Armbar Alley


You will not be the one to drown me. –Maggie Stiefvater

Friday evening in Bellevue. Started with sneaking up behind Luiz and taking his back while he was chatting with someone else. He passively let me sink an RNC and take him down, but an instant later, I found myself tapping out to a kimura.

JP tried to bait me into passing his guard and falling right into one of those traps where you basically sub yourself like an idiot. I stopped dead, and we just froze there for a long moment. Then I said, “Dude, I roll with Ron and Doug. I know EXACTLY what you are trying to do here, and you are NOT going to get me with that!!!” He laughed.

Standup: judo grips, pretend to go for an outside reap. Let opponent reap you back, and nail hir with an armbar. Discovered that this was one of the cases in which the Stupid Side turned out to be the best side, because it involved one of the key pieces in the middle of the process being deployed with my dominant arm. Said key piece: keep a really leech-like grip on the underside of the sleeve at the elbow the whole time. That is the lynchpin to adjusting everything where you want it to finish the armbar.

Armbars from mount.

I coached Chrisanne extensively on armbar technique early on in her learning, and as a result- if I may say so myself- she has one fucking tight armbar. From every angle, she is tight and perfect and deadly. My own armbar still needs a bit of refinement in remembering to pinch the knees together- that is the one detail that I tend to forget and get sloppy on. We pushed each other a bit in the later reps by having the uke try to escape by pulling the elbow down, or by pressing her back to the floor under the mount. In the later case, pinching the knees together to trap the victim with hir shoulder pointing to the ceiling becomes critical. And there’s that leech-grip on the arm again- only this time it really needs to be on the tricep- and grab the muscle, not just the gi sleeve. I found that I had more success if I quit messing around and go faster. I always do well at grabbing that arm and yanking them up hard enough to make their teeth snap, but then I am too slow finishing- and I need to just finish that puppy off before they recover from that yank and start wiggling to escape.

I like drilling these armbars…. I don’t really use them much live yet, but I want to. I can curl into such a compact ball that I know they will be really good for me. But I hate drilling them as the uke. I spend too much time getting clubbed painfully in the face, especially the nose. With the armbars from mount, I can place my free palm on top of my head, stick my elbow out, and shield my face from getting whacked by the foe’s heel. The armbars that are coming from the bottom, you’re hosed because you can’t protect your face. I just know that a broken nose from this technique is in my future; I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet. I have a big nose, which appearance will not be improved by a couple of badly healed breaks. Also, the technique makes me very nervous due to how little it takes to finish it, and the high opportunity for slamming/cranking which will result in a very rapid elbow/shoulder injury. I always tap to these early, and with much haste.

I wanted to roll with Casey, but I had a little headache, so I decided to leave.



The spiritual path is more than an event; it is a life’s walk. It is every step. -Tasara

Thursday lunchtime BJJ in Bellevue. Chrisanne!!!

Drills: Armbar from mount, failed keylock to armbar from mount, uhhh… there were a couple more, but my mind blanks….

Lots of positional sparring from mount. Most people switched partners a few times, but I stayed with Chrisanne. She’s been really sick, and off for a month, and her weakness and lack of wind are painfully obvious. I grabbed Gordon a few minutes into class and asked him to make sure to be careful who he puts Chrisanne with, because she’s fragile. Ritchie was there today, and that’s about the LAST thing she needed.

We worked on pinching her legs together on the armbar, and getting her knee and heel in tighter on the S mount. She continues to not be assertive enough about jumping back on top hastily when she needs to. Also, she is setting up subs and then sort of backing off at the very last minute. I hope I am not being too annoying by coaching her constantly; but she’s got great technique with just a few glaring loose spots that need fixing, and it’s so satisfying to watch the way she tightens everything up and gets so much better in an hour. I worry so much because she is so damn tiny. I nagged her to not let herself get flattened out under side control.

This tutoring did, unfortunately, involve me letting her armbar and bow-and-arrow me many times. God, my left shoulder. Is it EVER going to get better? I still can’t roll over in bed without groaning. Also, I had been kind of smug that I felt relatively okay after Saturday’s wrestling takedown hour with Pedro, but when I got up for work on Sunday night, I was hurting. My neck/throat, especially. He did choke me some, and have a forearm wrapped around my throat with that shoulder-grip thing we do- but I think the pain was actually from whiplash due to that one particularly brutal takedown he did.

I wanted to get a few more rolls in at the end, but nobody stayed except Rodrigo and Gordon, who were rolling with each other.

Just experiment.


