Artemis BJJ (PHNX Fitness), Can Sönmez, Bristol, UK - 28/10/2014
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. Lift your shoulder slightly to then insert your hand on top of their wrist.
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. Finally, you also want to make sure that their elbow is stuck, keeping the arm you have underneath their arm tight so they can't slip their elbow free.
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 (again, to stop that elbow slipping free of your attack), 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.
Yet another set-up option crops up if they are pushing you towards their legs. Go 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, where you can finish as before.
Teaching Notes: I'm still going with the Roger Gracie chin-clamp set-up, though my concern remains that this doesn't emphasise setting up the figure four properly. I'll see how it changes when I teach it the 'standard' way next time, maybe adding in the chin-clamp during drilling. Another thing to keep in mind is different levels of shoulder flexibility. One of the students tonight had very tight shoulders, so it took hardly any pressure to elicit a tap.
Also, considering the difference that angles make in getting the tap. For some people who are more flexible, adjusting that angle can make all the difference. I tend to show the orthodox right angle, but it's worth keeping in mind other angles. Though again, that might be something to mention during drilling. I have to be careful I don't fall into my old trap of over-explaining and going through loads of variations. Keep it simple, add details if needed during drilling.