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An armbar is a type of a martial arts hold, performed on the ground and aimed to cause an opponent to submit (tap out or in combat, break the arm).  This is usually taught in jiu jitsu and judo as those are the most common "grappling" arts, while it can be applied to any art where being on the ground is needed. This can be a very effective movement if done correctly.

What this article covers:


The armbar, also called cross armlock (judo), chave de braço in Portuguese, or ude hishigi juji gatame in Japanese; is a very well-known grappling submission hold used to force the opponent to submit or tap out thus ending a match in either jiu jitsu, judo or mixed martial arts (MMA). The armbar is one of the most common types of locks used in grappling, a lock that works by hyperextending the elbow joint. This is a very painful submission; the bending at the elbow joint is extremely uncomfortable.  This technique is applied with pressure to cause great discomfort while using gradual force and intensity until the opponent submits. Therefore, the armbar is considered a submission technique. Not everyone is going to use the devastating finisher known as the RKO wrestling move, but the armbar move is a great technique to keep in your toolbox.

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 wrestling arm bar

 It is often that you will see inexperienced grapplers that tap out almost immediately because of the uneasiness and discomfort of the position. The armbar position would be most likely preferred over the flying drop wrestling move.  Hyper-extending the elbow joint is the major movement to this submission. Even if you are an experienced grappler, you can continuously do something to make your armbar game progress. There are always new armbar techniques to learn and master from to make your technique better and improved. Every ancient culture that grappled was recognized to have used an armbar, it is unknown exactly who or when it was created but the armbar has existed for thousands of years. For as long as humans have tried to injure and harm each other, they have studied the physics of the human body. They figured it out quite early if you bend an arm at an angle with enough pressure that they will break it (many would agree that it is more ideal than the piledriver wrestling move which can result to a broken neck).  It is a submission that never stops being revolutionized amongst other submissions such as the guillotine wrestling move. The following steps will help give a general understanding of the concept and technique.


An armbar operates in the same way you would pull a lever. As you go through the stages of controlling the opponent’s arm it looks like a lever. An armbar usually works in a particular way in which the opponent’s arm is placed between an attacker’s legs with the palm facing away from the attacker. The arm is held in a sturdy and strong position alongside the attacker’s body near the wrist.

The arm is then pulled down against the attacker’s body and straightened while the attacker’s hips are forward in a thrust and arch motion against the opponent’s arm and elbow. This position leaves intense strain and substantial pressure on the elbow joint and the bones of the arm and forces the opponent to tap out.

 It can ultimately result in hyperextension or risk torn ligaments, tendons or broken bones with enough force, power and angle. The attacker’s feet and legs can also be placed over the opponent’s torso for extra hold and leverage. The armbar is a very difficult technique to counter. The main defense to the armbar is to keep the elbow bent and pull the arm being attacked down, out and away from between the opponent’s legs before the submission can be completely applied.

If the opponent can grab the arm being attacked with both hands, they can slow down the application of the move, however, it can frequently be controlled back with time. Once the movement is secured, the opponent often attempts to slam the attacker applying the submission into the mat and compress them before the armbar can be fully extended. In competitions such as submission grappling tournaments where slamming is illegal, defenders will frequently try to roll themselves over so that the point of their elbow is away from the attacker’s body.  If you can get to this position, it allows the elbow to bend appropriately when pressure is applied, preventing injury and or a submission.

In Jiu-Jitsu, the benefits of a joint lock can be important because the focus is on the manipulation of joints and chokes.  With this being the focus of style, it is possible to end a fight without having to strike the opponent. Additionally, having the ability to use joint locks and chokes against a larger and stronger aggressor instead of strikes, help assist you in the defense side as well.


The armbar is the most-used joint lock submission in mixed martial arts today and it very well may be the most used submission. This submission is achieved by placing your legs across your opponent’s chest, with one of their arms between your quads and with the elbow joint placed against your hips. Next, your opponent’s arm is grabbed with your arms and their forearm is placed onto your chest. To secure the arm lock, you will lean back and arch/thrust your hips simultaneously.

Beginning in the guard position allows the arm bar to become a huge threat and therefore sets the opponent in a dangerous submission. The key part here is that you need to close your guard. To be successful in this position, it is crucial to break down your opponent and have them as close as possible to you and limit their ability to gain good posture. Next, speaking from a right-hand dominated player, you will reach with your right hand and preferably grip your opponent’s right elbow or high part of their forearm. This movement will feel like an arm-drag type of action towards your right shoulder.