Knife is not a precision skill, not at the serious level. It is a matter of intent and will. –Rory Miller


Ow! Lower fronts of thighs! From all those reps of the leg-squeezing takedown! I put some salicylate patches on them. I have been taking a ton of allergy drugs lately, so I don’t really want to dump oral ibuprofen on my poor liver which is working too hard already. Besides, at least this is one of the pains that says, “You worked hard, and it was good.” I can bear that sort of pain a lot easier than the type which says, “You have an eight-pound sandbag sitting on your face and you can’t draw more than a sip of air at a time.”

Evening BJJ at Bellevue. Four professors on the mat for a Friday night, and only the most junior one spoke any English.

To my surprise, there was a girl! Lindsay was so giddy to see me walk in. She said that she has been feeling crappy all week, but is better now and really, really wanted to have a hard sweaty workout. Well, after that, I would have been an asshole to run out right after drills, especially as there were no small guys in there tonight (unless you count Prof. Herbert).

Armbars from mount. Herbert demo’ed them with a crossing of your free hand to press on opponent’s opposite shoulder. I’m not sure how practical that is for us weak mousies. I like taking that cross-hand and placing it on the mat, snugging it right up to the opponent’s throat. Lindsay was impressed with the effectiveness of this detail. Also: Prof Herbert was grabbing the pants as he lay back. This is always a challenging detail for me, and I struggled to remember with every rep, as per usual.

I made Lindsay promise to not heel-kick me in the face, and then she went and did it anyway- got me right in the nose. Then she was exaggeratedly hesitant and gentle for the rest of the class, even though I was shielding my face with my hand and telling her repeatedly to not worry about kicking me in the back, top, or side of the head.

Second technique- this was sooooooooooooooooooooooo cool. I have never seen this before. Same setup from mount, only instead of putting up the knee in BACK of the opponent, you put up the knee in FRONT of hir, bring THAT leg around in a big sweeping loop over hir head, and place the top of your foot on the back of hir neck as you sit back. Armbar. I like it, I like it! Lindsay struggled with it- partly because she was being so paranoid about kicking me in the head. Finally, I said, “I’m going to cover my face, I want you to do it faster and not worry about kicking me.” Then she got smoother.

A little positional sparring from mount. Then I did a few no-gi rolls with Lindsay, starting from standup.

She mentioned several times that I was feeling really strong and aggressive and heavy tonight. I admitted that what I was mostly feeling was relief and some excitement that I was actually fighting someone who didn’t outweigh me by 50lb or more, for a change. There really has been even more of that than usual, lately. Lindsey is about 136, but feels 15lb lighter, and her wrist is small enough for my hand to encircle, and our strength and skill levels are comparable. It was the first time in quite a while that I didn’t feel like a pomeranian at a rottweiler gang fight.

I didn’t get any great takedowns, but I got a nice guillotine off one of her attempts, and there was some good standup struggling in which I felt at least competant. On the ground, we both gave as good as we got- she got a few taps, I got a few taps. I focused on trying to fight my way out when I found myself on the bottom, instead of giving up. She has good mount skills, so it was work… but I just kept telling myself that we were evenly matched and that I *could* get out if I just tried hard enough.

She got “tiny package” and a few variants of same on me, and I asked her to keep doing it… by the end, I was seeing these techniques coming a little sooner, and getting better at defending them. For Lindsay, it was head-and-arm triangle. The second time I got it, I grinded on her kind of mean, and said, “Don’t let me get that arm up there again…. if you do, I’ll make it hurt worse next time!”

Then she got *my* arm isolated up there- twice- and failed to capitalize on it, instead transitioning to armbars (both of which I escaped). I explained that if I was stupid enough to let her pin my arm up by my head, she should keep me there and tap me out instead of transitioning- each transition gives me an opportunity to escape. She’s not comfortable with head-and-arm choke. Well, I’m not really comfortable enough with them to TEACH them, but I told her that if she had me well trapped with my elbow to my ear (that position sucks…. it’s a bear to get out even if the entire rest of your body is free), that she should just keep me there and experiment until I tapped. That’s what I do.

I lay there and let her grind on my head and arm for a while, trying different holds and hopping from one side to the other. After she’d tapped me out a few times, we restarted. Later on, she got me in some weird position that had my arm pinned in a sort of inside-out, bastardized, mutant omoplata variation. She started to transition into something else, and I stopped her. “You have me pinned really well here, and you have an arm… see if you can just bend it in some way that will make me tap.” So she experimented, and she eventually found an elbow lock.

By that time, everyone else had left except for Casey and the black belts, who were playing Dancing Bears on the exercise balls. Casey was griping at Lindsay that he wanted to go, so we quit. But it was a very good workout, and I think we both got good learning points from it.