The secret to instantly improve your arm bar begins with your legs!
The legs provide the ability to make your arm bar tighter and deeper far beyond anything the arms can accomplish regardless of how tight or hard you grab your opponents arm.
The oddest part about this concept is the fact that all arm bars are taught with grabbing the desired arm in some fashion with your own arms. If you haven’t figured it out already in your own BJJ journey allow me to enlighten you what may appear to be a very strange Jiu Jitsu fact:
To some degree, with every advancement you will make, the rules you were taught on how things work in BJJ will change to meet your evolution and understanding of the art.
The first tip I would like to share with you in utilizing your legs in a much more effective fashion places a strict emphasis on squeezing your legs in two directions at the same time.
As you execute your arm bar and your leg begins to clear the crown of your opponents head, you should already be squeezing your knees toward each other and your heels toward your seat very efficiently and very purposefully.
This should not be mistaken for as fast as possible and as hard as possible. They are indeed distinctly different in effect and final result. Squeezing your legs too hard and too fast will create moments of chaos, which by definition indicates a lack of control. Purposefully can be equated to “snug enough to get the job done” and efficiently meaning “quickly enough to not lose anything in terms of progress.”
Doing it this way will also prevent you from becoming too rigid to be aware of how your opponent is reacting to your actions.
The second tip I would like to share will add an element of deception and disguise to your arm bar.
If you haven’t noticed yet, every time you grab the arm for an arm bar it feels as if you’ve set off an alarm in a maximum security facility alerting your opponent to your exact intentions. To disguise your submission attempt make sure your grabbing of the arm is the last step in the process.
Of course there are certain variations where there is an exception, but even still, by using this train of thought so to speak, your arm bar will be substantially better. A great way to visualize and practice this is to have your same side arm follow your leg around the head of your opponent in a synchronized fashion. Again, as you clear the crown of the head and begin to squeeze your legs your arms can safely grab the attacked arm as any recognition by your opponent should be significantly too late. Honing in on the precise timing and fluidity of these motions will drastically improve your arm bar success rate. For added deception, I always loved grabbing the opposite arm from the one I’m attacking while I move my body and legs into striking position. For added effect, while trying to deceive in this fashion, over sell the opposite arm by purposely over pulling and grabbing it as if you want it more than anything and then simply let go as if you never wanted it in the first place. These tips can be utilized in both top and bottom position arm bar attacks.
Author: Patrick Applegate is a Gracie Barra blackbelt and has been teaching since 2006.