Master The Armbar From Closed Guard – Episode 01

If you’ve ever seen an MMA showdown on TV, or any clip of one while browsing through social media, there’s a high chance that you’ve witnessed one fighter lying down in front of the other in a missionary-like position, while both are struggling. Well fret not, as that’s the closed guard position which is fundamental in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Another basic technique you’ve probably seen in MMA is the armbar, which is when one fighter uses the body to hyperextend the opponent’s elbow joint. The combination of the two, the transition from closed guard to armbar is also BJJ-101. These moves are part of the basics when you pursue training in grappling, and we’re going to discuss their significance and briefly, how to transition to an armbar from closed guard.


History of The Closed Guard and the Armbar From Closed Guard

The armbar has probably been used for more than a thousand years, but Jigoro Kano, founder of judo introduced it to traditional Jiu-Jitsu. Juji gatame is the Judo terminology for a similar move that is less controlled than the standard armbar, but it’s often much easier to get to from certain positions. Similarly, the closed guard has been used since the early beginnings of grappling centuries ago. However, it wasn’t until the late ’70s, that it became mainstream. The closed guard is considered to be Osvaldo Alves’s innovation in Rio, Brazil. He cleverly disguised his Judo background and taught “Jiu-Jitsu”, in a casino, also disguised as a recreation center! The basic armbar from the closed guard originated when Sergio Penha, Pascoal Duarte, and Otavio Peixotinho started its development in the early ’80s. When Penha started tearing the house down using this combo, the setup became one of the most utilized moves in Jiu-jitsu.



Classic Examples of a Closed Guard Armbar

The closed guard armbar has been used by some of the world’s best fighters.

Kazushi Sakuraba tried this combination on Kevin Randleman at 2003’s Pride Final Conflict. 

A prime example of this technique finishing the opponent is when Anthony Pettis submitted Ben Henderson, a BJJ world championship bronze medalist at UFC 164. 

Also, Frank Shamrock submitted Kevin Jackson from guard right as he got taken down. 

Roger Gracie disarmed Ron Waterman with armbar from guard in Japan. 

Royce Gracie submitted Kimo Leopoldo from the bottom at UFC 3, back in his prime.

Probably the most infamous use of this move is when Frank Mir literally disarmed Tim Sylvia from guard, and he didn’t tap leading to a nasty bone break.

How to perform a Basic Armbar From Closed Guard

To understand how to armbar from guard: pick the arm you want to attack and cross grab it at the tricep. Cross grab their shoulder using your other hand, to hold them in place and prevent them from posturing up. Put your foot on the opponent’s hip and connect to their side next to the arm you’re attacking. Then, you use your other leg to hook across their back. Use your legs and hips to turn and get an angle for the submission. Finally, pass your leg over the opponent’s head, then bridge your hips up while keeping your knees tight. When in position, keep your leg heavy on their neck while cranking and wrenching their arm.

The armbar from guard is one of the bread-and-butter techniques in BJJ. You can even call it a signature move. While there are a handful of modern techniques fighters use today instead, when the pressure is on you will always see a closed guard being used to break down and submit people.