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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

19 February 2014

19/02/2014 - Teaching (Americana from Side Control)

Teaching #140
Bristol Sports Centre, (Artemis BJJ), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 19/02/2014

BJJ Bristol Artemis Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - Side ControlContinuing on with our position of the month at Artemis BJJ, I moved on to attacks this week. I see the americana as the classic submission from side control: I'm fond of that technique, as it is one over which you can exert lots of control. However, it does have a reputation of being a technique that is mainly used by stronger people bullying a smaller opponent, so if I'm going to continue viewing it as a core basic submission, I need to keep refining my understanding to make sure it is functional whatever your size.

There are various set ups, but I decided to show how to go for the americana from that strong, orthodox side control position I've mentioned before. To start, you need to isolate their far arm. Often the set up is that they've pushed their forearm up towards you (which is why from an escape perspective, you don't want to be shoving up with your arm and trying to benchpress them). A simple Roger Gracie method is to trap their wrist with your chin, then drive their arm to the mat with your weight.

If that isn't an option, try going a little with their pressure into your neck, leaning away as if that escape attempt is working for them, then turn back towards them, driving their arm to the mat with your bodyweight, head and hand. You can increase the power by switching your legs as you move back, then switching again as your return your weight towards them. Alternatively, you can simply turn your body slightly as they push, with the intention to get enough space to go for their wrist, then push it to the ground.

There are different arguments regarding gripping their wrist using your thumb or not. Some feel that having the thumb there provides better control, and that is the instinctive way of holding something. However, most BJJ instructors I've seen describe gripping for the americana advocate a thumbless grip, so that all of your fingers are over the other side of their arm.

That's the direction they want to escape, so that's where you want your strength. It also means you can really push down, rather than squashing your own thumb. Then there's the point Kev at RGA Bucks makes, which is that he feels the thumb can act as a lever for their escape.

Support your hand with your head if you're having trouble pushing their arm to the mat (Cindy Omatsu is showing it from mount in the picture, but same idea). Also be sure to keep their arm away from their body, so they can't grab their belt or gi. The aim is to put the arm at right angles. Another handy tip is to get your elbow into their neck. That means they can't turn towards you to relieve pressure on their shoulder and begin an escape.

Finish by 'painting' the floor with their knuckles, moving their hand towards their legs, lifting their elbow off the floor. You may need to adjust the angle of their arm, depending on how flexible they are. Make sure you don't give them space by their shoulder, or they can relieve the pressure and perhaps begin an escape.

Saulo has a few extra details in the version on his instructional website, BJJ Library. If they are pushing up into his neck, Saulo moves his body forwards to move their arm away from their side. He then locks one arm under their elbow, grabbing their wrist with the other (this is easier to get if you time it for when they next try to shove into your neck. You can then drive it to the mat. Slide your elbow arm through, grab the wrist, then suck in their arm to tighten the angle, before completing the submission.

Teaching Notes: The importance of isolating the shoulder and elbow was really emphasised tonight, so that's something I'll focus on more next time. I was also demonstrating on somebody especially flexible, which meant I showed an additional option, when the normal application isn't effective. I was pleased I was able to adapt to the situation, as I don't think this is something I've found myself doing much in the past (as normally the typical applications are enough: I've got fairly inflexible shoulders myself, so it was interesting to see the contrast during drilling when a student practiced the same technique on me).

Shift your weight up their body towards their head, turning your hips towards their legs to maintain your control: in other words, comparable to the reverse scarf hold position before you transition to mount from side control. The intention in this instance is to limit the mobility of their shoulders, so they can't raise them to relieve pressure from the americana (but there is the potential of going to mount, as you may get the opportunity if you can shove your hips back into their near arm). From there, suck their arm in again as before, then apply as usual.

There was a bit of extra time, so I threw in the Roy Dean lockflow as well, which I wouldn't normally. Very technique heavy lesson today, but we did still get in a bit of sparring, which is always good.


  1. A couple of hints to tighten up my Americanas there. Thank you.

  2. And thank you Rachel for your excellent work on fundraising for the GrappleThon so far: very impressive that you've raised so much in only a few days. :D