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How to "Catch the Trail Arm" and Get the Kimura Grip: A BJJ Tutorial

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


Stepping Into Advanced "Catch" Territory

Up until this point, every Kimura "catch" we've used (method for getting the Kimura grip) has been fairly straightforward, and not too sneaky. Setting up the Kimura grip from half guard is fantastic, but the fact is that not every advanced grappler is going to want to expose themselves to risk by going for the underhook, which makes it considerably harder to set up from the top of half guard.

Enter the "trail arm catch." This is the type of move you can hit consistently against black belts once you get the idea down. Let's get started with the "fundamentals" of an exciting new concept!

Catching That Arm

If you haven't already done so, please be sure you're familiar with the material contained in "The Trade" tutorial. The moves and concepts in this article begin with the assumption that you're familiar with the trade and all of the preceding Kimura tutorials leading up to it.

The easiest way to get started with "catching the trail arm" as a concept is to begin with a knee-cut guard pass. Start with a nice knee slide, but neglect to get the underhook on your partner, thus giving them a sense that they can get the underhook and come up on top. However, take note that when they do decide to start coming up, they've got to build their base up by planting their far side arm on the ground (sometimes their hand, as an athletic grappler will frequently do; and sometimes their elbow, as shown in the video).

Here's where the hook comes in. Reach over their back and feed your right arm (as shown in the video) through, behind your partner's elbow. Just like when doing any basic Kimuras from the top, don't grab the wrist first; instead, be sure to hook behind your partner's triceps and elbow in order to "catch" the grip. Now you're all set to complete the grip by grabbing your partner's wrist first, and then your own.

More Details, and Completing the Back Take

Once you have the grip, you can pull forward at the elbow, compromising your partner's base, and then roll over your right shoulder (again, as shown in the video). Note that I'm passing the guard during the roll in this particular video (certainly ideal, but it certainly won't always happen, and we'll cover that soon). When you land in the next position, you're both staring up at the ceiling in a position Daniel Frank calls the "stargazer" (imagine that you're both on a peaceful field looking up at stars). There are two options as to where your hands will end up: either with just the Kimura grip (on the near side of your partner's head) or else with the Kimura grip and the harness (back control). Let's take a closer look at the latter case.

Before we take the back, note an extremely helpful reference point: Your stomach should be "draped" over the back of your partner's neck. This position is extremely similar (virtually identical, in fact) to the Kimuras from the takedown tutorial covered previously, so it's good to see how the connection works.

Now, we're landing with the full harness on during this roll, and that's going to happen some of the time (but not every time by any means). Assuming it happens here, use the crossface you have to turn your partner away, allowing them to start to escape to their knees. Slide your right knee (as shown in the video) underneath your partner's hip as they're trying to get to their knees, and then pull them over that knee as you're inserting your left hook. Now it's just a matter of getting your right hook in (which can certainly be facilitated by bugging your partner's neck for the choke!).

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From Sitting-Up Guard

Here's a more dynamic version of essentially the same technique, but with a different finish. Your partner is going for a "sitting up guard" here, and you're going to bait them to go for a tackle by "stabbing" your leg into the center here. As they reach, you're essentially creating the same position (although in the video, my partner reaches for my leg instead of posting in the ground—we'll cover much more of this soon!).

Rolling over your right shoulder, this time, make sure your hands end up on the same side of your partner's head (as opposed to the "Kimura and harness" from before, now it's just the Kimura grip). From here, the same back-take maneuver can work if your partner tries to get to their knees. I elect to finish the armlock from the back in this video, but you could just as easily simply take the back and go for a choke (or just get your points if it's a sport BJJ match).

Try It Out!

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do by catching the trail arm and grabbing that coveted Kimura grip, and yet it gives you enough information to start playing with the position, ultimately coming up with your own variations of the moves.

Remember to go back and take a look at some of the previous Kimura tutorials so that you can get your bearings straight as to what happens if such-and-such a thing goes wrong. There are going to be lots more like this coming soon!

© 2015 Andrew Smith


Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on April 21, 2017:


Jb8 on April 21, 2017:

Great techniques, well explained.

Fullblast on April 18, 2017:

Thank you! Amazing techniques Sir!

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