Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.
Caught in a Web
Being caught in the Kimura from half guard, whether from the bottom or from the top, can feel absolutely helpless. If a practitioner is competent in my half guard Kimura system, there are seemingly answers to everything the person on the bottom can do, and there is very much a corollary from the opposite role, when the savvy guard player grabs the Kimura grip and puts you in danger. However, there is a very simple trick that, if you can get it down pat, can completely change the game for you and even make you want to be caught in the Kimura (to an extent, using it as bait). The "re-Kimura" (sorry, I don't have a better name for it) is a high percentage maneuver that is bound to catch your partner off guard the first few times you grab it, and can even catch experienced Kimura aficionados after some practice.
The Basic Mechanics from Half Guard
From the Top
When you're on top in half guard, you do have a degree of mobility that the person on bottom doesn't have, and we're going to need to take full advantage of that here. As your partner grabs the Kimura grip, start by protecting your hand (so that they can't simply rip the arm free and finish the shoulder lock from bottom). One solid grip defense is to grab inside your thigh, but you are going to want to pass your hand across your stomach here, in order to facilitate the hip switch motion.
Using your hand to keep their wrist trapped during your hip switch, make sure your chest goes up above your partner's elbow, while keeping their wrist trapped. Be careful here, as you have surprising shoulder lock of your own, and your partner might have no idea that it's a legitimate submission! (It really is.) Assuming your partner lets go, you can slide over their elbow with your chest and armpit, grabbing your own Kimura grip. Assuming they don't, you're going to get a quick submission either from the shoulder lock or the wrist lock, depending on how deeply woven their arm is.
From the Bottom
Note: the video shows another look at letting go of the Kimura when your partner hits the "re-Kimura" switch on you, so be sure to do this if you're caught here because of your initial Kimura grip. Start by gripping inside your thigh to defend the initial Kimura attempt (again, you don't want your partner simply ripping the arm away from your body to finish a straight armlock or shoulder lock). From here, grab your partner's free foot (the one that isn't trapped by your legs), and turn your hips away from your partner. This will bring their hips off the mat momentarily.
Use this brief weightlessness to shoot your hips up into the air, rolling over your shoulder, and coming up on top (remember Terere? he used to sweep everyone with this, and it was a thing of beauty to watch). Once on top, remember to switch your defensive grip across your stomach, and then start climbing up above your partner's elbow with your chest (don't fall into a false sense of security that just because you're on top, you're out of danger- you still need to execute the re-Kimura!).
An Easy Flow Drill
In this drill, you can practice over and over again, in rapid succession, both the re-Kimura movement and the Terere sweep, and so can your partner. Simply execute the sweep while maintaining the defensive grip on your thigh, making sure to remember to switch across your stomach as you come up on top. Next, get the re-Kimura yourself, making sure your partner has plenty of room to allow you to get the Kimura grip (not causing them to tap due to the shoulder or wrist lock!).
From there, it's your partner's turn to work the sweep, and so forth. Be a good partner, and you can work a large number of reps in a very short period of time. If you're currently obsessed with the Kimura grip and have a partner who is too, you may want to grab that person and warm up with this for about five minutes, hitting dozens of reps once you figure out the movement (be sure to work both sides!).
Continuing with the Moves
This movement is not something you'll pick up immediately, but once you grasp it, it really is a complete game-changer when defending Kimura grips. Apply the same principles to other, similar attacks (like the Kimuras from the takedown attempt), and you'll be able to figure out your own variations on similar themes. Keep in mind, as always, that your partner may not recognize the movement at first, so be sure to use caution when applying pressure initially on the re-Kimura. Be sure to have fun, too, and let me know if these moves work for you!
© 2015 Andrew Smith