How To Do An Arm Bar In BJJ

How To Do An Arm Bar In BJJ

The arm bar is one of the most fundamental submissions you learn when starting out in BJJ. It seems like a simple submission, but there are various methods to do it with a few important details.  

Let’s break down how to do an arm bar in BJJ. We”ll go over the origins of where the submission came from along with various ways to do it. Also listing important details to do an arm bar, as well how to escape them. 


Origin of The Arm Bar in BJJ

Basically every martial art has some type of technique for doing an arm bar. The BJJ arm bar in particular was taken from Judo, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, and catch wrestling. Judo refers to the arm bar as “Ude Hishigi Juji Gatame.”  

BJJ took this technique and perfected it for the ground creating various methods to do an arm bar. Even today, there are still new techniques for the arm bar being created. 

How To Do A Basic BJJ Arm Bar From Guard

The first arm bar you learn in BJJ is generally from the guard position. First you need to control an opponent’s arm by reaching across your body, grabbing their tricep, and pulling it in.   

Your other arm needs to grab at their trap muscle and bring them down and prevent them from posturing. Then open up your guard, place your foot on their hip(same side as the arm you’re controlling) and turn your leg against their side.  

Afterwards take your other leg and hook it around the opponent’s body, and chop it downwards with a little bit of force. This will keep them in place for the arm bar.  

At the same time, you’re going to turn to the side to get an angle for the arm bar. Doing this step gives your hips and legs the space to move freely to get the arm bar.  

Now, we’re at the last few steps to complete the arm bar. As you turn to get your angle, the back of your is going to clamp down on the opponent’s neck. This will break their posture further and keep them in place.  

For the finish, have your legs tight, pinching your thighs close together around their arm with their thumb up. Then to get the tap bridge your hips up to put immense pressure on their elbow joint.  

Watch blackbelt Giancarlo Bodoni break down the basic arm bar in this video. 

Speed Arm Bar

If you prefer doing a faster version with a wrist control, then this is the technique for you. This one will be less detailed than the basic arm bar from guard.  

Underhook the opponent’s leg at the same time you pull their wrist and hook your leg over their back. Doing this will enable you to turn and get the arm bar within a second. Watch this video of Gordon Ryan breaking down this technique. 

Arm Bar From Mount (Traditional and S Mount)

Here are two commonly taught arm bar techniques from the mount position. First will be a basic arm bar from mount and then a breakdown of an S mount arm bar. 

For a basic arm bar, grab at the tricep of the arm you want to attack. Your other arm can either base on the floor or the opponent’s chest, head,  and shoulder. If you’re training in Gi, then you can hold the opponent’s collar or sleeve.  

After you control the arm all you have to do is rotate your body around the opponent. Stepping your leg over their head with your legs tight around their arm and falling back to add pressure. 

Here is Chewjitsu breaking down armbar mistakes from the mount you want to avoid.

For a tighter arm bar from the mount, you can do it from S mount. Before you throw your leg over the opponent’s head, hook your other leg under their other arm.   

It looks just like an S and gives up less space than a traditional arm bar from the position. 

Blackbelt Rob Bernacki breaks down all of the steps of this technique in this video. 

Arm-Bar From Back Mount

Arm bar from the back mount is a common option to go with. When you have a seat belt grip, there is an arm bar option available.  

Just hook the arm, rotate your body, throw your leg over their head, and take the arm. Lachan Giles in this video breaks down all the details for doing this technique.

Arm-Bar From Side Control

To cover arm bars from all of the positions, here is a common method from side control. When the opponent makes the mistake of holding your head instead of framing this opens an arm bar option up.  

Step over their head, cup their arm at the tricep bringing them from their back to their side. For the finish rotate around their body giving up little to no space and take the arm.  

MMA Leech has a great video on how to do this technique you can watch here.

Key Details To Remember with The Arm Bar

The arm bar is one of the most basic and fundamental techniques in BJJ, but does have very important details. Here are the key details you need to remember when performing an arm bar in BJJ. 

  • No space: No matter if what position you’re attempting an arm bar from, there is one important step you must remember. No space. 
  • When doing the steps of an arm bar, you must not give up any extra space. If there is an open space this will give your opponent the opportunity to try and escape. So make sure your arm bar is tight with no extra space given. 
  • Angle your hips: To perform an arm bar, you need to angle your hips off. Staying on the center line with your opponent makes it really hard to do an arm bar. So by taking an angle it allows your hips/legs the space you need to do the arm bar movement. 
  • Legs Tight: Make sure your legs are tight around the opponent’s arm. You need this tightness to keep their arm in place, helping prevent escapes, and keeps tension on their arm. All good arm bars require keeping your legs tight.
  • Thumb up: Always remember that you need to have the opponent’s thumb facing up or in line with your body. When the opponent’s thumb is angled to the side it takes the pressure off their joint and gives them a chance to escape.(When you’re attempting a belly down arm bar, their thumb needs to be facing down.) 
  • Bridge your hips up: To have pressure on the opponent’s arm remember to bridge your hips up. This is the movement that puts pressure on their elbow joint. Without doing this, you will not get the submission. 
  • Clamp down on their neck: A solid arm bar from the guard requires you to clamp your leg down on their neck. When you go for the arm bar, the back of your leg needs to chop down on their neck. This movement breaks their posture, holds them in place, and makes escape less likely. 
  • Heavy legs: When you do an arm bar from a top position like mount or side control make your legs heavy. Keeping your legs heavy(particularly the one on their head/neck) limits the opponent’s movement. You’ll hit your arm bars from top positions at a higher percentage. 

How To Defend the Arm bar in BJJ?

  • Posture: If you have good posture it makes it harder to be put in an arm bar. When you have bad posture this puts you in the space to be arm barred, so always remember your posture.
  • Stacking: When someone attempts an arm bar on you stacking is always a good method of defense. As the opponent attempts an arm bar from guard, drive your hips down forcing their knees to the ground. This defense puts immense pressure on your opponent and if done well, they’ll give up on the submission. 
  • Angle your thumb: To do a good arm bar, their thumb needs to be up, so if you’re defending against angle your thumb. By angling your thumb left or right it takes pressure off your arm giving you time to escape. 
  • Bridge, turn, and stack: Bridging, turning, and escaping an arm bar when you’re on your back is a great escape method. With your free hand, grab and push up on the leg over your chest. Then complete the escape by turning into the opponent and lay down heavy pressure by stacking. 
  • Turn your thumb and run: This escape is called the “hitchhikers escape” by some grapplers. To do this escape turn your thumb to take pressure off your arm, turn, and run to the opponent’s side. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several variations of the arm bar – it can be hard to count! These are barely a fraction of the arm bar techniques you can do in BJJ. It is one of the most fundamental techniques you’re going to learn, but it is also one of the most versatile. There are a ton of arm bar techniques that you can do from all kinds of positions.  

Once you get good at doing arm bars, it really does open up your game. You can do this technique from almost every position. Your opponents will have to watch out not to expose their arm or you’d be taking them to a one way trip to snap city!  

Train Hard! Roll Safe!