What’s the best way to escape an arm bar? Don’t get caught in one, of course! While avoidance and early defense are always preferred, sometimes stuff goes south and you find yourself in quite the rough spot. Below are the defenses we trained in Fight Class Wednesday night.
If we’re constantly training to get off the ground and back to our feet as quickly as possible, why is the straight arm bar from guard in the Krav Maga curriculum in the first place? You may never consciously decide to “hunt” for an arm bar while fighting on the ground (and realistic training would show that you shouldn’t), but you may find that an attacker happens to fall right into the perfect position for one, and this is one hell of a counterattack to neutralize the threat. More importantly, MMA, BJJ, and submission wrestling have practically become mainstream sports. Basic groundfighting techniques are being trained by average people, and even couch jockeys can call out submissions while watching a cage fight. This means that it is increasingly likely that the person attacking you might have even a cursory knowledge of very dangerous submissions. By being versed in them too, you can anticipate them and avoid putting yourself in a position of disadvantage. If you do get caught in one, you know the principles of how they work, which will aid in your escape.
Let’s first briefly address the attack itself. The straight arm bar from guard is a fundamental submission in all grappling styles. Setups vary from art to art and even from fighter to fighter, but the principles remain constant: the elbow joint is hyperextended by isolating the arm, placing a fulcrum on the elbow, and pulling the end of the lever (the wrist). Here’s basically what we’re talking about:
You won’t need an escape technique at all if you can nullify the attacker’s opportunity to break your arm. Here are the most basic positional defenses for those with little to no groundfighting experience. (There are nuances and exceptions to almost every point once you gain more experience.) When in an attacker’s guard:
- Keep your posture upright. Don’t let the attacker pull your head down, clamping it to his chest. Keep your head roughly in vertical alignment with your hips, but not so far back that you can be swept backwards.
- Maintain a solid base by keeping your hips low and your knees wide. Be ready to counter the attacker’s push/pull.
- Don’t let your arms cross the attacker’s centerline, i.e., don’t let your right arm move towards the attacker’s right hip/shoulder.
- Keep both of your arms either inside or outside the attacker’s legs, never one arm inside and one outside.
- Don’t extend your arms toward the attacker’s head. Try to keep your elbows tight to your body and south of the attacker’s hips.
- Don’t overextend strikes or radically shift your weight to throw heavy combatives.
- While it is vital to keep these technical points in mind, don’t get cute with guard passes. Strike to neutralize the threat, break guard, get to your feet protected, get to a safe place.
And now the escapes?! Yes! These are not the only escape techniques in the world of grappling, and they are not part of the Krav Maga Worldwide curriculum. I believe they are an excellent starting point for further study and training. Get on the mat!