Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Tough to Finish, But Easy to Catch
The reverse armbar is a great submission to learn as a white belt, but you probably won't finish it with any sort of reliability until at least blue belt, and quite possibly much later. This submission is especially nuanced; there's a fair amount you have to get just right in order to be able to finish a game opponent. However, a conceptual overview and some tips and tricks will go a long way toward shortening this time frame. Once you're good at the finish, it's far less effort than many of the alternatives, as the entry can be very easy.
Here are two different ways to set up the reverse armbar and several small tips to help you get the submission once you get there.
1. Same-Side Overview
Here's the classic "same side" entry. This position begins with a classic bread-and-butter butterfly-guard sweep attempt, with you underhooking your partner's arm. As you go to turn the corner and hit the basic sweep, your partner shuts you down by basing in toward you. As this happens, you can leverage your partner's wrist up beside your head, using an "answering the phone" grip between your ear and shoulder in order to "hold" your partner's wrist in place.
Meanwhile, the general concept is to apply pressure downward on their shoulder while you also apply outward pressure with your neck and head against their wrist, and then inward pressure with your forearm right above their elbow.
Preventing the Escape
If your partner's thumb (and elbow) can rotate palm-up, they can escape the armlock (remember that the elbow pressure is inward, and they are effectively rotating to face the opposite direction, making the traditional finish impossible). Here is where special attention paid to the shoulder-squeeze component can come to the rescue, making this initial rotation all but impossible. Meanwhile, your head and neck can "sit up" in order to bring their wrist out and away from their body, further making any sort of rotation difficult.
2. The Far-Side Arm
One nice thing about this submission setup from butterfly guard in particular is that you can hit it on either arm. If you're underhooking and your partner isn't interested in giving you much space to get that arm, or (more likely) they post when you go for the classic sweep, they're giving you everything you need for this second variation.
As they post to prevent the sweep, reach for their far arm with a palm-to-palm grip, taking care to make sure that you are just above their elbow. Now use their elbow to start pulling you over to that side of their body (you are going to go from hip to hip here, so you might need to scoot along the ground with a shrimp movement, or you might be able to pull yourself with your partner's arm if they're much bigger than you. Once on this far side, the submission is the same, but your setup might be even easier, since you are making the proper grip to get the finish much earlier in the process, before you even scoot all the way over to the other side.
3. Back to the Same Side
This third option goes back to the original side, but relies on your partner to use good sweep prevention by posting. When they post on the far side, this may make the initial side even easier to set up. As you go for the classic butterfly-guard sweep, just stay out on your hip so that you can dig their arm out much easier. Finish the submission as before, troubleshooting as needed.
Butterfly guard is an amazingly versatile position, offering both lower- and upper-body submissions, and a wide range of sweeps to both sides. Adding in reverse armlocks can not only add another submission to the repertoire, but also can make all of your other attacks more effective, as your partner will be concerned with their elbow and arm positioning at all times. Practice these setups and find one or two that work best for you, and, as always, let me know how things are going for you on the mats!
© 2017 Andrew Smith