How to do the Americana Armlock Submission in BJJ

How to do the Americana Armlock Submission in BJJ

The Americana Armlock Submission is one of the first submissions you learn in BJJ. It is a very simple and effective submission that applies pressure to an opponent’s shoulder. Below, we’re going to detail the history of the Americana Armlock Submission and tips for locking it in.

Americana Armlock Submission Origins

In grappling, the Americana armlock has been used for years before BJJ was established. Judo and catch wrestling practitioners also had other names for the submission before the name Americana was coined. 

Other names for the Americana armlock include keylock, top wrist-lock, figure 4 wrist-lock, or Ude Garami in Judo.

Rolls Gracie claimed that he came up with the name Americana Armlock. In the mid 70s, Rolls was friends with an American wrestler named Bob Anderson, who he claimed showed him the submission. This origin is false.

Americana Armlock Submission

Americana was terminology used in Rio de Janeiro for the figure 4 arm-lock before Bob Anderson was born. The name is actually mentioned in a news piece covering the Helio Gracie/Masahiko Kimura fight in 1951.

The Diario de Noticias wrote: “He [Kimura] inflicted severe punishment, even drawing blood. The decisive technique was the Americana Lock.”– Diário de Noticias 24-10-1951”

It was actually a Kimura(double wrist lock), but it is the more factual account of the submission’s name.

How to do the Americana Armlock Submission

You can generally do this submission from two different positions. Side mount, mount, and maybe top half guard if you’re rolling with a less experienced teammate.

To do this submission, you need to reach across the opponent’s body and grab their wrist. You pin their arm palm up on the mat next to their head. With your free hand slide it under their arm and grab your other wrist palm down.

Keep the grip tight near their head and their arm should look like it is at around a 90 degree angle. Turn the hand that’s holding their arm like you’re revving a motorcycle to plant their arm on the ground.

Finally, lift their elbow using the arm under their arm. This motion puts pressure on their shoulder forcing them to submit. 

How to do the Americana from Side Mount

Having a good keylock is vital to having a good side mount game. Here is how you perform the Americana from side mount.

First, you need to have your weight directly on their chest and apply shoulder pressure on their face/head. When they frame to defend, plant their far arm to the mat with your hand closest to their head. Their arm should look like a 90 degree angle.

With your other hand, lace it under their arm and grab your other wrist palm down. Then finally to finish the sub bring their arm close to their head and slightly raise your arm under theirs. Apply pressure to the shoulder an the tap.

For a visual watch how Professor Kris Kim sets up the keylock from side mount. He also adds in a set up for an arm triangle choke. Check it out!

How to do the Americana from Full Mount

The set up for an Americana Armlock Submission from mount is a little different from side mount, but with the same ending. Here is how to perform the Americana from mount.

Before you go for the submission, you have to consolidate the position. Bring your knees in tight to limit space for them to elbow escape out.

Generally, a good grappler will have their hands close to their neck to defend submissions. Use two hands on one to plant their arm to the mat. Lock in the Americana the same way as in side mount and get the tap.

For a visual, checkout Professor Charles Dos Anjos demonstrating the move from mount along with an arm bar.

Key Details to Consider

  • Chest on Chest: To make this submission more effective, you need to be chest on chest with your weight on your opponent. This limits their movement and ability to defend the Americana. 
  • Don’t Lean Forward: If you lean your weight too far forward this gives the opponent the opportunity to sweep/reverse you. Now instead of working for an Americana, you have to get out from under them.
  • Shoulder Pressure: Before starting the submission in side mount, you got to have good shoulder pressure on the opponent. When they go to defend by framing this opens up the opportunity for an Americana.
  • Arm On The Mat: To complete the Americana Armlock Submission, you got to have their arm on the mat at a nearly 90 degree angle. If their arm is flat or at almost 90 degrees, then they have the opportunity to defend and escape.
  • Block Their Head: The arm pinning the opponent’s arm needs to be framed next to the opponent’s head with no space. This block stops them from turning and defending the submission.

Americana vs Kimura

Sometimes people confuse these two submissions since they’re both shoulder locks, but there’s a difference. To understand the difference just remember that an Americana/Keylock is palm up and a Kimura is palm down. The Kimura submission is also a more versatile submission that can be done from multiple positions.

How To Defend The Americana Armlock

  • Arms In Tight: The old saying in Jiu Jitsu is an extended limb is a broken limb – think “T-Rex Arms!” This is especially so for the Americana. Keep your hands in tight, defend, and you won’t have to worry about getting put into an Americana.
  • Get On Your Side: To set up the Americana, the opponent needs you flat on your back, so you can’t let this happen. Once you get put in side control you need to be on your side defending and trying to escape. If you stay on your side, you shouldn't need to worry about getting put in an Americana. 
  • Bridge: If they have you in an Americana armlock, you need to turn and bridge into it. You have to act fast and bridge immediately before they start to crank your arm.  

    Bridging turning towards your arm to take the pressure off of your shoulder. Also if the opponent is overzealous leaning too far over you can palm their armpit, bridge, and sweep them


In BJJ, the Americana Armlock Submission is a must know for all grapplers. To advance in rank, you have to know how to do this submission. Also if you get really good at it will be something your opponents will have to worry about when rolling with you.