How to Wristlock Against a Lapel Grab Armbar Defense in BJJ

Updated on October 15, 2016
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Andrew Smith is a 3rd degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs the BJJ Tutorial Encyclopedia here.

This Specific Grip Break

While jiu jitsu is essentially infinite in its possibilities, there are only a small handful of ways a person is likely do defend a specific position. If you're looking for palm-to-palm grip breaks, check out How to Break Grips on an Armbar Defense first. The principles of control and pinning are essentially the same with a lapel grab defense, but the grip break is going to be completely different, fortunately or unfortunately. The good news is that you can also set up a wristlock based on how your partner is grabbing their lapel.

The Set Up

Once your partner selects the lapel grip as their defense (or once they're forced to take it as the only remaining option, as often happens during rolling or competition), you need to recognize that the palm-to-palm series isn't going to work right away. The good news is that the basic control principles are universal. If you're starting with the Kimura grip, you will need to switch your grip so that your other hand threads through here. In the video, I'm gripping Daniel's right arm with my left hand holding his wrist (initially, anyway). Using this convention, let's use right-left to describe what to do next, as it'll be much easier to describe which hand does what. If you have a pocket grip, you won't need to switch your hands, as the "backwards Kimura" will be much easier to get to. Once you have your left hand laced through, bring your right wrist under their wrist (this will act as a fulcrum, so their wrist bends). Next, cover your partner's knuckles with your right hand. If you get good at this, you'll do these simultaneously, because if your partner figures out what you're doing, they'll try to hide their arm another way, and covering the knuckles early on inhibits this as much as possible. Now you're set up for the finish.

Alternative Finish: From the Kimura Grip

Alternatively, sometimes the way your partner is grabbing their lapel actually makes it easier for you to get the submission from the Kimura grip (as opposed to switching to the aforementioned "backwards Kimura"). Take note of how they're grabbing the lapel: is their palm up or down? Is it going to be easier to create the "fulcrum" with the blade of your wrist (so that you can force their palm roughly into their forearm's underside) if you switch your grip, or if you keep it in place?

The Finish

Either way, the basic finish concept is going to be the same. Once you've covered your partner's knuckles and slid your "blade" underneath their wrist, using the figure-four grip, flare their wrist outward, making their fingers head in the direction of the underside of their forearm. If you're using the Kimura grip, you will likely find it useful to put their elbow in your "pocket" (hip area, past your stomach) so that you can reach far enough to get the submission. Now switch to a two-on-one grip so that you can apply pressure down to your hip, forcing your partner's palm into their forearm, getting the submission. It is possible that they'll just straighten their arm to avoid being wristlocked, in which case you can just switch to the armbar.

All Together

In this semi-full speed video, you can see that there are three major parts to this technique. First, you need to stabilize the position, making sure that your partner isn't able to trap one of your legs. Second, break the grip by covering the knuckles and flaring their wrist out. Third, it's the wristlock itself, so just bring everything in toward their elbow, which is supported by your hip.

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A Word of Caution

In case it doesn't go without saying, please be extremely careful with the wristlock submission. Not all wrists are created equally, and some partners may require far less force in order to get the submission, so be careful, especially at first. This grip break is ridiculously effective against the lapel grab, so I don't generally use a wide variety of techniques depending on what the person does initially, as long as they're grabbing that lapel. Enjoy the techniques, as always, and let me know how they're working for you!

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