevent the submission. Reach under your hips to their far foot (their left foot - remember, their knee is off the ground in order to properly stack you here). You may need to duck around their right arm if they're trying to hug your head. Instead of trying to sweep them where they have excellent base, just spin all the way around to the "belly down" position, poking your head out from behind their legs. As your head comes out, your left arm can straighten in order to facilitate enough space to extend their arm. Your knees should be touching together, and you can either pass your leg in front of their face (classical finish) during the transition, or you can hook the back of their head (see the following video series). Be careful when finishing this armbar, as it may be a lot tighter than you expect it to be, and your partner may not be familiar with the finish!
The Stretch Armbar Option
Often when you're going for a high bite, your partner will anticipate the coming armbar and will start to lean away from the attack, knowing that if they stack you, you'll be able to spin underneath. This is a perfect time to hit the "stretch armbar." As you climb up and over your partner's left shoulder, they begin to lean over to their right. Start turning your hips over, and move your left arm out of your way, placing it behind you so that you can continue turning over. It's almost as though you're executing a stand in base or a hip bump sweep here, but you're ready to switch to the belly down armlock position. Finish by hooking their head with your right foot, and then falling to your right hip. Below, in the full speed version, you can see that it's easy to use your partner's momentum to climb up and over for the finish.
The Tip of the Armbar Iceberg
We're just starting to scratch the surface of the possibilities with the belly-down armlock from guard, and hopefully this reinvigorates your interest in armlocks from guard. If you haven't already worked on the Lapel Trap Armbars, this would be a good time to revisit the classic armbar set ups, as the high bite and belly down finish are excellent compliments. As always, let me know how these techniques are working for you!
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