How to do a Kimura Lock in BJJ

How to do a Kimura Lock in BJJ

The kimura lock is probably one of the strongest and most versatile submissions in all of grappling. There have been entire systems based around the submission including the widely popular kimura trap system.  

Just about every grappling art teaches the kimura within their curriculum, which shows how effective it is including BJJ. Take a look below as we show you how to do a kimura lock in BJJ.  

We’re going to go over everything from the history of the kimura and various techniques for hitting this move. Then we’ll give you important details to remember when going for it along with how to defend it. 

jiu jitsu Kimura Lock

Origins of The Kimura Arm Lock in BJJ

The kimura is an arm lock submission that has been taught in grappling for centuries. In Judo its name is the ude garami(bent arm lock) and the double wrist lock in catch wrestling.  

In BJJ, the arm lock was named after legendary Judoka Masahiko Kimura. While Kimura was visiting Brazil in 1949, he was challenged by BJJ creator Helio Gracie to a grappling match.  

Kimura dominated the smaller Gracie throwing him around until locking in the ude garami. Gracie refused to tap, so Kimura ended up breaking his arm causing Helio’s brother Carlos to throw in the towel. From that forward as a sign of respect the submission in BJJ was referred to as the kimura. 

Basic Kimura Lock From Guard 

The kimura can be hit from various positions, but in BJJ it’s most commonly first taught from the guard. Start the setup by isolating an opponent’s arm and get them to put it on or near the mat.   

You can use various methods to get your opponent to do this. Doing an inward swim motion to push their hands to the mat is a common tactic. Another method is to hip bump your opponent to knock them off base and forcing their hand to the mat. 

Once their hand is on the mat you're going to grab their wrist with a strong 5 finger grip. Remember to grab their wrist where it connects with their hand for optimal control.  

Then you’re going to sit up and reach your free hand over their arm right above the elbow. Next reach under their arm and grab your own wrist and sit back.  

Once you sit back, bring their arm to your chest for control and then push it behind their back. This motions puts immense pressure on their joints forcing them to submit.  

Here’s a great video to watch how to do this basic technique.

Kimura From Side Control

There’s numerous ways to finish a kimura from side control, but they all start the same. They all start by isolating an arm and taking a kimura grip.  

The first kimura finish you generally learn is to lift the opponent’s shoulder off the ground and crank their arm. It’s effective, but sometimes harder to pull off on stronger opponents. 

When trying to kimura a strong opponent, there’s 2 common options you can go to. You can either step over the head or move to north/south  for the finish.  

To finish all of these options, remember to bring the opponent’s elbow to your chest to establish complete control. From there, you just torque their arm behind their back to get the tap.  

Check these videos of different finishes for the kimura from side control. 

Kimura From Half Guard

A kimura is a great option if you like using a knee shield half guard. This type of half guard allows you to make space and opens up various types of attacks.  

The basic kimura from half guard starts with your knee and hands up from on your opponent. Push them sideways forcing them to place their hand on the mat.  

Once they place their hand on the mat immediately sit up and bring your chest over their arm. Then grab your kimura grip and hook the back of the opponent’s knee with your bottom leg. This keeps them from passing guard and escaping.  

From there, just torque the opponent’s arm behind their back for the tap. 

Standing Kimura(The Sakuraba)

This is the kimura Sakuraba made famous in Pride when an opponent takes your back from standing. When you go for this technique remember to keep your weight down to avoid being thrown.  

With your weight down, push the opponent’s arm below your hips with both hands to make space. Once you make space your kimura grip to break their body lock grip.  

From there, you have two options to finish the submission. You can either finish from standing by stepping around to their back or doing a front roll to the mat. 

Kimura Sweep From Half Guard

This is a super effective sweep that comes off a kimura grip from half guard. It starts the same as the other technique we detailed from half guard, but with a twist.  

Instead of trying to finish the submission, you’re going to bait your opponent and let them pass your half guard. Once they pass, you keep the grip and turn your body the opposite direction towards their head.  

This gives you three different options you can go to. Either take the opponent’s back, finish the kimura, or come up and complete the sweep.  

All fantastic options for you to choose.

Key Details To Remember

While the kimura lock seems simple enough, you still really need to get the details right to pull it off. Here are the key details to remember before you go for the kimura. 

  • Isolate an Arm: Remember the first step to locking in the kimura is to isolate an arm. Once you isolate an arm it will give you the opening to lock in the submission.
  • Wrist Control: When you grab the arm you’re attacking be sure to grab the opponent’s where their wrist and hand connect. It gives the best control when going for the kimura. 
  • Reach Over the Elbow: After you control the opponent’s arm be sure to loop your arm right above their elbow. This gives you better control over your opponent’s arm and makes it harder for them to escape.
  • Bring their Elbow to Your Chest: Before you put their arm behind their back be sure to bring their elbow to your chest. Doing this helps isolate the opponent’s arm and keeps them from being able to defend. 

How to Defend Kimura Lock in BJJ

The kimura is easy to do and popular to use, which is why you really need to know how to defend. Remember these details for defending against a kimura lock in bjj. 

Arms in Tight: Always keep your arm in tight. If the opponent can’t isolate your arm, they can’t get a kimura lock on you.  

No Hands on the Mat: Always remember to never put your hands on the mat, while in someone’s guard. This is an open invitation for them to grab a kimura on you.  

Good Posture: When you’re in an opponent’s guard, a good way to steer clear of being put in a kimura is good posture. Doing a kimura from guard requires that you have your opponent’s posture broken. So if you have good posture, you won’t need to worry about a kimura from guard. 

Stacking: When you get put in a kimura while you're in closed guard it’s a bad situation, but still escapable. Grab your inner thigh and stack your opponent by putting stiff shoulder pressure down on their neck. With enough pressure, they could release their grip and have to defend. 

Defend with a Submission: If your opponent tries to put you in a kimura from half guard, you can actually defend with a submission. As they put a kimura grip on your arm, stay postured and grab your own hand and put the opponent in a reverse kimura. This counter is painful, so they will either let go of the kimura lock or be forced to submit.

Final Thoughts

This article only scratches the surface of the possibilities of the kimura lock in BJJ. It may be the most diverse submission in all of Jiu Jitsu with new techniques constantly being developed.  

You can hit it from nearly every position, use it for sweeps, and even to counter an opponent’s submission attempt. If you develop a good kimura grip and can hit it from almost anywhere it will make you super hard to handle. You’ll be able to hang with some of the best grapplers on the mats!