Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
The very term "spinning armbar" conjures up images of flying magicians in gis doing magical things, but it's likely one of the first solid techniques you learn from knee on stomach. The person is so exposed when they push on your knee to defend, it's inevitable that you're likely to catch someone with the technique before too long after learning it. Of course, this means that people have gotten used to defending the submission, finding gaps in the transition, and just generally being stubborn, annoying training partners (e.g., the best kind during the right circumstances). Here, we'll take a look at the classics and some updates.
The Basic Spin
Start with your right knee on your partner's stomach, right at the solar plexus area. If the situation is no-gi, you can pull up on the head with your left hand to augment the pressure; if it's gi, try a thumb behind the collar for best leverage. Once your partner reacts by trying to push your knee off his midsection, the idea is to yield just enough so that they stay on their side. You can actually help them out a little by pushing on their shoulder with your free left hand (the one that was pulling their head). With your right arm, hug their left arm close to your chest, lifting their elbow up high. Post with your left hand so that you can get your left foot all the way around, and then in close to your partner (your instep should be flush with their shoulders). Make sure your left knee is upright here, lest your partner be able to hop over to escape.
As you spin around to finish, there's a key moment when your partner is able to defend, since you're not really getting into a proper armbar finish position. This makes breaking grips a little bit more difficult, to say the least. Here's an easy way to get into the ideal finish position (having both legs across their body). Stop when you get around north/south, and instead of posting behind your partner, post further north.
Use this new base to test the waters: See if your partner is providing some tension, pulling their arm back in toward their body (more often than not, this is the case). Use this tension to swing around and get your leg engaged for a tight finish.
Counter to the Kimura
Another easy way to hit a spinning armbar is as a counter to a Kimura attack coming from the bottom. You don't necessarily need to establish knee on stomach here; in fact, it's probably much more likely to arise as you are attempting to pass your partner's guard to your left.
As they grab your left arm for the Kimura, your opportunity arises. Make sure that you pull their elbow across your stomach right as you're turning that crucial north/south corner, unless you enjoy being swept and/or submitted! More details are available here.
There's a pretty easy escape to the knee-on-stomach armlock that arises even when you've countered their Kimura and are spinning to finish the armbar. This involves them simply waiting for you to finish the spin, and right as you are about to finish sitting, they can hop up and over with their hips, ultimately escaping to your open guard. To prevent this, try flaring your elbow outward (this will act as a Kimura to their shoulder), and augment this by using your knee to block their roll.
Attack and Defense
The spinning armbar is definitely one of the first techniques you're likely to learn from knee on stomach, and as a result, your partners are constantly going to be working to improve their defenses and escapes from this common attack. This is where innovation begins, and you should be happy every time your partners figure out yet another defense to your attacks! As always, please let me know how these moves are working for you.
© 2017 Andrew Smith