How to Do the Imanari Roll in BJJ

How to Do the Imanari Roll in BJJ

If you train Jiu Jitsu, you have really noticed the trend of more grapplers training leglocks more than ever. There are numerous entries to take leglocks from the Sambo system and the Danaher system.

With most of these, you still have to take the opponent down, but there’s another tricky technique you could do - the Imanari roll.  

But what exactly is it? This technique seems absurd, and looks almost like a breakdancing move, but it is extremely effective when done right.

An Imanari Roll in BJJ bypasses the takedown and puts you right into position for a leglock.  


Keep reading as we break down the Imanari roll. We’re going to give a short bio on the creator Imanari, how to do the Imanari roll in BJJ. Also we look into some key details you need to know for properly executing an Imanari roll. 

Origins Of The Imanari Roll

The mastermind behind the Imanari roll is who the move is named after Masakazu Imanari. If you don’t know who Imanari is you’re missing out a fantastic martial artist!  

Imanari is a leg lock master and MMA veteran. He is considered as one of the best grapplers in the world. He has tapped numerous of the world’s best grapplers with leg locks, but what he is most known for is the Imanari roll.  

How he came up with it is a funny story. Before he trained as a fighter, Imanari trained as a professional wrestler, so he has a flair for the dramatic. He created the Imanari roll as a way to excite the crowd and surprise his opponent with a leglock. What’s great about it is it literally bypasses the takedown and goes right into attacking for the leglock!  

Masakazu created the move over 20 years ago and has had great success using his roll. Winning numerous fights and grappling matches using this roll.  

The Imanari roll in BJJ has influenced numerous grapplers and many of the elite grapplers like Ryan Hall have adopted the move. Here’s a highlight of Imanari including him using his patented Imanari roll.

How To Do The Imanari Roll in BJJ

You can easily learn the bjj Imanari roll. You just have to follow the steps. 

It all starts with your penetration step. This step is important, because it puts you in range to successfully do the Imanari roll. Without it you won’t get anywhere near close with your roll.  

After you take your step, you go right into a back roll over your inside shoulder. As you go over that shoulder you grab the inside of the opponent’s leg. This is a really important step, because it pulls you into the opponent.  

Next step is to bring your outside leg between the opponent’s legs and hook it behind their far leg. Immediately after, you bring your other leg around theirs and hook it behind their far knee under your other hook. 

With everything now in place, you use your forward momentum to take the opponent down right into a leg entanglement. The traditional finish to the Imanari roll is the inside heel hook.  

Hook the heel with the blade of your wrist on their achilles, clasp your hands together, and turn to finish. Watch the master of the Imanari roll himself demonstrate his roll.

Other Imanari Roll Finishes

The steps of the Imanari roll don't change, but you can go to other finishes including a kneebar and ankle lock. Here are the steps to do these finishes.  

Ankle Lock: Instead of grabbing the opponent’s heel, wrap your arm around the opponent’s ankle. Remember to have the blade of your wrist on the opponent’s achilles and keep your grip high and tight. 

Here is the Imanari roll to ankle lock working in action. 

Kneebar: When you get in on a leg after your roll, turn into the opponent’s leg and grab their heel. Use two hands, while sinking deeper into their hips and extend their leg for the finish.   

Watch the kneebar finish to the Imanari roll in action below.

Key Details For The Imanari Roll in BJJ

This technique is highly technical, but you can do it smoothly. You just have to follow the steps. Here are the key details to remember when doing the Imanari roll. 

  • Just Go For It: If you’re going to go for the Imanari roll, you just have to go for it. You have to fully commit to the roll or you’re not going to get it. 
  • Step In: Your penetration step is really important when doing the Imanari roll. Without that initial step you won’t get anywhere near close to getting the move to work. 
  • The Leg Grab: When you do the roll you have to grab the opponent’s leg with your inside arm. This grab is what brings you into the opponent’s legs to set up your leglock. 
  • Thread Your Leg: After you grab the leg, you have to bring your outside leg between the opponent’s legs. It hooks behind the opponent’s far leg and is what trips your opponent along with your other hook. 
  • Get Your 2nd Leg Hook: After you hook your leg on the opponent’s far leg, your other leg goes around their near one. This one goes behind the opponent’s far knee and helps trip them along with your initial hook. 

Final Thoughts

The Imanari roll isn’t a technique you must know but it is a really cool trick to have in your toolbox - especially so if you like doing leglocks!  

The Imanari Roll in BJJ can be real sneaky and it can really catch your opponent off guard. Most folks are looking to either take you down, pull guard, or look to defend your takedown. But then you hit them with an Imanari Roll!  

Be warned though, it can be tricky to pull off especially if your new at this. Leave this one to pros! However if you do decide to pick this one up, you’re opponent is going to be in for a surprise!