Next, having strong and good hips play a significant part during this set up. As you begin to lift your hips while pushing towards your opponent will create more force and allow you to open both your legs up.  You have two options from here; you can grab a high guard which will land one of your legs high on the shoulder of your opponent or you can opt to go right for the armbar if performed fast enough. If you select to go the high guard way, tightly close your legs and squeeze towards your left while putting your left leg up and over your opponent’s face.  You will keep on applying pressure by pushing your hips towards your opponent.  Make sure you extend your hips because that will help stretch out the arm allowing you to complete the hold.

The last piece of this armbar technique is allowing your body to become straight as you move vertical to your opponent. Keep your legs close together and spread them as you drive your hips up and arch your back slightly. You should have one leg on your opponent's neck and the other leg should be right below their armpit. As you unbend, be sure to move both hands to your opponent's wrist and grip it tight and secure. Next, you will bend it the opposite way of how it is designed to bend. It is important that their arm touches your leg below their elbow and that their fingers are not facing towards you and simply pull like you would a lever.


Obtaining the armbar from mount is slightly different but it has the same principles and ideas as the armbar move from guard.  After you lock up wrist control, you want to immediately throw your leg to the side you want to grab your opponent's arm. This is a fast and snug movement as you throw over your leg. From here, the procedure is quite simple to complete the armbar in the mount position.

To acquire the most leverage possible, it is important to stay close to the opponent's body and also position your butt as close to the opponent’s head, this will close the gap. Some teachings advise you never to cross your feet in this submission as some instructors favor it. The majority will tell you to keep your feet flat on the floor which allows more control and stability for a solid base set up. This also keeps your opponent from rolling out or sitting up and making the position troublesome. After that is completed, pinch your knees together and grasp your opponent's arm near the wrist area with both hands, one hand under the other. Be aware that there are different and effective holds that include hooking the arm as if you were about to choke it.  This can become beneficial if controlling your opponent's leg was the goal. The arm bar move will and can leave you open for a handful of counter-reactions. The more you drill and practice in grappling, the better you will become at the armbar. It is always advantageous to prepare back-up plans in case you have to transition into something else like the butcher wrestling move.


Always remain in good posture when in guard, it will allow you to arch your head and put you in position to look straight up. Do not leave your hands or hand on the ground because doing so will give the attacker an opportunity to set up a triangle or armbar. The armbar is a difficult submission to escape because it’s very painful and a fast move to set-up and get to. Because of this, if your opponent is of dominant strength do not try to explode out. While in other submissions, the set up can take longer to fully execute but remember the armbar is quick and easy.  Once locked in the position, your escape in the armbar is minimal. Do not let your arm become bent and hyper-extended. Turning your thumb sideways towards your head will alleviate some of the pressure and provide you with the precious seconds you will need to escape. Lifting your hips off the floor and pushing with your feet will allow you to walk away from your opponent's head and create some valuable space away from your opponent. Place your free arm under your body after the walk and slide your knees underneath by using that free arm. It is important to lift up your shoulder to create leverage and then explode. Propel yourself forward to the side opposite of your trapped arm. If correctly executed, your arm should become free and you will most likely be inside control.


When going for the armbar it is so important that everything is in line for it to work and to catch the submission properly. If one detail or technical point is off, you are not going to be successful at this arm bar move.  Below are some helpful tips and pointers for you to remember when practicing the armbar.

Make sure you turn your body on an angle when setting up the armbar from guard. The reason you need to turn your body and angle is because it helps you get your leg over the opponent’s head and once you clear the head and angle, the pressure you can apply on their arm becomes readily available.  To effectively set up the arm bar, you need to break your opponent's posture by doing two movements.

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wrestling arm bar technique

First, grab their shoulder to keep them in position and then hook your leg behind their back.  Before attempting the armbar, make sure you are in good, dominant control of your opponent's high elbow and arm. It is important to establish and maintain this control to be able to successfully attack their elbow joint. When you move your leg over the opponent's head it must be done with heavy application. If you don’t apply heavy pressure, your opponent can easily posture up and defend.

This tip goes for both armbars from top and bottom positions. Whenever you attempt to go for the armbar it is vital that you always pinch your knees together. By doing so, this will keep them in place and allows you to put solid pressure on your opponent’s arm. Always use two arms when going for the arm bar move while hugging their arm to your body. This enables you to use your entire body when you are attacking an armbar. Your opponent’s thumb must always be pointing up or aligned with your hips. This supports you to be able to apply pressure to the arm.

Anytime you go to apply pressure on an armbar, you have to bridge and arch your hips up. This motion puts the pressure on the arm. Attacking the armbar move from the top positions make sure your hips remain and stay low. If your hips are too high this either gives your opponent space to slide out or escape and the position will not be tight enough and properly executed.

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